AMC’s news drama, DIETLAND, feels like a bit of a departure for the network. While they have done shows that border on the fantastical, the tone of this one is silly, and yet deeply dark. It revolves around several different women, including some involved in a cult-like conspiracy, as they maneuver the modern world and current political climate post-#MeToo. There’s also a mystery unfolding in which men who have been cruel to women keep winding up missing and often dead.
Joy Nash (Stallions de Amor) stars as Plum Kettle, a ghost writer who handles the Ask the Editor questions for Daisy Chain magazine, a lifestyle advice rag. Underpaid, underused, and underappreciated, Plum is weighed down with the depressing material of others’ letters, while struggling with her body size and lack of romantic life. Plum is intelligent, an excellent baker (a skill she tries to ignore), and determined to improve herself, having no patience for the ‘fat is beautiful’ set. She is also ripe to picked up by a group of women trying to fight back against the current system.
This conspiratorial group, hidden within the walls of Daisy Chain, is led by sweet-yet-tyrannical Julia (Tamara Tunie, Law & Order: SVU). Working right behind the back of the editor herself, Kitty Montgomery (Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife), Julia uses Leeta (Erin Darke, Good Girls Revolt) to gather intel on targets, which she then might send to Verena (Robin Weigert, Big Little Lies), the daughter of the founder of an extreme weigh loss program built on lies. Plum becomes their latest target, though it’s not immediately clear why exactly (although multiple explanations are presented to viewers), or how many others might have been singled out before her. What is shown is that the operation seems professional and wide-reaching.
The mystery of the shadowy group, mixed with an Ugly Betty-like office, makes for an interesting setting. However, Plum often works from home, so other scenes take place at her residence, her weight loss support group, a doctor’s office, and a café run by her best friend, Steven (Tramell Tillman). It’s a wide-spread number of locations for a sprawling narrative, which, although entangled within itself, feels very far spread.
I mentioned the tone being silly earlier, and yes, there’s a layer of odd comedy over the whole thing. Plum begins hallucinating. It’s unclear what exactly causes the hallucinations. Could it be stress? Withdrawal from a medication? Maybe there’s something in the makeup Julia gives her? These visions match the crazy theme song of the show, but while they are unfolding in-story, they aren’t explained.
There’s also a possible love interest / danger for Plum in Detective Dominic O’Shea (Adam Rothenberg, Ripper Street), who may want to date Plum, but may just be using her to look into a hack at Daisy Chain. With Dominic and reporter Cheryl Crane-Murphy (Rowena King, Shut Eye) among the leads, there’s definitely more dominos to fall as secrets come out.
What DIETLAND has going for it, besides being created by the talented Marti Noxon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, UnREAL), is a timely message and a lot of mystery. There are compelling characters, a fleshed-out world, a seemingly intricately plotted story, and a delightful tone.
What works against it is that it is very dense and a lot of questions go unanswered, likely for the foreseeable future. Some of the best television mysterious unfold a clue at a time, whereas DIETLAND just drops you into a puzzle that reveals pieces all around, without context. It can be overwhelming and messy, and that will likely make it difficult to access for some viewers.
I, however, like it, and plan to watch more. DIETLAND airs Mondays on AMC.
CHIEF TELEVISION CRITIC | Creator of and writer for It's All Been Done Radio Hour live show and podcast. A voracious reader wanting to tell stories of his own, Jerome began writing around the age of 8 and hasn’t stopped, both original works and television reviews. Lives in central Ohio. Favorite current shows include The Walking Dead, Jessica Jones, Flaked, Outlander, and Archer.