Based on the Sarai Walker novel of the same name, Dietland is a very strange show. Its 2-hour debut is a mishmash of contrasting tones: it’s funny, it’s dark, it’s satirical, it’s inspirational – heck sometimes it’s even animated! And in some bizarre way… it works!
A Plum Path
Breaking down the show’s premise is no easy task, but I’ll just stick with saying that it’s the journey of an overweight writer, Plum Kettle (yes that’s her name and it’s super cool), who struggles with self acceptance. As our heroine, Joy Nash is an absolute delight. Her plight is extremely relatable to anyone who’s ever suffered with their body-image and self-confidence, and Nash capably taps into her character’s humanity. This is a star-making turn for the actress, and she really makes it count. Incredible!
Too Much Stuffing
Sadly, while Dietland conveys an empowering message (particularly in the current #MeToo climate), it is admittedly a tad overstuffed. Not only do we have Plum’s journey, we have a vigilante group called “Jennifer” who are kidnapping and murdering sexual predators, the mysterious dealings of an the heiress of a weight-loss empire, and an underground revolution brewing right beneath Joy’s office. The show would be wise to link them all soon, because at the moment, they feel like disparate threads vying for screen-time.
One Kickass Kitty
The primary reason I’ve been wanting to give Dietland a shot is Julianna Margulies. The incredible actress blew my mind on The Good Wife for seven glorious seasons, and I’m more than ready for her return to television. Unfortunately, she’s only a supporting character here which is a bit of a disappointment. Thankfully, her turn as Kitty Montgomery, Plum’s self-obsessed boss, is highly memorable. Kitty is of course cold-hearted and constantly barking out zingers, but there’s hints of compassion beneath her icy exterior, and I’m extremely curios to see her backstory unfold. If anybody can give this character a whole lot of depth, it’s Margulies.
A Visual Delight
There are a ton of stylistic choices peppered throughout Dietland that make its visuals stand out. First off, the opening credit sequence is an absolute thing of genius that I won’t spoil here, but it’s refreshingly creative. Moreover, the premiere sprinkles out other unexpected sights like an animated version of Plum who frequently pops up, or even Kitty talking to Plum through a banner on her laptop. It’s the little touches that give the show a distinct visual palette. Bravo!
Bits & Bodies
– Crazy Janice in the meeting (with her “I’m a unicorn” speech) was absolutely hilarious. I do hope she comes back soon.
– Loved watching Plum bake and sing. There’s a small but powerful moment where she licks the frosting before realizing what she’s done and urgently spitting it out.
– Other hilarious surreal touches: Plum imagining Kitty shaving and licking her own blood, and Plum imagining the news reporter berating her about her credit card.
– Tamara Tunie is a standout as Julie, the manager of the Beauty Closet who recruits Plum to her mysterious cause. Her dynamic with Plum has a ton of potential.
– There’s a lot of Harvey Weinsteins in this show and the sad thing is: Kitty turns a blind eye and doesn’t mind working with them. Hopefully the show explores this further.
– The meanest thing Kitty did in the premiere (without even noticing): offering Plum the chance to cover an event… through Facebook Live! Cringe.
– Although I don’t know if Detective Dominic is genuinely interested in Plum or just has a “fetish”, I loved his dynamic with our heroine over carrot cake. His “big as a house” moment was a particularly awkward highlight.
– I’m guessing that Ben likes Plum and will be her eventual love interest. His encouragement of her baking was really sweet.
– I’m guessing creator Marti Noxon saw Robin Weigert on Big Little Lies and offered her the role of Verena. Her conversation with Plum felt like a therapy scene straight out of that show! Hey, she’s brilliant anyway!
– Anyone know what workout Kitty was doing? It looked like a cheap version of BodyCombat (a class that I myself teach).
Diets & Digs
Steven: I hate people.
Plum: Everybody sucks but us.
Kitty: You haven’t had any unusual letters lately? I mean, anything disturbing in an out-of-the-ordinary way?
Plum: No, just regular disturbing.
Eladio: He’s been poking around. Not in the way that I wish he would.
Kitty: You have to be absolutely fanatical to stay under a size 2. I never talk about this around here, but menopause, in my case you know me, always have to be first. Suddenly I had this middle. My chef had to cut absolutely everything white out of my menu. You can do things for the face, the body, even the hands. But the waist? You have to attack. Around here you start looking like somebody’s grandmother You’re out. Martha Stewart can get away with it, she sells hot glue guns. But tastemakers? No. Mark my word it won’t happen to me. I will not be left behind.
Guy: What’s your name?
Plum: Plum. Plum Kettle.
Guy: No, it’s not. Are you from a children’s book?
It’s not perfect, but Dietland has enough potential (and a fantastic cast) to ensure my investment for a couple of episodes.