The Duchess

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Katy Byrne and Katherine Ryan in 'The Duchess.'
Katy Byrne and Katherine Ryan in 'The Duchess.'
Photo: Simon Ridgway/Netflix


4/5 Stars


Katherine's a single mom juggling her career, her tween daughter, her relationship with her boyfriend - and pondering getting pregnant with her ex.


Raising a child isn't easy - especially when you're raising it with a lunatic, anti-establishment ex-boyband star. That's the general premise of The Duchess, a new raunchy comedy created by its leading star Katherine Ryan. I was unfamiliar with her work before watching her new series, but now I just want to dive head-first into her crazy, hilarious thoughts on off-brand feminism, dating and children. The fictional Katherine is an unfiltered hot mess that says everything you may have ever wanted to say to your ex, the nosy mom at school or anyone that thinks they can judge your life.

On-screen Katherine runs a successful body-positive pottery class while raising her daughter Olive and balances a "casual" relationship with a lovely dentist she keeps at arm's length. She and her daughter decide they want another child, but Katherine is determined to do it on her own terms without the attachment of another baby daddy.

While you might think it's a bizarre story that's far removed from reality, the world is actually a truly odd place with odd people in it. Katherine is like any parent trying to do right by their child with what life has given her. She is flawed and gets it wrong many times - so, so wrong - but she stays true to herself in her pursuit to raise a young woman that's confident and secure in her own self-worth. The biggest lesson to be learnt from this show is the way she treats her ex in front of their daughter. Both pretend that they care for each other, never saying a bad thing about the other parent while covering for their mistakes. In truth, they loathe each other with a hatred that can sear the sun, but they never let that poison seep into their daughter.

The writing is just hilarious, with a similar style of humour to the award-winning Fleabag (not as good, but almost), although with a blind confidence and flamboyant wardrobe I wish every woman had. Ryan isn't trying to hide or defend the fictional Katherine's flaws, but instead just lays it out bare for the audience to take from it what they will. As an actor, I am not too sure how much of Ryan is actually written into the character, but I won't be surprised if it's actually just a sensationalised version of herself.

The rest of the cast is just as superb - her best friend and business partner is ready to throw down for her at a moment's notice and vice versa; the almost-perfect boyfriend who you just continuously hope it works out with and the mess that is her ex, played by a really hot Irish actor that radiates strong boyband energy. Then there's the great little actor that plays Olive - prim and proper with perhaps a warped world-view cultivated by her eccentric mother and father. The actors are not well-known, which kind of adds to the appeal and freshness of the show.

I loved The Duchess and its authentic raunchiness, and while I don't think it's going to win awards, the short episodes make it an easy binge on the weekend with some friends or with wine for when you want to wind down. It's hilarious, raw and weirdly relatable, and I hope to see a second season soon.



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