In recent years it has been hip for actors to play themselves as venal, irritating, and obsessed with lust and their own fame. This was probably used to best effect on an irregular basis with various performers on The Larry Sanders Show and on a recurring basis with Jennifer Gray on It’s Like, You Know…, and it continues as a staple on things like Curb Your Enthusiasm. (I’ll give an extra tip of the hat to Alan Rosenberg in the film Frankie and Johnny are Married, although there while he is playing a character named “Alan Rosenberg” it is known that he was actually taking the part of a specific other known actor in this based-on-real-events film.)
I’ve now watched the first DVD of Fat Actress, Kirstie Alley’s Showtime sitcom, and it is yet another entry into this derby. This is a series about a successful TV actress who is trying to reestablish herself despite having put on a large amount of weight; think a chubby I Love Lucy trying to do goofy things to break back into showbiz, and you’ll have the goal here. Alas, it doesn’t reach the goal. Much of it is very forced, it’s all a large wink atthe camera, and problem is that we’ve seen that wink before done much better.
Now I’ll admit my biases. I haven’t really been into Kirstie since she took off the vulcan ears. She never filled the void left by Shelley Long on Cheers, and Veronica’s Closet never did much for me. But this show has guest stars who I want to see, and uses them badly. John Travolta, Wallace Shawn, and even Mayim Bialik get ill-used. (Mayim plays herself as a lusty, scheming gal who wants to be called “Blossom” in the midst of lovemaking… and it doesn’t feel at all real, but merely like something we’ve seen before in similar “look, I can make fun of myself” pieces. Alas.)
Some folks have reflected that most of the pay cable sitcoms seem to be about the inside of showbiz (such as The Entourage, which I like, and Lisa Kudrow’s new series, which I’ve not seen.) And there’s been some good shows done that way, such as The Larry Sanders Show. But it now looks like it’s a well too easy to go to, and they should seek out other topics. (I hear disfunctional families are funny.)