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Katy Keene





Paul Asay

TV Series Review

I’ve never been to New York City. But CW’s Katy Keene makes me feel like I know all about it.

Admittedly, some elements surprised me. I had always thought it was a fairly up-to-date place. But Katy Keene’s New York is a land where the 1980s never went away—where people still shop at (and stranger yet, long to work for) big, lavish department stores and where traditional record labels are still a thing. No one has heard of Etsy, and no one can make anything of themselves if they leave Manhattan. It’s a place of fierce intolerance and outrageous elitism: If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. And if you don’t make it … well, you can still look down your nose at folks who dare live anywhere else.

Also, drag clubs.


Katy Keene and her crew love New York, even if they hate most of the New Yorkers they meet. They’ve been treated rather shabbily by the city’s intelligentsia. Josie McCoy, an immigrant from the backwater of Riverdale, dreams of being a singer; but she was deeply disappointed when she wasn’t signed to a record deal her second day in the city. Jorge Lopez, who moonlights as a drag queen named Ginger, is furious with Broadway for consistently ignoring his obvious talent and effeminate charms.

“I’m apparently too gay for Broadway,” he sighs. “I didn’t even know that was possible.”

As for Katy herself, she was demoted from her highly prized job as a personal shopping assistant’s assistant at Lacy’s department store and now helps Francois design Lacy’s window displays. But she really dreams of becoming a fashion designer. She can work wonders with her late mom’s old sewing machine. How her beau, aspiring boxer KO Kelly, fits into her career aspirations, who knows? But if she sticks with him, at least she’ll know how to give the guy stitches.


Katy Keene oh so CW. It’s yet another spinoff from the CW’s hit Riverdale (the other being Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), and it stars the likable Lucy Hale, who was a fixture of the grandmammy of all CW’s sudsy, salacious teen-centric shows, Pretty Little Liars.

But if Pretty Little Liars served as the CW prototype—the Madonna of CW melodramas, if you will—Katy Keene is its Lady Gaga, meat dress and all.

The characters we’re supposed to care about are all scrappy, hard-working dreamers fighting against anyone who doesn’t appreciate their gifts and heart. They run through relationships like a reptile house goes through mice, asking viewers to care about each and every personality-free oaf who shows up without a shirt.

But while Katy Keene’s New York may feel in some respects rather retro, its sense of morality is ever-so contemporary: It has none.

Oh, certainly, the characters here take a dim view of snobbery, to be sure. They place a high value on friendship. And unlike Riverdale, which Josie rightfully calls the “murder capital of the world,” Katy’s Big Apple is relatively free of gangland slaughter, cult sacrifices and serial killers.

But the nightclubs are always open in this city that never sleeps. Our characters have sex more frequently than they post on social media, and that’s saying something. Forget a kiss at the door: A date isn’t really a date without a roll in the hay. It goes without saying that Katy Keene would take issue with every single noun and verb in the sentence, “Marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Lest we forget, Katy Keene seems targeted toward a teen audience. While most teens don’t really watch traditional TV anymore, some must. Why else would CW keep cranking out shows like this? And it’s hard to imagine that many adults would have patience for the thing.

Episode Reviews

Feb. 6, 2020: “Chapter One: Once Upon a Time in New York

Despite being the go-getting-est go-getter you ever did see, Katy’s demoted from her demanding job at Lacy’s department store … and sees her dream of becoming a designer creep a little closer. Meanwhile, new arrival Josie fails to land a record contract, despite sleeping with one of the label’s owners. And Gorge/Ginger Lopez tries and fails to land a spot on Broadway—trying out as both a man and a woman.

Katy’s boyfriend, KO Kelly, seems to live with Katy, and we see them in bed together a few times. They kiss as well, and KO suggests she call in sick so they can get “sexy” underneath the boardwalk. He later proposes. Josie and her one-night paramour are shown kissing and cuddling in bed. Both KO and Josie’s temp beau walk around in tight brief boxers and nothing else. Meanwhile, Gorge/Ginger, in full drag, dances on stage with a pair of mostly naked guys (who are wearing only spandex briefs). The men paw and nuzzle Gorge as part of the song-and-dance number. The women dress a bit more modestly, but still reveal cleavage and midriff.

Katy and her crew drink vodka shots before heading to Lacy’s after hours to surreptitiously try on some of the department store’s posh clothes. Someone drinks straight from a wine or champagne bottle. People dance and drink at a club. We hear quite a bit about Gorge’s sexual identity and clothing/makeup choices. (Lacy’s window designer also wears makeup and seems to identify himself as one of the “girls”.) Katy says she plans to pray to the “fashion gods.” Characters say “b–ch,” “crap,” “d–n” and “h—” a few times each. God’s name is misused about a half-dozen times.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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