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Have you seen 'The Duchess' on Netflix? If not, count yourself lucky. Read about why it flops and why we wish season 2 would never get made.

Here’s why Netflix’s ‘The Duchess’ is an absolute hot mess

Katherine Ryan can be a bit of an acquired taste. The Canadian comedian has a sharp tongue and even sharper eye for controversial material, as proven by her 2019 special Glitter Room. Unfortunately, the sophistication that balanced out Ryan’s standup is nowhere to be found in her revolting Netflix series The Duchess

The Duchess follows Katherine (Ryan), a single mother who spends every waking moment making life difficult for those around her. She mocks those with disabilities, bullies her daughter’s schoolmates, and endlessly badgers her ex-boyfriend to get her pregnant, despite being in a relationship with a masochistic dentist. 

Katherine is an example of the comedic antihero, which is a trope that audiences have seen masterfully depicted in shows like Fleabag and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. She just so happens to be a terrible example. The Duchess is, quite simply, one of the most tasteless and consistently unfunny shows that Netflix has ever financed. 

Netflix dud

The Duchess operates on the basis that saying something “shocking” is the same as saying something “funny,” and it runs this belief so far into the ground that it borders on desensitizing. Watching all six episodes is tantamount to sitting with the most unlikeable person you can find and paying them to insult you for the better part of a day. 

Most of the show’s flaws stem from Ryan’s central performance. She leans into the character’s awful traits without offering a single glimpse of decency or hope for change. This persona is a logical extension of Ryan’s cutthroat standup material, but it doesn’t translate to a compelling or even competent protagonist. We aren’t told why Katherine behaves despicably, so we don’t care.

Each episode is crammed with instances of Katherine behaving abhorrently towards others. She sends nudes to a rival’s husband in an attempt to ruin their marriage, threatens to take sandpaper to Shep’s genitals, and relentlessly invokes anal sex when she’s in public spaces. It’s all meant to push the envelope in terms of comedy, but it comes off like a transparent attempt at masking the lack of genuinely clever writing.

Crass vs. clever

The very first episode sees Katherine walk her daughter to school while she’s dressed in a sweater that refers to her “small” genitalia. It’s a jaw-dropping display of bad taste, but rather than bring attention to the joke or attempt to develop it in a way that’s actually humorous, it’s forgotten about. The Duchess throws lots of content at the wall and none of it manages to stick. They’re as disposable as the expletives that Katherine dishes out.

Occasionally, The Duchess tries to compose itself and deliver a moment of sincerity. Katherine entertains the possibility of adoption and sits down with a case worker to discuss her qualifications. She makes a useless remark about wanting a baby “whatever the age or drug problem,” but for the most part, the scene feels legitimate, as though the character has relented and exposed her true self.

It’s spoiled right away. The case worker turns Katherine down for adoption, and the character reverts back to her cruel, detestable ways. “Adoption was only my last resort anyway,” she explains. “Eat a d–k; I’ll stick with the kid I’ve got and you can keep your secondhand crack babies.” The ruthless nature of the joke feels completely at odds with the rest of the scene, resulting in a tonal mess. 

Renewal rumors

Ryan has already begun to discuss possibilities for season 2 of The Duchess, but we hope that the onslaught of negative reviews from fans & critics are enough to prevent such a thing. Netflix has yet to renew the show, and we cannot fathom why they would consider doing so.

The Duchess is now streaming on Netflix. 

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  • Thank you, I couldn’t agree more.

    September 15, 2020
  • Loved the show, binge watched the entire season and cannot wait for season 2.

    September 15, 2020
    • Same I think its bloody brilliant

      September 17, 2020
  • You don’t get it. But how could you? Looking forward to Season 2.

    September 15, 2020
  • Ryan is generally quite hard to like and I’m this shoe she seems to be playing herself to a t. I think you are supposed to admire and like her but I see no qualities that would entice you to do so. I like my heroines flawed but with humour and humility Roisin Conaty’s character in Game face is just that. She’s adorable in her vulnerability and you love her so much that you just want things to go right for her…like a Bridget Jones for the noughties.. Ryan’s character is hateful to others, pompous and negative. She dresses to too well and is just too perfect, her plastic surgery deflecting from any semblance of reality she endeavours to have. But apart from all this…the shoe is just not funny. I sat through the first episode without a smile let alone a giggle. I can’t get that time back so won’t be watching any more episodes.

    September 16, 2020
  • It is truly awful. Worst thing I’ve watched in ages. This review is spot on.

    September 16, 2020
  • I loved it. The perspective is singular, literally and figuratively – single mother just trying her best. The end of the season was the perfect cap on that for anyone who may have thought this was just another rom-com with a perfect woman getting everything she wants (but most importantly her man) – Katherine Ryan is a flawed woman in a flawed world who is saying definitively, ‘No one comes before my kid, not even myself.’

    This show was devastatingly wonderful, and even though Katherine Ryan is a bit raunchy for entertainment’s sake, she’s telling a very real story from a very real perspective that isn’t shared as often as it deserves to be shared. I recognized Ryan’s voice in the writing immediately, and was impressed by the insight and thoughtfulness she shared throughout the show.

