|Fat Actress: Season One (2005)
Starring: Kirstie Alley, Bryan Callen, Rachel Harris
Who knew that a Hollywood hot topic such as the sudden obesity of a classic television actress would prove to be the perfect material for a premium network sitcom? Believe it or not, a fat Kirstie Alley is exactly what the people want to see, and the beloved actress has no trouble portraying herself in Showtime’s original comedy about a former star trying to make a comeback in the business. Despite an over-the-top performance by Alley, and mostly hit-and-miss writing, the show’s talented supporting cast and numerous guest stars help to make “Fat Actress” a series worth checking out. Whether or not paying the monthly subscription for Showtime is worth it though, is a completely different question.
Kirstie Alley is fat (reportedly peaking at almost 250), and everyone in Hollywood knows it. Even Alley herself acknowledges that she has a problem, and will gladly expose her weight loss plans while shoving down another stack of cookies, or an entire box of red Popsicles. The series opens when Kirstie’s agent Sam (Michael McDonald) offers her a job as the new spokesperson for Jenny Craig, but the “dying” actress would much rather have a meeting with NBC president Jeff Zucker (playing himself) in the hopes of securing a new primetime sitcom. That, or meeting the man of her dreams (Kid Rock) and making love to him in her new, champagne-colored 1500-thread-count sheets that she just purchased off the “Q” with her box of maxed-out credit cards.
At her side are Kirstie’s two best friends, Eddie (Bryan Callen) and Kevyn (Rachel Harris), who consequentially also happen to be her assistant (Callen) and make-up artist (Harris), and share in her wildly eccentric behaviors. Rounding out the series are a number of hilarious guest appearances by John Travolta (as himself), ex-“Blossom” star Mayim Bialik as Kirstie’s bitchy next-door neighbor, Mark Curry as black NBC executive Max Cooper, and Kelly “Mrs. Travolta” Preston as Hollywood diet guru Quinn Taylor Scott, whose groundbreaking nutritional advice involves such laughable efforts as bulimia, speed, and surrounding oneself with small things in order to become smaller.
It’s hard to say whether these guest spots really are the saving grace of the series, or if it truly is the writing that manages to place our stars in these comical predicaments. It’s obvious that most of the stronger (and much funnier) moments befall from hilarious improvisation amongst the three lead actors, especially Callen and Harris, who perform brilliantly opposite one another, and tend to steal much of the attention away from some of Alley’s more gratuitous absurdities like barking for a piece of meat. It’s in moments such as these that Alley tends to contradict her initial message about the treatment of oversized women in Hollywood. Instead of focusing on a serious topic in a funny way, Alley addresses her issues, declares she is willing to work hard to lose weight, and then completely casts away any prior statements by acting like a complete fool.
The DVD release of the first season is sub par to say the least, and spanning only seven episodes long, the series is far too short to really begin to enjoy. Presented in a two-disc box set, “Fat Actress” has been transferred over in its original 4:3 widescreen aspect ratio and has been graced with a 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track. The special features on disc two appear substantive at first, but after close examination, much of the bonus material is nothing but promotional fodder, including a red carpet premiere party, a making-of featurette where virtually everyone on camera is wearing some sort of “Fat Actress” gear, and a handful of previews for other Showtime original series. Also included on the second disc is a short interview with Kirstie Alley and sixteen deleted scenes, but the biggest thing missing is an accompanying commentary track by the cast and crew. Anyone who collects DVDs knows that commentary tracks are one of the most highly regarded of special features, and a lack of any seriously questions the studio’s manic haste in rushing the series to DVD.
Unless you’re a die hard fan of Kirstie Alley, or if buying the box set is just cheaper than paying the subscription to Showtime, “Fat Actress” is a self-publicized controversial show that you can pass on in favor of smarter television programming. It’s no secret that HBO produces higher quality original series than its biggest competitor, and “Fat Actress” is only another example in a long list of reasons as to why HBO is better.