Movies & TV

Should You Still Watch Netflix's Controversial New 'Insatiable'?

The over-the-top show deemed by the critics as awful may just be worth your time.
IMAGE Netflix
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Previously, on the Internet: Insatiable, the new Netflix original series that premiered last Friday, was not well received by critics. Indiewire described the show as Netflix's worst original series, while other reviews called it as muddled, dragging, unfunny, or inept. The most serious criticism revolves around the show's treatment of what it's like to be fat. Its inability to rise above the satire that it advertises, critics note, just makes it mean. Ouch. 

Debby Ryan stars as Patty Bledell, the out-for-revenge teen in Insatiable. IMAGE: Netflix
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This plot is wild 

Full-figured high-school student Paricia Bledell or, as the kids like to call her, Fatty Patty, transforms into a thin person when, after being punched in the face by a homeless guy and then having her jaw wired shut and thus living on a liquid diet, loses 70 pounds. True (TV) story, mom.

Patty sheds the chin prosthetic and fat suit in episode one, and from then, navigates school, relationships, and pageants with her new skinny bod. Confronted with what it means to be a formerly fat person, she realizes that being teen-dream thin is no cake walk. 

Also, revenge is on the table. She's out to get everyone who has been cruel to her during her fat days. And did we mention teen pageants and a whole cast of OTT characters and situations (Miss Magic Jesus!), too?  

The dark comedy's treatment of serious topics such as body image has rankled critics. IMAGE: Netflix
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Why should you be mad?

This sounds so crazy it might be a fun watch? Which is why you should still give Insatiable a shot despite the bludgeoning it received in last weekend's review cycle. 

Sure, it had set-ups that rankled a lot of people. The Internet proclaims that the fat-shaming went too far, but how do you tell the story of someone who is battling food addiction without showing her devour a birthday cake by herself, portraying her darkest thoughts, or depicting what it's like to be bullied at school? 

Satire is tricky. You need a deft mix of funny and smart in order for things to land. In film, Heathers deployed a coolness in its dark comedy and, in TV, Ryan Murphy's short-lived high school satire Popular was excellent in that fast-talking, potty-mouth way (Leslie Grossman's Mary Cherry is forever a gem.) 

Insatiable could had have more finesse or heart in its execution, but instead steamrolls the viewers with a barrage of provocative jokes and situations. Thing is, that doesn't make it awful. It has enough interesting elements to make you not tune off.  

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Patty gets into all sorts of crazy situations, including Miss Magic Jesus. IMAGE: Netflix

Debby Ryan is watchable

We'd like to thank Insatiable for introducing us to 25-year-old Debby Ryan, who plays the revenge-hungry Patty. If you haven't heard of Ryan, it's because you aren't a tween, who watched Jessie on the Disney Channel. Ryan is in the mold of old-timey Hollywood actresses, with her big doe eyes and raspy voice, and it's not difficult to watch her wiggle her way out of one improbable dilemma after another.  

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Many familiar faces like Alyssa Milano, who plays a social-climbing wife, appear in the show. IMAGE: Netflix

The rest of the cast is also swell

A lot of familiar faces from the glory days of television appear in Insatiable, including Alyssa Milano of Charmed, Christopher Gorham of Ugly Betty and Popular, and Dallas Roberts, who you may know from The Good Wife.

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Also invoked in the series is the early canon of Drew Barrymore, from Poison Ivy to The Amy Fisher Story to Never Been Kissed. Patty is a big fan and, for a moment, you are led to believe Barrymore will appear in the show. 

But don't get too attached

We don't know why the show offs its ancilliary characters and resolves subplots so abruptly like it was quick-footed 30-minute show. Its running time is around an hour, which gives it enough room to let us know what happened to the Asian girl (where'd she go?) or explore the issues of Patty's best friend completely instead of moving on to the next crazy plot. 

Scheming and plotting is the name of the game in the world of Insatiable. IMAGE: Netflix
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It gets very weird

Things become batshit-crazy by episode eight, and if you decide to continue your binge-watching (you are a completist) you deserve a reward. From this point onward, the show delives into a stew of demonology, an unexpected relationship, and a total shift in tone. Your mind starts to wonder what is happening and also wander away from the screen of hazy storytelling. There must a pay off, right? 

It ends, thankfully

The payoff is this: It goes completely off the rails by the final episode. Since you're still here, why not enjoy the rest of this inexplicable ride? Insatiable ends on a cliffhanger, which suggests it has a second season planned and a second chance to do things better.

Well, was it satisfying? It was satisfying in that it ended.

Despite its flaws, the show has enough crazy charm to keep you tuning in. IMAGE: Netflix
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Should you watch the show?

Netflix captures attention by offering as many programs that can resonate with a wide array of communites as possible. In that regard, Insatiable works because it, uh, caused so much of a stir that people are tuning in just to find out what the hubbub is about.

The show has accomplished two things: It lead to a lot of discussions about fat-shaming, women, sexuality, and race and will also make apparent your own threshold for what is right and good or bad and awful on the fictional screen.  

On a more intimate scale, the show is something new and, more important, easy to consume. It doesn't require a brain running at all cylinders like Westworld or a heart ready to absorb the shock of emotions like This Is Us to enjoy.

Crass, blunt, and over-the-top, Insatiable is the show you can watch on a listless Friday night or a sleepless Tuesday morning. And if it does offend your very delicate sensibilities, you can always quit it. Your streaming service will have other shows to suggest.

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netflix.com/insatiable

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