‘American Housewife’: Slim Laughs

Ken Tucker

Much of what you need to know about the quality of American Housewife, premiering Tuesday night on ABC, is its original title: The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport. A sitcom built around what its protagonist self-describes as “a normal fat person” is bound to be problematic, but it could overcome its problems to a large extent if it were funny.

Katy Mixon has been so good on Eastbound & Down and Mike & Molly (this is thus her first sitcom without an ampersand)–and so, so good in the movie Hell Or High Water–I was hoping Housewife would be a showcase for her ability to project intelligence, warmth, charm, and sexiness in whatever combination she and the show’s creator, Sarah Dunn, decided was best for her. Having watched the first two episodes, I’m pretty sure having Mixon’s Katie Otto make disparaging remarks about “skinny mommies in tight white jeans” isn’t the best delivery-system for a celebration of all things good about Katy Mixon.

Related: Watch a Replay of Our Facebook Live Chat with Katy Mixon

Mixon’s Katie is living in Westport, Connecticut, which is depicted as sort of a Stars Hollow from Hell: All homey neatness and superficial niceness, with roiling competition and condescension just beneath the town’s surface. A former working woman, Katy is now a voluntary stay-at-home mom to her three children, and married to Greg, a doofus educator played by Diedrich Bader. The premiere is all about how much Katie dislikes Westport; the second episode is all about how much Katie resents having everyone in her family depend on her to do the grunt work.

On Housewife’s time-period lead-in, The Middle, Patricia Heaton and her writers manage to make such stresses funny by giving the mother character some agency in determining her fate and fighting against stereotypical roles for a woman in this position. American Housewife hasn’t yet found such strength in its main character. The jokes are difficult to locate. (Typical: “Chin up, Katie”; “I have a double chin.”)

American Housewife is shot in the bright yet warm colors that characterize all current ABC sitcoms (two more of them, Fresh Off the Boat and The Real O’Neals, follow Housewife on the schedule). The network has found a formula that, if you include other shows such as The Goldbergs and Dr. Ken, seems to work for it — sitcoms about raucous families whose over-inflated problems are always resolved with hugs and often a voiceover message from the star about how good life is after all. So far, however, American Housewife makes Katie’s life look pretty miserable.

American Housewife airs Tuesday nights at 8:30 p.m. on ABC. Watch clips and full episodes of American Housewife for free on Yahoo View.