Insatiable, the new Netflix dark comedy that’s been marred in controversy, premiered its 12-episode first season on Friday, August 10. Ever since the first trailer was released, the initial online consensus has been that Insatiable would be nothing more than a fat-shaming disaster. In fact, online petitions had been created to remove the show, with one petition reaching over 200,000 signatures. Many (including this writer) gave the show a chance to see if Insatiable would be more than its trailer. After watching 12 episodes… Insatiable may be more than its comments on weight, but its over-exaggerated/satirical approach, with themes of societal treatment and self-hate, can’t hide the fact that Insatiable doesn’t know what kind of show it wants to be.
Insatiable’s premise was pitched as a teenage girl, Patty (played by former Disney Channel star Debby Ryan), who would use her new outlook on life after a weight loss to exact revenge against all those who made fun of her. That plot rang true… for two episodes anyway. In the pilot episode, Patty’s jaw is wired shut after a homeless man punches her in a scuffle over candy and his fat-shaming comment. She loses the weight due to her mouth being wired shut. When she encounters the man again she plots to punish him.
After that encounter, Patty’s adventures range from pageant show drama to supernatural exorcism to her wanting an affair with an accused child molester. Patty justifies her competing in pageants as a way to shove it in the faces of her enemies (‘cause, you know, rhinestone crowns just scream “Winner!”), but the reasoning wears thin after she wins a crown. The revenge started her on the path, but the show focused more on the poor decisions Patty made in her own life over and over. And Patty made a lot of them.
Before you begin watching Insatiable season one, you need to realize that Patty, as well as a lot of the characters, are terrible in some way. Each character is exaggerated to the point that you expect them to make decisions that are doomed to fail – and they do make those bad choices. If it could go wrong, the characters would throw caution to the wind. There’s plenty of manipulation, cheating on partners, false accusations, and other motives that feel right at home in a soapy comedy.
There’s nothing wrong with soapy elements, especially in a satirical dark comedy like this, but, when most characters chip away at any redeemable qualities, it’s hard to find someone to root for. Many play the role of anti-hero throughout most of the first season. Nonnie (Patty’s best friend, played by Kimmie Shields) is one of the bright shining lights, with her constant wisdom to Patty. Nonnie’s personal story feels relatable. Brick (Michael Provost) is also a good supporting character, especially as he develops later on. Many of the actors do a good job with the limited script they had to work with. In particular, Debby Ryan, Alyssa Milano, and Sarah Colonna stand out and really take on the characters.
Patty is somewhat conflicting. Right from the start, her comments were cringe-worthy because she believed the hype of “skinny is magic.” Her pageant coach, Bob, and her internal self-hate, reinforced that thinking. She used it to drive her focus in the first few episodes and it became her excuse to make bad decisions. It wasn’t until episode four when she starts to dig deep and explore the harmful perceptions/thoughts she had in her mind.
Throughout Insatiable’s first season, Patty is unfiltered with her thoughts about the world, her weight, and her self-worth. A lot of what she said was bad (and can be harmful to those who don’t want to hear it), but it’s an internal conversation she had during her own struggles.
It’s not hard to relate to Patty’s negative words about her internal self-worth and goal weight as it’s something I had gone through with an eating disorder. The thoughts are dark and it affects your outlook on life, so it’s not surprising when she makes certain perceptions about achieving happiness. It’s unfortunate that the show took the more shallow approach and only lightly touched upon these moments throughout the season. Those are the moments that made Patty more human and brought her to a realization with regards to her actions.
However, the problem with Patty is that she makes SO MANY BAD DECISIONS! You can’t root for her because she’ll do or say the worst possible thing. Every time that it seemed like Patty made a breakthrough, she would jump right back into doing something that wrecked it all. Patty made Insatiable feel like a roller coaster, and it was hard not to feel anything but queasy when her life kept getting worse. It was frustrating to watch.
When it came to the production, the pilot episode was terrible. In fact, it’s one of the most cringe-worthy pilots ever to air. The same style flowed into the following episodes. However, the second half of the season was much better than the first. Some wrongs were fixed regarding characters and plots, like Patty’s early crush storyline thankfully being dropped. Unfortunately, the change happened too late to steer the ship, which caused the tone to jump around. Plus, the characters’ accents need to be fixed ASAP. “Fluctuating” is putting it lightly when you hear the strong tone being forced into each scene.
Another detriment is the jokes. Many gags were based on stereotypical clichés that have been done to death. There was the one-liner about bisexuals, an effeminate man, a closeted girl, and comments about being overweight, to name a few. Insatiable wanted to show that this was how society comments, but the execution came off lazy since the same jokes were used repeatedly to push the point.
Insatiable season one is a roller coaster of complicated issues and complex emotions. On the one hand, it’s a guilty pleasure if you love dark comedies. On the other hand, it’s also a tonal mess that bounced around too often to deliver the emotional punch it wanted to achieve. I don’t hate Insatiable, but it has a lot of problems. Its issues with the overall story, characters, and structure can’t be ignored and if Insatiable returns for a second season, these issues need to be fixed.