Marti Noxon wants to make it very clear that she doesn’t advocate killing accused rapists and dropping them out of airplanes.
But that’s just what happens in her new show, the hectic, wild, over-packed “Dietland.”
The AMC drama, based on Sarai Walker’s 2015 novel of the same name, packs in as many hot-button issues as it can into each hour-long episode: sexual assault, eating disorders, self-harm. It’s overloaded at times, but the first three episodes provided to critics hint at a narrative thread that unites all of the disparate storylines.
Plum Kettle (Joy Nash), a 300-pound woman who has tried every fad diet available to her, ghostwrites the letters to the editor for Kitty Montgomery (played by Julianna Margulies and her latest in a long line of amazing wigs), the deliciously evil editor-in-chief of Daisy Chain, a Cosmopolitan lookalike that promises scarves to make you look slim and sex tips to get your way. The show opens in a world much like our own: a series of men are being taken down for their sexual crimes. But in “Dietland,” everything goes a step further, with a shadowy group called Jennifer that’s murdering rapists and tossing them off bridges and out of planes.
Showrunner Marti Noxon had an idea that her story would be relevant today — she knew a reporter was working on a Harvey Weinstein exposé before shooting began — but she says she never would have guessed just how long-lasting the culture change would be.
“I didn’t think it would have the impact that it did,” she told the Daily News. “I didn’t think that it would start this cavalcade of people coming forward.”
Noxon has a long history of fierce, feminist leads: she made a name for herself on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” before moving on to shows including “Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce” and “UnReal.” It’s a history, she said, “of going there.”
“Dietland” does that, too. The raw, angry storylines are ripped from the headlines (a man accused of rape in an early episode is definitely, totally, not at all supposed to be photographer Terry Richardson) and none of it seems accidental, even if the timing was.
“I hope that this is one of those watershed moments where things that were considered status quo are just not acceptable anymore. I think that could be true but I also think it’s human nature to resist change. It’s really scary for everybody. Not knowing what the future looks like makes people want to drift back to the way things have been. But I do think that culture is changing,” Noxon told The News.
“It was the right time to take this out, and that was just when the guy running for President was talking about grabbing p—y. We thought that was going to be over.”
Margulies, who moved on from “The Good Wife’s” cutthroat world of lawyers to “Dietland’s” cutthroat world of fashion editors, knows there’s a cultural shift looming, both in reality and inside her tiny TV world. But the 51-year-old actress, who accused both Harvey Weinstein and Steven Seagal of trying to lure her into their hotel rooms, knows it’s more than just taking down a few pervs.
“The #MeToo movement should be hand-in-hand with the fed up movement. I’m fed up of reading about one more school shooting. I’m fed up. I think we’re all fed up. It’s why six Democratic women just won in Pennsylvania. I feel like this is a revolution. It’s brewing, but it’s not new. We’re just finally getting to the surface,” the 51-year-old actress told The News.
“All of this is not women against men. It’s people against those that abuse power. Men are great. I know a lot of horrible women too. If I ever met Betsy DeVos, I might vomit. There’s horrible women and there’s horrible men who abuse power. The #MeToo movement is about a community of people who treat each other respectfully.”
Then there’s Plum’s storyline, her battle with fad diets and weight loss and acceptance. In the casting notice, the character was described as “30s, 250 pounds, smart, funny, ghostwriter, beautiful.”
“If you took out her weight, she’s a fascinating character,” Nash, who plays Plum, told The News. “Isn’t it crazy that that’s revolutionary?”
Plum, who finds herself drawn into a wild underground world that promises long-sought after answers, has put her life on hold, waiting. She was always waiting for something.
“It’s about realizing that your life has already started. For Plum, it’s when she’s thin. When fill-in-the-blank happens, then my life will happen. Then I can start using the good china and wearing the good dress and the good underwear,” Nash told The News. “Your life has started already. This is your life. What are you going to do with it?”
“Dietland” tries to do it all, sometimes to its detriment, but it’s an admirable attempt to encompass a world of rapid change, because the show, more than most currently on TV, realizes its place in history.