LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Amid the tabloid photos, the Jenny Craig ads and her self-chastising Oprah visits, one thing has been easy to overlook about Kirstie Alley: She's pretty darned funny.
Alley's new A&E reality series, which focuses on her obsession with losing weight, gives her an ideal platform every week to remind us of that fact. For instance, in describing her round-the-home handyman Jim, who is destined to become her "chubby buddy," she says, "I just wanted someone fatter than me around the house -- Jim fit the bill."
"Kirstie Ally: Big Life," premiering on Sunday, isn't your typical reality series. There's no competition or goal (though Alley would like to drop about 90 pounds) and no closed-door confessionals. Alley serves as participant and narrator, guiding viewers through her life (complete with bright, apparently sane grown children) and home (complete with garden and lemur cage). Passing through to help her make it through the day is a small army of hired help including a diligent assistant (whose hair Alley finds appalling), a flaky assistant-in-training who likes to nap, a lemur-fearing stylist and a maid, all of whom serve as a Greek chorus to her daily indignities.
There's a fine line Alley is trying to walk here, and for the most part she does a great job balancing light moments with the thousand tiny tragedies that come from feeling too fat to leave the house. One moment she's insisting that losing 90 pounds, when expressed as 6.4 English "stone," doesn't really seem all that much, and the next she's abandoning New Year's plans because she's too big for the dresses her stylist brought over. Her dinner with Jim that night has them both commiserating over the joyless task ahead: pairing up to lose weight.
So the task, and her show, begins. Sympathetic, profane, brassy and real in an eccentric way, Alley's journey will be a challenge for her, and to watch. But her apparent fearlessness to expose all before the cameras makes this more than a reality show and better than just a "how-to" program. She's inspiring, if for no other reason than that between chuckles you'll want to put down your cake.