Three episodes in and I’m completed invested in AMC’s biting satire, Dietland. The new dark comedy/drama is based on the bestselling novel by Sarai Walker and stars Joy Nash, Julianna Margulies, Tamara Tunie, and Robin Weigert. Episode one sets up the bizarre characters who swirl around the series’ heroine, Plum Kettle. Episode two widens that world and introduces more empowered women willing to go to extraordinary lengths in their quest for justice. By episode three the series hits its stride while teasing multiple layers yet to explore.
Dietland tackles tough subjects including sexual abuse, body shaming, and the struggle to fit in in a world that idolizes wafer-thin models. From the opening credits, Dietland declares itself as a series that won’t be pussyfooting around delicate subjects.
At the heart of the series is Plum Kettle (Nash), a single woman who wanted to be a journalist or a baker but instead is employed as the ghostwriter of the “Dear Kitty” advice column credited to narcissistic magazine editor Kitty Montgomery (Margulies). When we’re introduced to Plum, she’s consumed with dieting in preparation for weight loss surgery. We also quickly learn she’s unsatisfied with her job and much happier when she’s baking yummy cakes for her best friend, Steven (Tramel Tillman), owner of a Brooklyn bakery.
Plum’s life is turned upside down with the appearance of a mysterious goth girl who stalks her for a short while before making her move. She scribbles “Dietland” on Plum’s arm, something Plum takes as an insulting comment on her weight. However, it turns out “Dietland” is actually an anti-dieting book by Verena Baptist (Weigert). Plum was once a “Baptist” (a believer in Verena’s body-positive teachings) and now Verena is interested in guiding Plum into a new way of thinking as part of her women’s collective, Calliope House.
Goth girl, whose real name is Leeta (Erin Darke), isn’t the only new interesting character who inserts herself into Plum’s life. After checking in with Kitty on her writing assignments, Plum’s told to press floor “SC” in the elevator. She follows instructions and enters The Beauty Closet, run by Julia (Tunie). The Beauty Closet’s filled with all sorts of beauty products designed to make women feel better about themselves. Julia’s invitation to Plum to enter this private warehouse is motivated by her desire to procure the list of women who’ve sought advice from “Dear Kitty.”
A third strand of the plot involves a secret radical organization known as “Jennifer.” Members of the vigilante group have been kidnapping men accused of despicable crimes against women (including rape). After videotaping their confessions, Jennifer members then toss the men from great heights onto busy streets and other assorted locations throughout the city.
Showrunner Marti Noxon strikes a unique tone with Dietland. The writing’s so clever that even though the series deals with heavy subjects, it never feels oppressive. What it does feel is incredibly timely, going hand-in-glove with the #MeToo movement. It’s also incredibly entertaining, weaving Plum’s tale in with storylines involving corporate espionage and murders committed by the Jennifer vigilante group. The vigilante group storyline, in particular, is fascinating. It represents the very real anger women feel, taking decades of oppression and abuse and using this vigilante organization to strike back against abuse.
Dietland uses hand-drawn animations to portray Plum’s state of mind in key moments. It’s a brilliant way of letting the audience into Plum’s head, as are the bizarre interactions Plum has while daydreaming and while withdrawing from prescription medication.
Joy Nash leads the cast and is fantastic as Plum, the heart and soul of the series and the character audiences will most relate to. It’s a treat to watch the entire cast – Julianna Margulies, Tamara Tunie, Robin Weigert, et al. – get into the interesting assortment of characters that populate Dietland.
AMC’s new series is funny and fierce, occasionally heartbreaking, but always deliciously wicked and entertaining.
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Dietland premieres on Monday, June 4, 2018 with back-to-back hour-long episodes.