It’s unfortunate that Kirstie Alley’s potentially groundbreaking series on Showtime, “Fat Actress,” is the equivalent of having someone throw rotten tomatoes at you all the while smiling and laughing and hoping you like it. Well, no one likes to be assaulted, especially people who really like Kirstie Alley and her whole idea of reclaiming the identity the tabloids took away.
Alley thought up “Fat Actress” in hopes of both exposing herself as she really is and giving us a tantalizing gimmick of a woman who loses weight throughout the course of the series. So, is it fiction or reality? It is meant to be like Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” but is really a very obnoxious infomercial for Jenny Craig.
Indeed, the idea of and the publicity for “Fat Actress” is far more entertaining than the show itself, which has Alley shrieking, writhing, spitting, and stuffing her face while also shoving her bodacious form at the camera at every opportunity. How it comes off isn’t how it should.
It might have been a biting satire on Hollywood’s double standard of weight (men can be fat and successful but not women) but it is Alley’s attempt to release an ego that is even larger than her posterior.
To make matters worse, Alley is a credited writer, along with Brenda Hampton. While Alley is many things, a good writer is not one of them. Someone needs to hook her up and fast with oh, I don’t know, the “Sex and the City” team?
The show begins with Kirstie Alley’s agent giving her the one and only decent offer she’s had, to be a spokesperson for Jenny Craig and Alley’s resistance to being “that person.” She’s still clinging to the illusion that she is fine the way she is. She can be fat and work. After all, she’s won Emmys and People Choice Awards.
But the show sides with Hollywood, against Alley, because she’s so loud and irritating, no one could identify with her. And as all we women in the real world know, Hollywood is the enemy. It wouldn’t take much work to get the audience to side with Alley – but they can’t, because her primary premise is: see how bull-headed I was – I will lose weight and everyone will love me.
Perhaps the subsequent episodes will provide more insight into Alley, her struggle with weight, and the issues about not getting work. She is an otherwise engaging, loveable, talented woman who doesn’t need to try so hard to get us to like her. In fact, she wants it both ways – she wants us to love her as she was (thin and pretty) and as she is now.
To be accepted for her size, she would have to be someone else to her public – not a sexy woman anymore but, say, a mother-in-law, a school teacher, a buffoon (which is how overweight women are usually portrayed on TV). And then there are characters like Sookie (Melissa McCarthy) on “The Gilmore Girls,” who plays the best friend of the skinny girl. Sookie doesn’t feel the need to always prove she can be skinny and thus desirable; she is who she is and there is room for her on television.
“The Gilmore Girls” also features Sally Struthers who, like Alley, gained a lot of weight. But the difference between them is that Struthers was willing to play the character parts and wasn’t married to the idea that she would be thin and beautiful forever.
“Fat Actress” doesn’t quite know where it stands on the weight issue. Half the time, it looks as though Alley likes being that size, likes eating and wants to be accepted as such. And the rest of the time, it seems the world’s most unforgivable crime, for a beautiful woman to have “gotten fat.”
Underneath it all, so far at least, seems to be some sort of self-healing agenda that forces Alley to see what a monster she really is in order to have her “authentic self” revealed, finally, sixty pounds thinner, or whatever the final count will be (Jenny Craig won’t allow her to reveal it until the end).
While Alley ought to be applauded for doing all of this in front of everyone and thus removing the desired end for paparazzi to catch her in her worst moments, she might have picked a better way to do it. Wasn’t the book enough?
This Week’s Notable TV
Thursday, March 10
Around the World in 80 Days, a Best Picture winner if you can believe, 7:30 p.m., TCM.
The First Wives Club (***), with three great dames, 7:30 p.m., USA.
Raising Arizona (****), 7:30 p.m., FMC.
Catherine the Great (***), with Catherine Zeta-Jones, 9 p.m., BIO.
Friday, March 11
Blade Runner (****), 8 p.m., FX.
Father of the Bride (****), the original, with Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor, 8 p.m., TCM.
Honeymoon in Vegas (***), with Sarah Jessica Parker and Nicolas Cage, 8 p.m., WE.
Tango: The Spirit of Argentina, 9 p.m., KCET.
Saturday, March 12
The Big Sleep (****), brilliant Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall thriller, 7:30 p.m., TCM.
The Omen (****), 7:30 p.m., BRAVO.
Minority Report, with Tom Cruise, directed by Steven Spielberg, 8 p.m., ABC.
Double Indemnity (****), the most popular film noir ever made, 9 p.m., TCM.
One Night with Rod Stewart, tonight’s the night, 9 p.m., KCET.
Sunday, March 13
Manhunter (****), the original story of Hannibal Lector, directed by Michael Mann, 7:30 p.m., AMC.
Dr. Christiane Northrup’s Mother-Daughter Wisdom, 8:30 p.m., KCET.
Saving Milly, Madeleine Stowe and Bruce Greenwood, 9 p.m., CBS.
Laura (***), with Gene Tierney, 9 p.m., FMC.
Monday, March 14
The War Room (***), insightful political doc, 8 p.m., IFC.
Looking for Richard (****), Al Pacino and other actors hunt down the Shakespeare play, 10 p.m., IFC.
BTK, Killer Next Door, 9 p.m., TLC.
Bracing for a Quake, cheery nighttime TV, 10 p.m., KCET.
Tuesday, March 15
Fiddler on the Roof (****), 5 p.m., TCM.
Cat Stevens: Majikat, 8 p.m., KCET.
Pretty in Pink (***), 8:15 p.m., TCM.
What Dreams May Come (**), 8:45 p.m., SCI FI.
Wednesday, March 16
Every Which Way but Loose (**), 7:30 p.m., AMC.
Fury (***), 8:15 p.m., TCM.
Biography: Amelia Earhart, 10 p.m., BIO.
Dr. Christiane Northrup’s Mother-Daughter Wisdom, 10 p.m., KOCE.