Back in 2016, The Hollywood Reporter's review of AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE's pilot was devastating.  They wrote "how do you make a television series in 2016 that is as poorly conceived and executed as American Housewife?"

It's true that the premise of the show was oddly specific - the adventures of an overweight mom (the show's original title was "The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport") trying to raise her three kids in a pretentious, uptight WASPy town.

What I thought gave the show its charm was a genuinely funny cast with Katy Mixon as the tough-love mom, the always funny Diedrich Bader as the nutty professor dad, Meg Donnelly growing into her Disney Channel stardom, Daniel DiMaggio cast in the Alex P. Keaton mold, and in sitcom tradition, Julia Butters as the weird kid (think Brick from THE MIDDLE, Luke Dunphy from MODERN FAMILY).  Add to that, comic powerhouse Wendie Malick as Katie's mom. This cast lifted the show from average to funny, giving audiences that happy half hour break with a family you may not have grown to love, but at least liked a lot.

The cast's charms must have worked because this critically unloved show lasted five seasons with solid ratings and ended up as one of ABC's longest running sitcoms for a time being. Last Friday, ABC announced that the show would not be renewed for a sixth season. The fans are outraged, the casts have begun to tweet their thanks and farewells.

Season five hit fans badly. COVID hampered production. ABC ominously cut the season down. And a series of unfortunate events clearly served to justify ABC's decision to cancel the show. Early on, Carly Hughes departed the show citing "a toxic work environment." Fan favorite, Ali Wong, also exited. In a tone deaf move, the show runners replaced their Asian and black cast with another pair of Asian and black actors, as if Diversity in casting meant cast was as interchangeable as Lego blocks. Similarly, when Julia Butters left the show to pursue her film career, she was replaced with Giselle Eisenberg who faced a tweetstorm of criticism.  At one point, Eisenberg fired back at unhappy fans on Twitter that she knew she was being blamed for all the show's problems.

What was going on behind the scenes? The writers seemed to flounder with new storylines, ignoring the previous four seasons of established canon fans were anxiously waiting to see evolve. A longtime bromance between Oliver and bestie Cooper seemed to be going nowhere, with some fans accusing the show of queerbaiting. And the original premise of the show - how Katie dealt with those snobby moms of Westport - was upended as those moms were completely removed from season five.

As the writers crammed more and more into the show, they hit a wall in the final episode with cliffhangers galore - two marriage proposals and a pregnancy.  Unless ABC decides to give AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE a farewell special (as Patricia Heaton recently tweeted support for), they have ended this lighthearted series in the most unsatisfying way. The Hollywood Reporter would sneer, how do you make a series finale that is as poorly conceived and executed as American Housewife?"  We will miss the Otto's.

Harrison Cheung is the author of the award-winning biography of Christian Bale (BenBella Books) and a contributor to Brave New Hollywood and The TV Ratings Guide.

@harrisonic (Twitter)

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