Case Number 06914


Showtime Entertainment // 2005 // 230 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // June 1st, 2005

The Charge

Kirstie Alley: Why can't I just have my own show? I mean, look at John Goodman, he has a show! Jason Alexander? He looks like a f***ing bowling ball, but he has a show! Oh, and what about James Gadol...uh...fino! He's as big as a whale. He is way, way, way fatter than I am!
Kirstie's Agent: But they are all men.
Kirstie Alley: I can play a man!

Opening Statement

Kirstie Alley used to be a big star on Cheers, but as of late she's known as a big star who gained tons of weight, to the point where she was almost unrecognizable. Never one to take things lying down, Kirstie Alley used all the tabloid attention and paparazzi gawkers to pitch a show to cable channel Showtime and make sure she got the last laugh on her weight issue. Unfortunately the show never gained a lot of viewers, because...well...people really don't dig a Hollywood star looking like hell and making fun of herself. In a move to make light of her weight, Kirstie found the show dragged down by America's bias against fat people. The first show had decent ratings, and then the bottom fell out as people switched to watch Paris Hilton (House of Wax) or some other stick figure on network television while the first season's seven episodes bravely plowed on.

Some people saw Fat Actress as degrading, while others felt it was encouraging eating disorders. Was the sight of Kirstie Alley barking like a dog while a man held a steak over her mouth too much for people? Or how about her taking tons of laxatives and ending up in a bathroom stall screaming in pain? Gentle satire it was not. Your taste has got to be broad and ready to roll with the heavy in Fat Actress: The Complete First Season. I had a good enough time, and certainly this show is worth a look for, if nothing else, the amazing line-up of guest stars vamping endlessly around Kirstie's growing waist.

Facts of the Case

Fat Actress: The Complete First Season consists of seven episodes:

* "Big Butts"
The show is set up, with Kirstie trying to get a meeting with the head of NBC to get a new show. She ends up being turned down because she's frigging huge. Guest stars: John Travolta (Look Who's Talking), Kelly Preston (The Cat in the Hat and wife of Travolta), Jeff Zucker (real head of NBC), and Michael McDonald (Mad TV).

* "Charlie's Angels"
Kirstie takes a meeting at a posh hotel with a man who she thinks is McG, who claims to be working on a new Charlie's Angels. At the meeting she tries to hit on Kid Rock, who is at the bar, but ends up hanging out in a bathroom stall because she ate a box and a half of laxatives. Guest stars: Kid Rock (rock star), Carmen Electra (Scary Movie), Melissa Gilbert (Little House on the Prairie), Kelly Preston, Edie McClurg (Ferris Bueller's Day Off), and AJ Buckley (The Forsaken) as "McG."

* "Holy Lesbo, Batman!"
Kirstie hatches a plan to befriend Gwen Stefani by joining her on her neighborhood walks, but ends up getting arrested when chasing Gwen leads her to a gay cruising area, where she finds an ex-boyfriend. Guest stars: Mayim Bialik (Blossom), Mo Collins (Mad TV), Kevin Nealon (Saturday Night Live), and Kelly Preston.

* "The Koi Effect"
Kirstie tries out a new theory: if she surrounds herself with smaller things, she will shrink. Guest stars: Mayim Bialik, Leah Remini (The King of Queens), and Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride).

* "Crack for Good"
Kirstie's crackhead brother pays her a visit, and suggests that she replace her addiction to food with smoking some rock. Guest stars: Larry King (talk show host), Geoffrey Lewis (The Lawnmower Man), Christopher McDonald (Thelma and Louise), Kelly Preston, and Connie Stevens (Grease 2).

* "Cry Baby McGuire"
Merv Griffin hooks Kirstie up with a billionaire who is emotionally inadequate. Guest stars: Merv Griffin and Bill Smitrovich (Independence Day).

* "Hold This"
Kirstie once again has to pitch a show to NBC executives. Guest stars: Jeff Zucker, Michael McDonald, and Rhea Perlman (Cheers).

The Evidence

Fat Actress is a show that is half written and half improvised by its cast. Guest stars are encouraged to stray from the script, which is often only a minimal outline. A lot of people accuse it of copying Curb Your Enthusiasm, and there are some similarities in style and tone. Two actors are in every episode with Kirstie -- Brian Callen (Mad TV) as her assistant Eddie, and Rachel Harris (Kicking and Screaming) as her hair and make-up person. The rest of the cast are made up of revolving guest stars playing either themselves or various Hollywood types. Brenda Hampton, who produced Seventh Heaven, is responsible for the nasty lines and acerbic tone -- proof that nine years of family programming will rot your morals.

