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Insatiable - Season 1 - Review

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I'm going to preface this review by stating that, I am a fat girl and I'm okay with calling myself that. It took me a while to get here but I've finally gotten comfortable admitting it. Currently, I'm sitting at the heaviest I've ever been and I'm trying to get healthier but it is an ongoing struggle. So when I saw the trailer for INSATIABLE I, like many others, had many misgivings. Upon the show's initial conception, way back when it was being shopped around the CW, I was excited for it. The premise sounded original and fun, something like Miss Congeniality meets Heathers. The synopsis back then wasn't very specific so I didn't have too much to go off but I still followed the shows development all the way through to Netflix. I love dark comedic dramas like Popular, Always Sunny, and UnREAL and I was hoping for this show to fall somewhere in that category. The trailer put a pretty big damper on those expectations. All I saw was yet another stereotypical, harmful, portrayal of fat woman. The most pressing matter being the fat suit. I mean, when has a fat suit ever been used in a positive way? I guess I was naive to think that media had buried that gag.

But, I digress. In spite of my distaste for the trailer I was willing to give this show a chance, to go in with as open a mind I could possibly manage and hope that maybe the trailer was a two minute misrepresentation of the show overall. After all, it has happened before, trailers can be misleading and maybe I could at least partially forgive the fat suit if the show turned out to be dramatically different than what was portrayed. In a way, it did. Insatiable is hardly the show portrayed in the trailer plot-wise. However, different doesn't mean better. At least the trailer indicated some narrative flow, the final product has none of that. The "revenge" streak Patty goes on lasts no more than a handful of episodes and then is never mentioned again, replaced by a myriad of zigzagging twists and storylines that ultimately amount to... not much.

Insatiable is about Patty, a young girl who struggles with her weight, she is mocked and ridiculed on a regular basis by the teenagers at her school. The boy she likes, Brick (Michael Provost) is disgusted by her. She has no good role models in her life as her father left at a young age and her mother is a struggling alcoholic. The only person she can count on is her best friend, Nonnie (Kimmy Shields) who is secretly in love with her. Patty gets into a conflict with a homeless man outside of a gas station and a violent altercation breaks out where she is punched in the face and ends up with her jaw wired shut. Of all things, having a grown man beat a young fat girl is a pretty awful way to start your show. After Patty's forced dietary restrictions she loses weight and then meets Bob (Dallas Roberts), an ex-lawyer-turned pageant coach who fell from grace and is desperately seeking a way back into the pageant business.

Now on to one of my other big issues with the show: Why is Bob disgraced? Because one of his ex-clients, two of the shows many antagonists, Regina Sinclair (Arden Myrin) and her daughter Dixie (Irene Choi), accuse him of molestation. Yeah. First episode and we have a false accusation "joke" that runs throughout the show. Not a great start, especially in the era of #MeToo. There's also a joke about anal cancer that gets stretched out way too long in the pilot and apparently we're supposed to think the characters saying anal a lot is funny.

Another gem in the first episode, Patty is infatuated with Bob and loathes his wife, Coralee (Alyssa Milano) for standing in the way of their relationship. Patty and Nonnie have this exchange:

“He’s a child molestor!" Says Patty's best friend, Nonnie (Kimmy Shields).
“Which means I might actually have a chance.” Patty replies.

Look, I enjoy dark humor as much as the next person but it does not stick the landing here.

Luckily, Bob never returns Patty's feelings and the storyline of her lusting for him is dropped (notice a pattern?) but the weird rape storylines are not, unfortunately. Later on there is another equally disturbing statutory rape plot that is also dropped and swept under the rug. If you thought this show was only going to be offensive to fat people then boy do you have another thing coming! There are plenty of cringeworthy one-liners to go around. They take aim at everyone from the LGBTQ+ community (throwing the d-slur around in the second episode and a myriad of other jokes in poor taste), women, religion, pedophilia, the list goes on. Boldly putting homophobia in a show with multiple coming out storylines (some of which are actually done with an earnestness and sweetness I didn't expect but hard to swallow given the jokes that came before). It's like the writers thought making these jokes meant they were being self-aware but that's not how satire works. Put bluntly, the show's writing is not nearly smart enough to bolster any of the jokes to a higher level that could pass as even the barest semblance. Satire, particularly as it pertains to social issues, is a tricky playing field, and Insatiable is barely sitting on the bench.

From the the atrocious pilot episode, Insatiable does improve moderately but not enough to be salvageable, in my opinion. There are glimmers of a different, better show, sometimes visible out the corner of my eye, in a stolen scene, or a nice charge of chemistry, but it never comes to the surface.  Instead Insatiable throws every genre, plot, crazy twist, and trope at the wall, praying something sticks and when nothing does you just wind up with a mess on the floor.

