June 5, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Dietland”


DIETLAND:  Monday 9PM on AMC

AMC’s DIETLAND is a big swing, but it seems to be trying to hit to all parts of the field at once.  The series, created by Marti Noxon (from a novel by Sarai Walker), and with its first 2 episodes directed by Noxon as well, begins with a relatable, sharply written core.  Its heroine is Alicia Kettle (Joy Nash), known to all as Plum, whose life has been defined since kindergarten by her awareness of being overweight.  (This is clearly a subject close to Noxon’s heart, as her last project was the semi-autobiographical To The Bone, about eating disorders.)   Unfortunately, or perversely, Plum has found her career in the beauty industry, where she ghosts a letters to the editor column in the guise of magazine honcho Kitty Montgomery (Juliana Margulies).  Plum’s life is a succession of humiliations, micro and not, and her most deeply cherished dream is to have her stomach stapled, to remake herself once and for all.

This material can seem a bit like a rehash of the Kate sequences in This Is Us (there’s even the same trope of a diet group with a member who’s skinny but considers herself as grossly overweight as all the others), but Noxon and Nash bring welcome wit to the story and much less soap.  Even the magazine scenes sort of work, although Noxon piles on the unsubtle satire, and Margulies so far has little to do, working way too hard at replicating The Devil Wears Prada, a tone that’s not in her comfort zone.  But Dietland has other, stranger fish to fry.  Plum is recruited, through the magazine’s sinister Beauty Closet manager Julia (Tamara Tunie) and excitable goth Leeta (Erin Darke, from Good Girls Revolt), to a secret organization that’s tied to anti-diet therapist Verena Baptist (Robin Weigert)  And somehow, although we don’t yet know the connection, the group is likely to tie in to an apparent band of feminist terrorists who are murdering predatory males.

If these strands are going to come together in a satisfying way, it’s not evident from the opening episodes.  Nevertheless, there’s a lot to appreciate in Dietland.  Its acerbic tone, mindful of Plum’s problems but not defeated by them, is a pleasure, and so is Nash’s performance.  Weigert is also welcome as the probably-too-reasonable-to-be-trusted therapist.  Noxon takes some stylistic risks that mostly pay off, like animated sequences and an expository flashback about Verena’s mother, a noted diet popularizer followed by young Plum, staged as a theatrical pageant.

AMC has admirably put some of its zombie money toward quality shows like Halt and Catch Fire and Humans, and stuck with them through multiple seasons.  Dietland is uneven, and perhaps it won’t figure itself out entirely, but it’s an original, absorbing entry in the summer line-up.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."