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“The Duchess”: Katherine Ryan wrote a sitcom


Last month, “The Duchess,” stand-up comedian Katherine Ryan’s latest project, premiered on Netflix. The debut sitcom is written and executively produced by Ryan. Ryan is Canadian, but her refreshingly honest sense of humor has made her one of the top female comedians in England, where she has resided for the last 12 years.

She is the only female, Britain-based comedian to be offered a Netflix special, of which she has two: “Katherine Ryan: In Trouble” (2017) and “The Glitter Room” (2019). She is also a frequent guest on several popular British panel shows.

“The Duchess” quickly rose to the top 10 trending list in the UK, with only six 25-minute episodes in its first season. The sitcom stars Ryan as a dramatized version of herself, also named Katherine. The plot follows a semi-autobiographical, but mostly satirical, take on her life in England.

Similar to her real life, Ryan plays a single mom to an effervescent daughter named Olive. Her relationship with Olive is very unique. Oftentimes, it seems as if her and Olive are more like sisters or best friends, rather than mother and daughter. Their relationship is authentic despite an often lack of maturity on Katherine’s end.

Katherine is an “unconventional” mother who can be found threatening the mom of the school bully targeting Olive, drinking tea from an inside mug while outside on the school run (something very out of the norm), and confidently strutting down the streets of London in the most fabulous and exclusive wardrobe.

Katherine has a business making pottery, predominantly in the shape of breasts, and can be described as nothing short of eccentric. She oftentimes crosses lines and with her crass one liners and foul-mouthed insults while fiercely protecting her daughter. Ryan herself even described her character as “a narcissist and overall bad person, but a good parent” in an interview with Netflix UK.  

Olive’s ninth birthday present is Katherine visiting a sperm bank so that Olive can have a sibling. Even though Katherine is in a long-term relationship with a level-headed, kind dentist named Dr. Evan (Steen Raskopoulos), she first explores the sperm donor option because she has “reached her maximum of estranged baby’s fathers.”

Ultimately Katherine settles on having a second child with Olive’s father, a washed-up ex-boyband popstar named Shep (Rory Keenan), who lives in a houseboat on a nearby canal. Shep is Katherine’s worst enemy, but she decides that her children must have the same father. This forces a strain on her relationship with Evan, but brings about hilarious scenes of torment between Katherine and Shep.

“The Duchess” is unapologetic in its probing of feminist themes and the right for a woman to be able to go about her life choices in her own way. The representation of a single mother seeking to expand her family on her own terms has unwavering importance.

In an interview with Forbes, Ryan expanded on some of the most important messages of the sitcom. 

“I hope viewers will take the message from this show that we’re celebrating family in whatever shape it happens to come in,” Ryan said. “I love the idea that a woman in any position or situation can find love in an unconventional way and be empowered by that. I also believe a woman doesn’t need a man to be happy.” 

“The Duchess” offers a refreshing glimpse into single motherhood, one that is not unfortunate and difficult, but rather empowering and independent. Katherine does not appear to be sad and “messy.” Instead, she is visually well put together and confident.

Ryan discussed this idea of single motherhood and “messiness” in an interview with Glamour Magazine UK:

“The fashion element was really important to me because it is an extension of her status and her togetherness, because the single moms that I know aren’t failures, they aren’t messy.”

While Katherine is not an excellent person, she is excellent at demonstrating how to forgive and become a better person, even when she has royally failed— all while maintaining a light and funny tone that echoes a similar vibe to Ryan’s standup material.

“The Duchess” is witty and hilariously inappropriate, but tells a heartwarming story in Ryan’s own cheeky way. Netflix has not signed on for a second season just yet, but fans and Ryan herself are hopeful. 

The Duchess is streaming now on Netflix.

Featured Image courtesy of The Super Serious Show via Flickr Creative Commons

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“The Duchess”: Katherine Ryan wrote a sitcom