Fat Actress deserves props for its bravery. Kirstie Alley is fearless playing herself, and is not afraid to fling all of her buxom beauty everywhere. Her corpulence is the butt of every joke, and she allows people to call her every name in the book, right up to "elephantine." It is the show's biggest strength -- and also its downfall. After seven episodes of hearing how heavy Kirstie Alley is it becomes repetitive, but it's always the center of the show. Her paunch is ample, but is that enough to hang a series on? The answer is mixed. Sometimes it is pretty funny to see her wail and moan about her weight, and other times it just feels like desperation to get a chuckle about something that isn't easy to get a laugh from. The problem is that as fat as she is, she's still a celebrity. I can't feel too bad for a woman who drives an Aston Martin and lives in Beverly Hills no matter how many bagels she crams down her maw in a shot. But that's the key to the show -- a celebrity demystified to demonstrate how her life is like anyone else's. But who else has personal assistants and make-up people to make us look good? And let's face it, even tipping the scales at a claimed 250 pounds, Alley still looks pretty damn amazing for a woman of her age. She's a hottie no matter what.

It is a funny show with a lot of pretty good moments. The guest stars are amazing, and very gung ho in all their parts. Jeff Zucker playing himself is brilliant; he really should have his own show on his own network some day. Mayim Bialik, who used to be Blossom. shows up as Kirstie's nasty-tempered neighbor. She plays herself in a cruel, vengeful role that will definitely make you fear for Blossom's sanity. Connie Stevens shows up as Kirstie's mom, and Christopher McDonald does fine work as her brother. There are a lot of funny, funny performances in the seven short episodes that make up Fat Actress: The Complete First Season. It's not humor suited for everyone's taste, but if you liked Absolutely Fabulous, or often find yourself wishing for black comedy sprinkled with pratfalls, this is for you. There's plenty of Kirstie to go around, so bring your own snacks and enjoy.

Showtime provides a very solid set with a buffet of extras. There are commentaries for the first four episodes. Two are with Kirstie, Bryan Callen, and Rachel Harris; the others are with producers Brenda Hampton and Sandy Chanley. The actor tracks are hysterical, and the producer tracks are full of information, so you get the best of both worlds. Deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes, premiere party, and mini-interviews round out the two-disc package. The transfers look fine, but seem a little soft at times, and there are some cases of edge enhancement. The audio is a robust 5.1 surround mix that fills up a room pretty well with all the screaming and music. Menus are animated, and full of music as well. They've really loaded this one up.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

It's definitely not for the faint of heart or the easily offended. In one episode Kirstie's entire family gets stoned on crack. In another, she goes cruising for black men in a soul food restaurant because she's convinced they will find her attractive. Kelly Preston makes several appearances as Quinn, a woman who looks like Lara Flynn Boyle down to a pink tutu. Quinn suggests throwing up, parasites, speed, and any number of unhealthy solutions to the weight issue. She does this while eating Kleenex and calling it dinner. For a show intent on making light of a negative subject, it definitely treads dangerous waters with its content. It's full of stereotypes that will have many people fuming. It seems to have an irreverence for eating disorders, and makes fun of them in a nasty, relentless way.

Only Kirstie's fat is fair game in the series, though. Anybody else notice this too? On the pilot episode John Travolta appears as himself, and he looks almost as big as Kirstie Alley. I smell a Fat Actor show in the works. No, seriously -- he exemplifies our double standard. Kirstie ends up in tabloids, and Travolta ends up in a John Woo film when he gains weight. It doesn't seem fair. And I found it odd that they did not talk about it when he was on the show. They basically wussed on what could have been a great scene. And that's a real problem with the show. They go for obvious humor when they could reach for smart humor. If they did, they really could go head to head with Curb Your Enthusiasm, but they never go there. It's always the easy way out or the grossest way out.

Closing Statement

Fat Actress: The Complete First Season is funny and brave, but still a bit too much of a one-joke show. I happen to like Kirstie Alley a lot, and that helps. I'd say if you are not a fan, or if you're someone who is sensitive about weight issues, stay far away from this one. This is a messy improvised black comedy that will have some people howling with laughter while others howl in indignation. The guest stars make it more palatable than it ever should have been, and thankfully the series is short at seven episodes. A network run of twenty-two shows would have had me heading for the hills after a couple of discs. If the show does return, Kirstie Alley claims the plot will change, and frankly it would have to. Fat Actress: The Complete First Season pretty much says everything it can about "Kirstie is fat!."

The Verdict

Fat Actress: The Complete First Season is too much to handle. The court shouldn't weigh in on matters of a lady's zaftig figure, so Kirstie is free to go find Sir Mix A Lot and show him how much back baby's got. Me? I kinda like big women. Case dismissed so we can all go grab some waffles.

Review content copyright © 2005 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 85
Audio: 90
Extras: 94
Acting: 85
Story: 75
Judgment: 83

Perp Profile
Studio: Showtime Entertainment
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)

* None

Running Time: 230 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary with Actors Kirstie Alley, Rachel Harris, and Bryan Callen on "Big Butts" and "The Koi Effect"
* Commentary with Producers Brenda Hampton and Sandy Chanley on "Charlie'S Angels" and "Holy Lesbo, Batman!"
* Deleted Scenes
* On The Set
* Premiere Party
* Interview Clips
* Bios
* Previews
* Dish Network Promo

* IMDb

* Official Site

* Kirstie Alley Fan Site