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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

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