I first discovered the comedic stylings of Australian comic Celeste Barber during the pandemic, thanks to the recommendation of a friend. Her parodies of models and celebrities (like this, this and this) in an Instagram vs. reality format had me laughing out loud. That’s why you can only imagine my delight when the Netflix algorithm served me Wellmania, Barber’s first-ever streaming series, a dramedy about a self-destructive food blogger who has to get her health back on track.
In a nutshell? The series is a total delight. (I binged it in less than a week.)
A bit more about the premise: Barber plays Liv Healey, an Australian food writer living in New York City who just so happens to be in the running to be a judge on a Top Chef-style show. Just ahead of getting the green light from show execs, Liv travels back to Australia for a whirlwind weekend in honor of her best friend’s birthday where she loses her green card and has to pass a mandatory health check to get it reinstated before she can fly home. (Spoiler alert: She fails.)
So, what’s a food journalist to do? Liv embarks on a path to wellness at any cost with a willingness to do and try anything to expedite her flight back and leave her past—and family dysfunction and trauma—behind. (Did we mention her brother is getting married and her mom just lost her job?)
As a whole the show is funny and entertaining—like Bridesmaids meets Catastrophe—and pokes fun at the wellness industry and the unrealistic standards forever placed on women. Still, where the series shines brightest is in its representation of the inherent messiness of human relationships and the flaws those around us accept (sometimes unwillingly) because they love us no matter what. (Oh! There is one plot detail that requires a suspension of reality from the viewer—the idea that Liv can go to Australia and back in approximately 48 hours and not experience any jet lag, oops.)
There’s more: The supporting cast, in particular JJ Fong who plays Liv’s best friend Amy and Lachlan Buchanan who plays her brother Gareth, are absolute scene-stealers. Better yet, the series ends with a total cliffhanger. (Netflix, you better give us a season two!)
One final bonus for when you finish your Wellmania binge: Barber also has a just-released stand-up special (also on Netflix) called Celeste Barber: Fine, Thanks, which is equally fantastic. (Also, a great way to tide us over while we wait for Netflix to renew the series.)
Did we mention each episode is 30 minutes? Add to queue.
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