    September 16, 2020
  • Beyond doubt the worst thing I’ve seen on Netflix. I couldn’t watch more than 2 episodes its that poor. Dreadful humans can make great comedy but it doesn’t work here . I felt no empathy with any character. Vulgarity can make great comedy and interesting viewing but it doesn’t work here. I didn’t feel inspired to be curious about any of the characters and frankly the machine gun of cynical comments is debilitating.

    September 16, 2020
  • Really, have you not seen Fleabag. The main character is much more unlikeable in that. The Duchess may not be the most sophisticated but it’s very watchable.

    September 17, 2020
  • I hinged watched the show…can’t wait to see more episodes

    September 17, 2020
  • I thought it was a great show but I can understand why some people would be put off by it. It doesn’t pull any punches.

    September 18, 2020
  • Absolute low brow crap. Exactly what I expect from Netflix.

    September 20, 2020
  • I stopped watching during Episode 1. I hoped it would be witty and funny but it is not.

    September 23, 2020
  • Its awful. I could not watch more than 2 episodes.
    Its totally un-respectful with lots of negative examples.
    Not funny at all

    September 29, 2020
  • I really wanted to like this show, and I really didn’t. Right from the start, I thought Ryan was trying way too hard to create an out-of-the-box, antihero character, but her character has no substance. I feel that we are supposed to see her as an independent, free, take-no-shit-from-nobody woman, but really she comes out as someone who’s just randomly mean to everybody, immature, vulgar and all together unlikable. Half the humour of the show lies in spewing crass insults at mostly innocent people; while vulgarity can be funny in a certain context, vulgarity for vulgarity isn’t funny. Most of the show revolves around her trying to get pregnant from her ex, whom she hates deeply; that choice makes absolutely no sense at all: she has the perfect boyfriend, but she prefers getting knocked up by the person she claims she hates the most on Earth. That plotline is too unrealistic to be enjoyable (even for a sitcom); and in fact, it’s just plain uninteresting. I was hoping the character of her ex wouldn’t stick around after the first episode as he’s an unlikable caricature of a loser and I had no interest whatsoever in his story – but he turned out to be a main character of the show! The adoption scene is a perfect example of provocation just for the sake of provocation; there is absolutely no reason to insult children put for adoption or a social worker working with them, and it’s not done in a way that makes us laugh at her for being so narrow minded, it’s just plain unfunny.
    And then the end of the show is inexplicable: she pushed away the perfect boyfriend and we’re celebrating the birth of the new kid of two narcissistic, inadequate parents. (By the way, a mom shouldn’t have a baby “with” her daughter or even “for” her daughter, that’s unhealthy as hell). The only interesting part of the show (apart from the actress who plays Olive, who’s talented and so pretty) is the aesthetics of it. Shots of London, the funky costumes of Ryan’s character (as inexplicable as the story of the show, but interesting to look at), her vintage looking house. Otherwise, this show is like a teenager trying to provoke but just for the sake of provocation. It feels immature and annoying.

    October 2, 2020
  • Just binge watched The Duchess to rinse my mind of the horrible ‘Emily in Paris’.
    Love Katherine and thought all of the young actors were brilliant.

    October 6, 2020
  • There are so many male anti-heroes in tv-shows, where the protagonist is a total asshole for example Dr. House or in other shows like Californication the protagonist is an asshole and has no character developement visible during whole seasons but it seems to be ok and people and critics love this shows. This time it is a woman and everybody is shocked! I really love this show and think, that Katherine is hilarious!

    October 16, 2020
    • I am a fan of KR but don’t see how anyone could honestly think this sad show has any merit or artistic credibility let alone humour. It is just banal vulgar crap.

      November 1, 2020
  • there are so many male anti-heroes in tv-shows like Dr. House, or Californication but it seems to be ok and people and the critics love it. shockingly, this time it’s a woman! and it is funny! i think katherine is hilarious in her bluntness and direct behaviour. of course it is too much, that’s the fun part!

    October 16, 2020
  • Totally agree

    October 19, 2020
  • Loved it. Made me laugh. With all the craziness out there right now it hit the spot. Loved her tackiness.

    October 20, 2020
  • The love between the Mum and daughter presented and how much they wanted a baby into their life are so lifelike in this show, I totally feel them so I enjoyed this tv series very much

    October 21, 2020
  • I love the show!!! Keep PC for real life! House was worse and everyone loved the show. It’s the best thing I have watched in a minute.

    November 1, 2020
  • I watched it today and felt I was left out of the joke but there wasnt a joke to start with… The show is quite offensive and tries to make the protagonist a victim when shes the agressor… oh the masochist dentist… Like, ok YOU want a life alone with you and your children… granted! but dont drag others to your mess without really telling them that you want them to be there for you but you wont ever ever be there or them rofl! And.dont treat them like theyre bonkers for wanting intimacy when you lead them on… I know its not meant to be a super deep romantic show and its a comedy but it doesnt quite hit the humorous side of the ‘opposites attract’ theory…

    November 5, 2020

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