Kirstie Alley's new show looks ... not horrible?

She slyly turned a public struggle into a career advantage, and she can admit, frankly, she hates being fat

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published February 10, 2010 2:11PM (EST)

She's a Twitter-feuding, weight-obsessing Scientologist – and a little of all that goes a long way. So when A&E announced it had snagged Kirstie Alley to do a (yawn) reality show about her (zzzzzz) diet and her family, DVRs everywhere automatically set themselves to shun mode. But the preview for her new series, the unsubtly titled "Kirstie Alley's Big Life" suggests the show may just be weirdly watchable.

Though we could do without the "Get it? She likes to eat!" images of Alley licking frosting and hanging with her "chubby buddy" Jim,  her declaration that "I think it's stupid to say you're full figured. Fuck you, you're fucking fat!" does get our attention. For all her swagger, it takes guts -- and humility -- to turn a very public struggle into a  career advantage, all while admitting "I hate being fat. I'm not one of those girls who goes, 'I'm loud, I'm proud, I'm large and in charge.' I hate it."

One might argue her attitude only fuels the truly dysfunctional mindset of folks like The Daily Beast's Lisa Hilton, who earlier this week applauded "poor old Kate Moss for suggesting that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" by writing, "Well, right on, Kate."

But there's a difference between someone who's looked at life from a whole lot of dress sizes and one who hasn't, between one person's honest, complicated experience and a writer leaping to the defense of that helpless beleaguered class of individuals known as supermodels.

So while I'm no fan of public dieting (or the diet industry, period, for that matter), Alley's sense of humor and awareness of the absurdity of it all may just keep "Big Life" from turning into yet  another exercise in televised size-shaming. And her frank admissions that she wants to be booty-called sure looks like more fun and fewer tears and tantrums than, say, Bobby Brown's meltdowns on "Celebrity Fit Club." 

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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