When Netflix's new original series Insatiable arrived on the streaming service earlier this month, it was accompanied by no shortage of controversy. Three weeks earlier, the trailer for the satirical dramedy had dropped—and was met with a wave of outrage from naysayers who wanted it canceled immediately.
The petition didn't kill the show, but it did poison the well; when the first season dropped, it was savaged by critics, largely on the grounds that it was morally irresponsible. (BuzzFeed actually denounced it twice: "Here's Why Insatiable Is Actually Incredibly Offensive" was followed three days later by "13 Ways Insatiable Is Really Fucking Problematic," just in case anyone was still undecided.)
Food, sex, love, acceptance: Insatiable lines up a veritable buffet of desperate needs, and then spends 12 episodes letting its characters act like ridiculous, self-sabotaging monsters as they scramble for satisfaction. There's Patty, whose binge-eating disorder and anger issues mask a deep, all-consuming fear of abandonment. There's Bob (Dallas Roberts), who craves the validation of coaching a pageant winner after being treated all his life like a disappointment. Coralee (Alyssa Milano), Bob's wife, aches to escape the memory of her white-trash, trailer-park childhood by earning a spot in the Junior League. And that's only to name a few; virtually every character on Insatiable, from the leads to the supporting roles, is hungry for something—a thing they're afraid to name, but that drives them to increasingly desperate places.
But despite the dire subject matter, those desperate places are also deeply, darkly funny. And while Insatiable sometimes meanders away to get lost in redundant scenarios or dumb physical comedy, it also lands a lot of excellent jabs—at bullshit beauty expectations, at sexist double standards, at the weird-ass pageant culture that overtly sexualizes contestants while demanding they never actually (heaven forfend!) have sex. But most of all, it lampoons the outrageous, spangled, dancing and occasionally violent spectacle that human beings put on when they're trying to pretend that they aren't utterly empty inside.
Food, sex, love, acceptance: Insatiable lines up a veritable buffet of desperate needs, and then lets its characters act like self-sabotaging monsters as they scramble for satisfaction.
a) two grown-ass, married, (ostensibly) straight men hashing out their longstanding eighth-grade grudge with an argument over which one of them will play Patrick Swayze's character in a male-on-male Dirty Dancing routine;
b) a falsely accused molester realizing that, thanks to modern #MeToo conventions, calling the accuser a liar has virtually the same social repercussions as if he'd actually committed the crime; or
c) a version of the Stephen King novel Gerald's Game where the trapped heroine, rather than nearly bleeding to death, escapes her handcuffs by lubricating her wrists with six Twinkies' worth of cream filling?
Then, Insatiable has just what you need. After all, people do crazy things when they're hungry.
For those who hunger for something spicier, Insatiable is a blast, and a treat, even when it's a little hard to swallow.
In short, it's no surprise that it failed to satisfy an audience of picky consumers who want their entertainment in the form of easily digestible, socially conscious moral messaging. But for those who hunger for something spicier—and don't mind if every joke isn't to their taste—Insatiable is a blast, and a treat, even when it's a little hard to swallow.