Netflix releases in September give us the sitcom The Duchess, series created by stand-up comedian Katherine Ryan, already present in the catalog of the streaming service with its two shows In Trouble e Glitter Room (as well as appearing on comic broadcasts such as The Fix). Ryan is Canadian, but lives in the UK, where she is best known and it is no coincidence that her debut as a writer and actress takes place in a six-episode comedy of about half an hour each, in full British tradition. In The Duchess, Ryan plays the part of herself, or rather the personality she adopts during her shows, inserting some autobiographical elements, particularly with regards to her being a single mom and her relationship with her daughter.
A single mom in London
Those familiar with Ryan’s shows, therefore, already know what to expect from his comedy. The Duchess is a series with a protagonist proud of her independence and a sharp, caustic tongue, ready to offend without any remorse anyone who dares to disturb the tranquility of her daughter Olive, played by a talented Kate Bryne, all showing off outfit that do nothing but highlight the narcissism. For those who don’t know, Ryan takes care of setting the record straight from the first scene, in which she discovers that a little girl bullies her daughter; reason why he confronts his mother, in public, showing all his explosive charge and exposing a repertoire of offenses that spares no one.
Katherine is something of an anti-heroine, as bad with others as she is loving towards Olive, with whom she has a special relationship, in which the boundaries between parent and child often blur. The link between the two is the central and most successful element of the show, as well as the engine of the story, which sees Katherine begin to contemplate a second pregnancy, also driven by the requests of the daughter. This leads the protagonist to consider various options, including artificial insemination, adoption, an attempt with Evan (Steen Raskopoulos), the man with whom she is having a relationship between ups and downs, or with Shep (Rory Keenan), the father of Olive and ex-member of a boy band that failed to break through.
In fact, although Katherine hates him and considers him an inept and a failure, she thinks that this choice could be the right one, given that, as has been stressed several times, despite the flaws and the fact that the two now hate each other, from their union a girl like Olive was born. The latter, in fact, is a refined girl, alert and with a perfect British accent, who on several occasions seems decidedly more mature than her eccentric parents.
From stand-up comedy to sit-com
As in his shows, Ryan plays with gender stereotypes and aims to subvert them. This is why his Katherine is a strong woman, who never shows any hesitation about raising a daughter alone; it is not a challenge that scares her or in front of which she does not feel up to par and approaches the idea of a new pregnancy with the same confidence. His research has as its main ingredient the welfare of the daughter, without necessarily the need for a man by his side. The presence of a partner is by no means the priority in his life; plus he fears new disappointments or sentimental wounds. Thus, where relations with the outside world are complicated and full of misunderstandings – also due to Katherine’s lack of trust in others, to the point that she cannot conceive that someone other than her daughter could be good – the one with Olive is a relationship of love and complicity.
So we are not offered yet another single mother who flounders in keeping her life up and acting as a model parent, but the individuality of a woman is celebrated, yes, full of defects, but to be admired precisely because she has her own job, a loving daughter and does not give in to social pressures. “You are not normal, you are mediocre“Katherine points out to other mothers who question her life choices, deemed outside the box, as well as whether a woman can manage both a career and children.
Over the course of its six episodes, The Duchess offers comic scenes supported by the dialogue and the sharp language of the protagonist, which may not be suitable for all audiences, as well as more delicate and touching moments, such as when Olive decides to cut her hair. Ryan’s comedy probably works best in his stand-up showsand in the context of the series it is less incisive but, considering that this is her debut as a creator, author and actress in a series, we are faced with a good product that, despite not making a miracle cry, lends itself easily to a vision light and casual.