In the second episode we start to see hints at this supposed "darkness" within Patty, she almost kills the homeless man that punched her by lighting him on fire but chickens out at the last second. He ends up dying later on anyways. This continues on in the third episode with Bob realizing Patty might be a little unhinged and this creating conflict with his wife. But he wants return to his former glory as a top pageant coach and is willing to do it by any means necessary regardless of the outcome. I think maybe Patty could have been the interesting antiheroine the trailer suggested but Insatiable can't actually decide if that's who they want Patty to be or not. Her characterization flip-flops so often it's hard to understand or sympathize her actions when she does horrible things like: outing someone she supposedly cares about, in public, to their friends and family.

Some other plotlines include an incredibly boring love triangle between Patty, Christian, and Brick (the boy who now wants to date her since she's not fat anymore, of course), a scorned ex-lover who returns to try and fight Bob for the pageant crown with a secret love child with Bob B., and a possible pregnancy scare for Patty that turns out to be a false alarm in the form of a teratoma. This is then dragged out into a plot about Patty feeling as if she is possessed by the homeless guy or some evil demon. Thus leading to an exorcism? I feel like I'm going to need this show exorcised out of me. I mean it just completely jumps the shark at that point and for a show that was never really on the rails to begin with, it only barely gets itself back on track. Not to mention the fact that this "evilness" inside of her comes with an implication that it is her former fat self, again fatness being equated to something terrible and dark. How is that meant to be empowering?

At the end of the season, Patty is kidnapped by Bob's aforementioned rival, Stella Lee, and her daughter Roxy. Patty is handcuffed in the back of a food truck, because that's all fat people are about is food right?  More proof of the show's fundamental lack of empathy or even understanding of what being fat is like. We aren't food-driven zombies stalking the nearest McDonald's. Often times being fat is the result of a congruence of factors, physical health issues, mental illness, genetics, socioeconomic and class differences, the list goes on and every person is different. Film and television tend to oversimplify an issue that is far from easy in order to play for laughs. They would rather have a fat girl who just loves food rather than one real person with varied struggles that lead her to that place. So instead, we have to watch as Patty is force fed ridiculed by her kidnappers before they leave her for dead. Patty manages to escape by using the cream from something akin to a Twinkie to get out of her handcuffs. Honestly, have these writers ever met and talked to a real fat person in their life?

We leave off at the end of the season with Patty actually committing murder. By that time I wasn't sure how I felt anymore about her or the absolute mess of a plot, or lack of one, that all came to a head in the final round of episodes. I was ready to be done with Patty and her world.

Sure, at times Insatiable tries to be uplifting. It tries to have important conversations about "loving the skin you're in" but they play out so syrupy and on-the-nose that it feels as if the show is reaching out and taking me by the hand, then telling me to be complacent with mine and Patty's dehumanization, because, for a moment, she's being told she's beautiful. One moment someone is quipping "pretty girls don't have to settle" and the next there's someone else saying beauty is only skin deep. Yes, everyone has body issues, but fat people are consistently told we don't have a place in this society whether it be through discriminatory remarks, lack of clothing choices and options that fit our bodies, people recording us working out and posting it to social media as a form of public shaming, the list goes on.

All that said, I did enjoy the relationships between Angie, Coralee, and Patty and found some of their scenes to be the most compelling. Nonnie's coming out storyline, while surprisingly genuine, left a lot to be desired. As I mentioned, it was a little like whiplash going from a homophobic joke to a touching coming out scene. One way the show could have improved in a big way is if Patty had actually returned Nonnie's feelings. It would have been nice to see a circumvention of the trope and a way to have Patty be loved by someone who never cared about her size. They do give Nonnie a lovely girlfriend, Dee, but she has next to zero development aside from being a love interest to Nonnie and a mouthpiece for some half-baked lessons on morality that Insatiable never earned.

I also thought Sarah Colonna did well as Angie. Debby and Sarah played nicely off of each other in their exploration of the mother/daughter relationship and Angie's struggle to cope with her alcoholism. As for Coralee, at first, Patty despises Coralee and sees her as an obstacle but the two come from similar backgrounds and eventually are able to bond. There is a fun rivalry between Angie and Coralee that is also showcased and both Colonna and Milano play off of one another well. I found the chemistry between all three women fun to watch and I did enjoy several scenes between Patty and her mother in particular.

I hope that if Insatiable does get a second season that the showrunner and writing team will consider diversifying the writing room and truly soak in the criticism the show has received. I'm not sure if it can be saved at this point but the way the show ended seems to leave a little room for growth and hope that it could go in a different direction with a more cohesive narrative and tone than the first season would suggest.

    DISCLAIMER: I understand this show has been a hot topic for many people. This is my personal opinion and I know one shared by many, but if you loved the show then I'm happy for you and glad you enjoyed it please keep it civil in the comments. Thanks for reading either way!

    Will you watch Insatiable? If you've already checked it out, what did you think about it by the end?

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