If there's one thing most ABC sitcom families share, it's the sense that they don't quite fit in with their neighbors.
Whether it's having a dad like Murray (Jeff Garlin) on The Goldbergs, who won't wear pants in the house, or being strangers in the strange land of Florida, like Louis (Randall Park) and Jessica Huang (Constance Wu) in Fresh Off the Boat, members of the Modern Family network tend to see themselves as just a little out of step with their mostly suburban communities.
So the title character in ABC's newest comedy, American Housewife, should feel right at home Tuesdays, where she and her family will be tucked between the financially strapped Hecks of The Middle and the immigrant strivers of Fresh Off the Boat. (The Huangs go to Taiwan in Tuesday's very funny season opener, leading Louis and Jessica to wonder why they ever left.)
Katy Mixon (Mike & Molly) stars in American Housewife as Katie Otto, whose main concern in Tuesday's premiere is that another woman's departure means she's about to become "the second fattest housewife in Westport," Conn.
(This was, as you may have heard, the show's original title. I'd like to say cooler heads prevailed, but it's hard to imagine anything less cool, or more generic, than the title that replaced it.)
So what's Katie doing in Westport?
Like Maya and Jimmy DiMeo (Minnie Driver and John Ross Bowie) of ABC's Speechless, who chose the cheapest house in a rich town for the educational opportunities it offers their son with cerebral palsy (Micah Fowler), Katie's there for the schools.
Created by University of Pennsylvania graduate and former City Paper columnist Sarah Dunn, Housewife gives Katie and her husband, Greg (Diedrich Bader), the requisite three children: Taylor (Meg Donnelly), a budding popular girl; Oliver (Daniel DiMaggio), an Alex P. Keaton-style capitalist; and the delightfully quirky Anna-Kat (Julia Butters), who has, as her mother puts it, "a touch of the anxieties."
"My full-time job is to make sure two of my kids fit in less. And one fits in more," Katie tells us in the same voice-over that assures us the Ottos are just renting and that she's not one of those Stepford/Westport wives whose brains are too occupied with calorie counting to contain innermost thoughts.
The writing in the two episodes I've seen is funnier and more pointed than the show's premise.
But if ABC's push for diversity has led it to include a show with a main character whose weight wouldn't make her an outlier anywhere but TV, well, that's laughable. Though only Roseanne might find it funny.
I'd rather think the takeaway from American Housewife, from The Real O'Neals, from Black-ish, and from all ABC shows whose characters don't always feel they belong, is that feeling that way is the American way.
THE NEW TV SEASON
8:30 p.m. Tuesday, 6ABC.