Published Jul 02, 2013Aside from weight loss commercials and the little seen, self-deprecating comedy series, Fat Actress, Kirstie Alley hasn't done much since Veronica's Closet, aside from occasionally being criticized for her girth in tabloids. It's a running joke and cultural tidbit that isn't lost on this overly manufactured and formulaic sitcom, which has the premise of a successful Broadway actress meeting her adult son that she gave up for adoption 26 years prior.
He, like her unspoken persona of late, is a bit of a frumpy loser. Working at a doughnut shop, Arlo (Eric Petersen) jumps into her life early in the pilot episode, oblivious to her shallow commentary and casual attempts to dismiss him. His presence is like an ego reflection of self, revealing on the outside the sort of person she is on the inside, tarnishing her narcissism and elitist disposition by physically representing the imperfections she tries to mask.
Her personal assistant (Rhea Perlman) and her driver (Michael Richards) exchange a few bon mots about her shallowness, but mostly act as voices of reason, convincing her of how investing in this new found relationship might be a good thing for her. None of this results in any humour, with Alley doing her best aging Paris Hilton impression as mirrored by Petersen's clueless dork shtick, but it is altogether interesting and even partially clever, considering the off screen subtext and weird linkage to Cheers and the careers of the actors involved.
Maddie's (Alley) superficiality, while callous, isn't outrageous or believable enough to work in a sitcom capacity, nor is the fish-out-of-water dynamic that Arlo experiences exploited for great effect. The jokes range from awkward to painfully crude—Arlo works at a doughnut shop called "The Glazed Hole"—leaving more of a discomforting void than anything resembling humour.
But, since this is a highly produced, extremely formulaic, live audience comedy, the pacing and structure is impeccable, giving a vague impression that everything is actually working. Many shows have scraped by on sheer competence and artifice for years--Everybody Loves Raymond did it for almost a decade—so it's possible Kirstie could find a wide audience of people tuning in out of habit. It's unlikely that any of them will laugh, but since they're so used to crappy sitcoms, it's also unlikely they'll notice that they're merely putting in time—staring at a screen blankly—between commercials and product placements.
Kirstie is scheduled as a midseason replacement to air in early 2014 on CTV. (TV Land)