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Stream It or Nah? Netflix's 'The Duchess' is Fierce, Funny, and Fantastic

By Dustin Rowles | TV | September 14, 2020 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | September 14, 2020 |


I decided to watch The Duchess — now out on Netflix — because it’s one of those short, six-episode British comedies that I could plow through in one sitting, and also because it stars Katherine Ryan, whom I really only knew and loved from her stint on the British panel show Taskmaster. She’s doubly interesting because she’s Canadian, but also a regular on the British panel show circuit, the intricacies of which are absolutely fascinating to me as an American (but that’s a post for another day). For those of you unfamiliar, you might have seen her stand-up bit on Hamilton, which went viral when the movie was released on Disney+ over the summer.

She’s also a fascinating comedian, personally. She left home and put herself through college by working at Hooters (she was fired for writing “club sandwiches, not seals” on the sandwich board). Then she went over to the UK to train waitresses for an opening of Hooters in Nottingham, and she’s remained ever since. She’s also young but is very open about the amount of plastic surgery she has received, including a boob job she had done and then redone after a break-up to spite her ex. She is not shy about her love of cosmetic surgery.

Ryan’s personal life is somewhat notable here because Netflix’s The Duchess — created, written, and starring Katherine Ryan — is also semi-autobiographical. It’s about a single mom trying to balance raising her kid with dating; her shitty ex-husband, Shep (Rory Keenan); and her desire to give her daughter a sibling. The catch is that she’s not interested in finding a father for her second kid. In fact, she’s mostly navigating the process, not with a partner, but with her 9-year-old daughter. Eventually, though, she concludes that she’d like to have her sh*tty ex-husband donate the sperm. That will make it logistically easier on everyone, except her current boyfriend, Evan (Steen Raskopoulos), who is a Colin Firth type, although any man that seems too good to be true probably is.

It’s all very raunchy but also occasionally sweet — there’s a certain Apatowian quality to it, as well as a sense of humor that reminds me of Melissa McCarthy at her filthiest best. Katherine Ryan f**king goes for it; she is bitchy, and completely unapologetic about it. However, while the comedy is dirty and blunt force, the framing is still in the mold of a more traditional rom-com. It’s as though Sharon Horgan and Joan Rivers got together to write About a Boy.

Meanwhile, the nine-year-old daughter, Olive (Katy Byrne), is on the unrealistically precocious side, and the dreamy boyfriend never feels all that dreamy to me. But the hate-f*ck chemistry between Katherine and her ex, Shep, is really where The Duchess shines. They absolutely loathe one another, but they respect each other as parents. There’s something about their mutual desire to kill one another but raise the best possible daughter that makes their interactions tremendously enjoyable.

I don’t want to oversell it, but the season is only two-and-a-half hours long and not otherwise all that likely to get a lot of attention stateside, so I do want to sell it enough to pique your interest. It’s exactly the kind of show that I think our readers, in particular, would appreciate.

The Duchess is on Netflix as of September 11th.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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Header Image Source: Netflix