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The Journal Gazette

  • Paramount Network Alicia Silverstone stars in “American Woman,” which premieres Thursday on Paramount Network.

Monday, June 04, 2018 1:00 am

Comedy 'American Woman' a story of survival

George Dickie | Zap2it

Bonnie Nolan is a woman in for a rude awakening – and it's probably the best thing that could happen to her.

As played by Alicia Silverstone (“Clueless”) on the half-hour comedy “American Woman,” premiering Thursday on Paramount Network, she's the 1970s Beverly Hills trophy wife of Steve (James Tupper, “Grey's Anatomy”), a real estate agent whose substantial commissions have them and their two daughters sitting pretty in their swanky SoCal home.

That is, until she catches him cheating on her, and she shows him the door. Now with a divorce looming, Bonnie is forced to stand on her own two feet for the first time and support the kids, but with no marketable skills that won't be easy. Fortunately she has two supportive best friends ready to help: Kathleen (Mena Suvari, “American Beauty”), a woman living off Daddy's money with the help of closeted gay boyfriend Greg (Cheyenne Jackson, “30 Rock”); and Diana (Jennifer Bartels, “Broken”), a singleton stuck in an unsatisfying life and bank job.

The series is full of the trappings of the' 70s – bell-bottoms, pantsuits and references to Richard Nixon, along with lots of trysts, drug use and cigarette smoking – and is based on the life of Kyle Richards (“Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”), a series co-executive producer on whose late mother the character of Bonnie is modeled.

“It's a real survival story,” Silverstone explains, “and it's a real awakening and a liberation story of all three females, finding their voices and being liberated and being brave and taking risks, and Bonnie's at the center of that. She does it first, like she's the one who goes and burns the house down. She basically burns the house down and she's like, 'Wait a second, I have nothing. How am I going to get back?' And her friends are there to help her, but then they have their own very, very deep, interesting stories.”

Indeed, while Bonnie struggles to get on her feet and Diana languishes in frustration, rich girl Kathleen tries to make a go of it by opening her own casting agency with Greg. Her friends warn her he's interested in her only for her money, but both Kathleen and the actress playing her, Suvari, see a deeper connection there.

“That's what's so beautiful,” Suvari says, “is that it really is about a soul connection, people that are attracted to one another and both sort of not living in this honest space within themselves.”