Kirstie Alley’s Big Life Review

A sub-genre of reality television has emerged, and for lack of anyone else taking a stand to compartmentalize it, I’m going to call it, “Shows you don’t know why you’re watching.” One of the main players in this category has to be Kathy Griffin, and her show that is simply about being Kathy Griffin. These are shows with no real gimmick, or theory of what you’ll be tuning in for, but are instead taking the hard line on George Costanza’s theory of television programming. “Why am I watching it?” “Because, it’s on TV.”

It’s a genre with no set rules for inclusion, and some people might disagree about its population. For example, some people might look at The Real World, The Hills, and/or Jersey Shore as having some level of gimmick, even if in some cases that gimmick is simply finding the most tremendously stupid people possible and watching the fireworks. There is perhaps a theory of why you’re watching, but the counterargument is strong.

The new queen of this genre is Kirstie Alley, and her new show, Kirstie Alley’s Big Life on A&E, may be the prime example for purposes of defining this genre.

It has “Big Life” in the title, and we find out early on that there is an obvious connection to weight loss (or at least the fact that Kirstie is big), but other than that it seems to just be Kirstie Alley the show. With closer ties to Kathy Griffin’s model than a weight loss battle, we watch as Kirstie’s new, clueless assistant tries to figure out what being an assistant means, and spend some time in her lemur cage.

We know there is some background about a weight-loss system that will hopefully sell, and we’re going to have to lose some weight to get out of the gates there, but it’s hard to put your finger on the angle we’re really working. She doesn’t talk about the system, or seem to go through the motions of what it might entail, at least in the first couple of episodes, and she doesn’t seem particularly motivated… and she hires a trainer. You get the sneaking suspicion that Kirstie thinks she has an idea to take infomercials to a whole new level, but if the rather expensive weight-loss system you’re marketing comes with a brochure that begins – Step 1) Hire a trainer, I think something odd may be going on.

There is something more to the show, but as I said, it’s a little tricky to figure out what it is. Weight loss is simply something lurking in the background, much as Kathy Griffin’s career is only something “out there somewhere,” in hers. It’s what the people involved in the show are thinking about much of the time, but it isn’t quite what we’re watching. What we’re watching is an overweight, lazy (according to Kirstie) handyman getting roped into a fitness program, an assistant with her own office in Kirstie’s house (but with a 3-foot high door), a lot of animals, and a good deal of complaining about the press. That last is perhaps another true focus of the show, as Kirstie aims to rid herself of paparazzi by way of devaluing any pictures they might take by putting an endless supply of her own out there.

There’s something to this genre, as long as the show is entertaining enough, but at this point it is rather hard to predict where this one is heading. It’s actually somewhat fun to watch Kirstie’s comedic take on an effort to lose weight, although it is hard to get her less than stellar level of commitment to jive with a marketing campaign (unless it eventually becomes, “Look, I hardly even tried, and still lost weight.”), but I have to wonder at this point if Kirstie is going to end up with the sort of viewers she’s after. There is a hint of train wreck about the show, and while Kirstie would like tabloids to stop making fun of her weight, she may be inadvertently supplying them with new varieties of ammo.

Kirstie Alley’s Big Life airs Sundays at 10pm on A&E.

A&E presents “Kirstie Alley’s Big Life,” a new real life series that will chronicle the extraordinary life of Golden Globe and two-time Emmy winner Kirstie Alley, from her journey with her weight loss program to her life as a single mother trying to raise two normal teenagers in the Hollywood spotlight. The series premieres Sunday, March 21 at 10PM ET/PT with back-to-back episodes.

Many people remember Kirstie as a Romulan-Vulcan officer in Star Trek II, a sexy Emmy-winner as Rebecca Howe in “Cheers,” the star of blockbuster films Look Who’s Talking and Drop Dead Gorgeous, and of course, for her star turns in “Veronica’s Closet” and “Fat Actress.” For three decades Kirstie has been making headlines and staying in the forefront of the American conscience. Now, she’s granting her fans unprecedented access inside her life… and what a life it is.

“This show has been cathartic for me…shown me who I really am…again,” says Alley. “And it’s really freaking funny.”

One major theme in the series will be chronicling Kirstie’s comedic and unique take on her battle with weight loss, which coincides with the launch of her new weight loss company. She’s also producing a feature film, patenting multiple inventions, working hard to raise two normal Hollywood teenagers, True and Lillie, taking care of eight ringtail lemurs, and on top of everything, looking for love…nothing like a little pressure.



Marc Eastman
Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.

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