'The Duchess' depicts the happy but chaotic life of single mum Katherine (Katherine Ryan). She raises her daughter Olive (Kate Byrne) while estranged baby daddy Shep Knight (Rory Keenan) pops in now and again. Now Olive wants a sibling and Katherine is also ready for another child. Her options are to either find a sperm donor or look to Shep for round two. There's also the matter of Katherine's new boyfriend Evan (Steen Raskopoulos) to consider...
Canadian comedian Katherine Ryan previously produced stand-up specials 'In Trouble' and 'Glitter Room' for Netflix. 'The Duchess' marks her first scripted series for the streaming service. Somewhat akin to contemporary Ricky Gervais (whose success with Netflix has been remarkable), there are no holds barred here. Be prepared for something crass. The opening conversation between mother and daughter is on immigrants, then Leonardo DiCaprio's dating, then onto bullying. This all while they walk to school as our protagonist wears a shirt reading "World's Smallest Pussy."
Soon we learn that Katherine makes erotic pottery and that her boyfriend Evan wants to be "let in". (He means emotionally, though she makes it bolder than that). Her character is biting and no-nonsense, a little off-putting but also admirable. Young Kate Byrne's performance as Olive is so great, it's easy to see why she inspires such love and respect from the adults around her. Meanwhile Rory Keenan as the loud mouth Irish former pop star can be a bit much, but Steen Raskopoulos seems lovely as Evan the dentist. Still you sympathise with Katherine's hesitancy to let someone who could hurt Olive into her life. The lengths she goes to trying to get pregnant though prove unrealistic and foolish. The plot only makes vague sense according to her crazed inner logic. Still, even as it gets increasingly ludicrous, it's entertaining, you just have to suspend your disbelief.
The script moves swiftly, the characters are likable, and the casting is great. There are some very funny moments in the script, for example, the kids' conversations when it comes to misinformation around sex are hilarious. Elsewhere, the awkward sex attempts while other stuff is going on is very on the nose. The opening to episode 3 is hilarious but gross when it comes to sex and fertility, and the PTA material provides comedy as well as food for thought. It's an extension of Katherine's dedication to being both a feminist and a parent, and she still seems to be trying to figure out how to be an individual as well as a good mom.
'The Duchess' is short (its six episodes are under 30 minutes each) and thus easy to binge. It has it flaws certainly, but there are plenty of fun and funny moments in there.
'The Duchess' debuts on Netflix on Friday September 11th.