Netflix’s new wellness show could have been so much more

Photo by: Kaylee Garrett

Last week, Netflix released the Australian-produced and Netflix original series, Wellmania. While the show could have been a resounding success and disruptor of the harmful wellness-focused series released in recent years, it ultimately falls flat on its face. 

Wellmania features the trainwreck life of  “Liv Healy” (Celeste Barber), a writer living in New York who becomes trapped in her home country of Australia after losing her green card while visiting. Liv is in the midst of trying to secure a deal to be a cooking show judge in New York, and thus tries everything to get a renewed health card, but one thing stands in her way: her poor health inhibiting her from passing the medical exam. 

Throughout the show, it’s established that Liv’s poor health can be attributed to her dangerous habits of partying too much, doing hardcore drugs, binge drinking and being overly stressed. Certain people in her life step up to try to help her, including her empathetic mother, “Lorraine” (Genevieve Mooy), fitness guru brother, “Caz” (Lachlan Buchanan) and her best friend, “Amy” (JJ Fong). 

Coming into watching the show, I had expected that it would offer a nuanced look at the harms and failures of fad diets and fitness trends – afterall, the promo video that Netflix offered showed Liv struggling to accept these things. This is where the show falls flat. Liv attempts to get fit enough to pass the physical exam by doing strange trends like colon cleansing, fasting and cupping, and when these fail, she turns to her personal trainer brother for help and is reminded by her loved ones and doctors that her health issues are most likely caused by high stress. 

This is the precise turning point that the show could have made great. There was a perfect moment where the plot could have been formed around Liv attempting to lower her life stress, recognizing that the wellness trends were harmful, and instead making strides towards accepting herself. While the show portrays the ultimate failure of the wellness trends in working for Liv, it’s alluded to that this is because of Liv’s failure to follow them, not because of their inability to make life-rounded improvements for people. It feels as though they are making some sort of attempt to say “fad wellness trends are harmful” yet they never really round this out or make it clear. 

The characters in the show are also annoying and unrelatable. One of the saving hopes for the show was the sense that Liv would eventually recognize her poor lifestyle choices and stop sidelining people in her life for her work, but this is never realized. Instead, she continues being annoying and rude to people—overall, a totally unlikable character. 

The one part of the show that isn’t terrible is its portrayal of grief and guilt, as Liv copes with feeling responsible for her father’s death. There are a few quieter moments where this is reflected on, and these moments succeed in feeling intimate and emotional. It would have been good for the producers to introduce these moments earlier on in the season so that viewers don’t develop a hatred for Liv. 

Wellmania isn’t bad per-se but don’t expect to be satisfied from watching it, especially if you’re looking for commentary on the wellness industry.

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