Insatiable: Neflix’s satirical homage to 80s rom-coms and soaps

Insatiable, photo credit: Tina Rowden/Netflix
Insatiable, photo credit: Tina Rowden/Netflix /

Insatiable is a dark comedy that pays homage to and satires cherished 80s and 90s rom-com tropes.

Imagine if Drew Barrymore’s high school redemption movie, Never Been Kissed, was given a dose of Stephen King’s Carrie. Then imagine it set in the glutinous world of beauty pageants, with a heavy sprinkling of GCB and spun into an over-the-top Netflix series. This would be Insatiable.

According to Deadline, this is based on the true story of a southern civil lawyer who had a talent for coaching beauty queens. Dallas Roberts portrays the Henry Higgins-like character, Bob Armstrong, who takes on a pro bono client, Patty, after his pageant coach career is tarnished by a false accusation of sexual assault. Yes, this is like a soap opera with more twists than a pretzel!

Patty (Debby Ryan) needs his help as she punched a homeless guy and broke his nose. He punched her back and broke her jaw. Turns out, Patty completely transforms her body as she loses 70 pounds because her jaw was wired shut for three months. Now a stunner, Bob, makes it clear that pretty girls like her don’t go to jail.

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Bob, who reveals to Patty that he, too, was heavy in weight when he was in high school is determined that Patty will be his next beauty queen star and put him on the top again. But, pageant winners can’t go to jail, so Bob works to get her acquitted.

A first, Patty looks to Bob as a crush, because she feels she finally found someone who understands her. Bob makes it clear that he is nothing but her coach. But Bob’s own complicated personal life propels Patty on an emotional rollercoaster and she cannot be satisfied with anything in her life.

After being acquitted from her crime, Patty is seen at school listing off all of possible Breakfast Club-like cliques she can join now that she is beautiful, with Simple Minds’ 80s anthem, “Don’t You Forget About Me” playing in the background. She decides to do the pageants and win in order to get revenge on her classmates and get closer to Bob.

After years of eating her feelings, Patty unleashes her rage, as she feels that she has been neglected by others. Patty’s mother repeatedly fails at sobriety, and it is revealed that her unknown father ran out on her before she was born. Mom, who works at Weiner Taco, the disgustedly horrid fast food joint that beauty pageant contestants sneak to, was herself in pageants, clearly a cautionary warning.

Patty only has one true friend, Nonnie ( Kimmy Shields). Best friends since they were three, Nonnie worships Patty so much that she will sacrifice her own happiness for Patty. Nonnie’s own feelings are insecure, and border on romantic, which alienates Patty, and sends her off to more bad decisions.

Insatiable: Neflix's satirical homage to 80s rom-coms and soaps
Insatiable, photo credit: Tina Rowden/Netflix /

Patty isn’t the most sympathetic character, always focused on what she needs. Obviously starved for attention and acceptance, she makes some really poor choices based on her own lack of self esteem. Underneath it all is a simmering anger that was fueled after years of being the proverbial high school punching bag.

In those bad choices, Insatiable reminds viewers that just because you’re thin, it doesn’t mean you don’t have any problems–you still have to live with the person that is inside of you. The satire of imperfection especially runs deep in the characters of the beautiful and talented  pageant women. All of them have issues personal issues, despite enviable beauty.

These are not people you want to emulate and  the wacky storyline makes it clear that no one is worth emulating excerpt for Bob. Yet, the extreme storyline and over the top characters are clearly a dark, yet comical satire on our modern idea of beauty and truth.

There are many homages to 80s films, especially anything by Drew Barrymore, Patty and Nonnie’s favorite actress. The most obvious is the homage to the Never Been Kissed tormented heroine, Josie, nicknamed Josie “grossy” in high school. At the beginning of Insatiable, Patty is bulled with he nickname “fatty” Patty.

It is no surprise that the CW originally ordered the Insatiable pilot. Although it is not quite as dark as Riverdale, but much more soapy than Dynasty, Insatiable’s zaniness attracts the same sort of audience of teens and parents that loved 80/ms and 90s rom-coms.

Insatiable: Neflix's satirical homage to 80s rom-coms and soaps
Insatiable — Photo credit: Eliza Morse/Netflix — Acquired via Netflix Media Center /

Weeks prior to Insatiable’s release, there was a lot of backlash, leaving stars like Alyssa Milano and Debby Ryan making the rounds, trying to save the show.

Is Insatiable as offensive as the online petition and negative reviews insinuate? Not even close.

Is this Netflix’s worst original TV series as some reviewers have declared? Clearly, they have not attempted to binge on Disjointed or Bright, two Netflix original series/films starring Kathy Bates and Will Smith respectively. While we are at it, Insatiable is far superior to any anything that Adam Sandler has created for the streaming service, including his recent dud of a movie with Chris Rock, The Week Of.

That said, Insatiable is entertaining and unpredictable. There are so many curve balls in this farce that it can be overwhelming to the viewer.  The only real criticism about Insatiable is that it would be better consumed in weekly bites, not binged over the weekend. Yet, the performances by Dallas Roberts, Debby Ryan, and Alyssa Milano as Coralee, Bob’s wife, are highly entertaining and engaging.

Insatiable creator Lauren Gussis has been especially vocal about the fat-shaming accusation, explaining that this story was based on her own experience. Telling The Hollywood Reporter that this is a “cautionary tale,” she admits that she has struggled herself with many of the issues that are addressed in this dark comedy.

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Whether there will be an Insatiable season 2 after the shocking ending is up to Netflix. According to Rotten Tomatoes, only 14% for all critics like the series, while it achieved a very positive 77 audience score.

Have you seen Insatiable? Was it different from what you expected? Please share your opinions below.

Insatiable season 1 can now be streamed on Netflix.