American Housewife is a difficult show to summarize while clearly defining its distinction from other recent efforts. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and the show has some unique spins in its approach, but it does make it tricky for a show that wants to stand out and suck people in.
Katy Mixon (who most will know from Mike & Molly) is Katie Otto, an “everysize,” “everyhousewife” who we meet as she enters a crisis involving a neighbor who is moving. Said neighbor is clearly the current silver medalist in the “least skinny” department, and moving up a rung on the neighborhood ladder sends Katie into a tailspin of life examination.
On the one hand, why is she trying to keep up with all the “Mean Moms” who have asses like teenagers, and apparently all the time in the world for spin classes? On the other hand, she just doesn’t want the attention of being the second-heaviest woman on the block. Just as a note to clarify, apparently third place is sufficiently under the radar, which makes that person “not really a thing.”
As Katie maneuvers through the realities of what she’s willing to do to hold onto third place, while battling with her inability to not care, she is also attempting to champion a theory of not wanting to keep up with the Joneses when it comes to the rest of her flawed family. She isn’t the mom that those other, “weird, green smoothie” moms are, and her kids aren’t their kids. Unfortunately, part of Katie’s struggle is that her two oldest, Taylor and Oliver, seem to be trying to fit in with the wealthy Westport, Connecticut lifestyle a little too hard. Taylor (Med Donnelly) is a teen girl just trying to fit in with the crowd she’s been given, and Oliver (Daniel DiMaggio) is a 12-year-old ultra-conservative who doesn’t want to participate in the school’s food drive because it promotes a welfare state.
Most of Katie’s time is spent with her youngest daughter, Anna-Kat, who struggles with OCD, which led to the family moving to Westport, to have access to the school’s special needs instructor.
Meanwhile, Dad, Greg (Diedrich Bader), is just trying to ride the wave, and keep everyone else from going completely out of control.
The show delivers a comfortable brand of comedy, and Mixon is just the actress to pull off the wide range of reactions of responses involved in the chaotic worlds of both her situation and her perspective. It isn’t a laugh-out-loud style, but it’s often hilarious. Katie rides the roller coaster she’s on, suddenly finding herself there by circumstance, but also creating the thing herself as she goes, and her “real” approach is charming, even when the comedic efforts rise simply from having to say, “Don’t pee on the lawn,” to her kids.
The show’s only real problem is that audiences may find themselves on a road they’re overly familiar with. You’ve got Odd Mom Out, Bad Moms, The Middle, and many others competing for the same comedic space, and that means there’s only so much ground to cover without mirroring other efforts.
The real test of a show like this is how it settles in after establishing the shtick. Odd Mom Out makes that point well. It was a good show to begin with, but once it got past the first seven or eight episodes it got a lot better. That can go either way, and you don’t get much from playing out the gimmick that lets you know.
The writing here is solid, mixing life and comedy well, and it seems that Mixon is out to avoid letting her character become a caricature. If the family comes together, and none of the kids veer into the realm of underdeveloped punchline, this one should bring a reality that audiences have proven they love.