American Woman premieres Thursday, June 7th, on Paramount Network.
By Chris Flanagan
Keeping the original programming wheel turning, Paramount directs its attention towards the 1970s and the second wave of the feminist movement. Through this lens, American Woman focuses on Bonnie (Alicia Silverstone), a wealthy housewife that spends her days lounging beside her pool with her girlfriends trading opinions, drinks and gossip about their lives and mutual friends until one day it all comes crashing to a halt. Bonnie catches her husband having an affair which aptly brings a divorce that’s then accompanied by a newfound independence from Bonnie as she seeks to pick up the pieces of her broken life and focus on providing for her two daughters.
American Woman attempts to show what life was like for women, not just from Bonnie’s point of view, but also from several different perspectives brought to life in Bonnie’s friends Diana (Jennifer Bartels) and Kathleen (Mena Suvari). Diana is a woman who has been in the workplace for several years grinding out a career that she has to work twice as hard for as other men she’s surrounded by but who refuses to succumb to losing her place and the shred of respect she has rightfully earned. Kathleen is on the opposite side of the spectrum coming from money and using it to solve all of her problems. All three points of view help form a tone for the show that is equal parts sad, truthful and comical and often help to carry a story that stalls at any sign of emotional demand which, at times, can be the show’s most glaring weakness. But even through multiple episodes, it’s painfully noticeable that the supporting cast is criminally underused.
Alicia Silverstone does a good job of embodying the persona of Bonnie, however, there are several times throughout the first couple of episodes in which she does not come across as believable or capable of anger. She tries and mostly does the best with what she’s given but her voice and demeanor seemed to be lacking the sting that would be understandable for a woman put in her situation. This is easy to overlook because the show does not spend much time on the initial divorce and the fact that Silverstone handles herself well during the softer and more sentimental moments.
At its heart, American Woman possesses a good story that is told in a very poignant manner but its deficiencies keep it from being anything that will truly move the needle of public consumption. The show is decent but ultimately lacks the punch needed to hammer home the real stakes that women of that era endured.
Many times, it feels as if American Woman sacrifices excellence for just getting their story told and while I can’t fault it for making that decision I wish more effort was shown towards its method of storytelling. I was happy to have watched the episodes I did but won’t strain to try and watch the remainder of the season.
Sometimes existing in the middle of the spectrum can be worse than being either good or bad and while American Woman has several things that go well the overall product could’ve been done better. If you are available to watch this show, by all means, do, but if it passes you by you will not be any worse for missing out.
I give American Woman a C.