What’s more idiotic than alleged local NBC affiliate KSL 5 refusing to air last week’s Tonight Show featuring Aussies just talking about their “penis puppets”? Well, not much, really—I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The bishopric at Broadcast House needs to step up and play with the big dogs, or just trade in their NBC affiliation for God-fearing Pax. Utah has enough of a problem looking like backward hicks in the national media without local media pretenders adding to it.
(Also, was running a Suddenly Susan repeat and an infomercial really a better idea than just, say, moving Conan O’Brien up, geniuses? The worst he’s got is that Masturbating Bear.)
The other idiotic non-event sweeping the nation’s television media—which The Only TV Column That Matters™ monitors so you don’t have to—is the big, fat hype of ABC’s new Less Than Perfect (Tuesdays, 8:30 p.m.). Countless thoughtful column inches have been written about how “plus-size” star Sara Rue (previously a “plus-size” supporting player on The WB’s Popular) is breaking down TV barriers by just being her perky, plump self. Theoretically, what The Cosby Show did for blacks and Will & Grace did for gays, Less Than Perfect (note title irony) is now doing for the Big Girl Nation: Sticking it in The Man’s face and saying, “We’re fat, we’re all that—get used to it!”
While she supposedly qualifies as morbidly obese by traditional sitcom-star standards, Rue’s pretty and funny Claudia “Claude” Casey is a lightweight compared to the TV likes of Anna Nicole Smith or The Sopranos’ Denise Borino (or the rest of the Sopranos’ cast, for that matter). How did she suddenly become the poster girl for pudgy?
“I get annoyed at the business when a size zero actress is cast as the ‘every gal’ gal. It’s just not true,” Rue was quoted in a typically overlong and strained pop-culture analysis by the New York Times. “I consider myself normal.”
Less Than Perfect (which has been picked up for a full season by ABC) is nothing more than a normal New York office sitcom; the situation of Working Girl plus NewsRadio times Dilbert, minus most of the comedy. Goes a little something like this: Claude is a 4th floor “floater,” a TV station temp suddenly assigned to be the assistant of creepy network anchorman Will Butler (creepy Eric Roberts). Once up on the 22nd floor where all the sleek ‘n’ skinny folks work, Claude is persona non grata because she’s neither sleek (tends to dress like your grandma, or mid-’80s Natalie Merchant) nor skinny (we’ve been over this).
There’s more: If it isn’t bad enough that the vultures upstairs (skinny Zachary Levi and skinnier Andrea Parker) are out to get her, Claude’s downstairs temp pals (skinny Andy Dick and not-so-skinny Sherri Shepherd) are subliminally bitter and jealous over her promotion, as well. Then there’s the whole Claude’s-got-a-crush-on-her-creepy-boss subplot—did I mention that he’s creepy? Script in a semi-steady stream of self-inflicted fat jokes, and you’ve got a power-to-the-portly television landmark? Wha?
As much as grasping hacks would like to turn Less Than Perfect into some kind of grand statement on America’s acceptance of the chubby, we ain’t there yet. Rue just isn’t all that fat, not compared to her own costars, the narrow-assed cast of Friends or any other prime-time TV depiction of “real people.” Me, I have more of a problem with all of these office sitcoms being set in TV stations, radio stations and daily newspapers—you want comedy gold, come to an alt-weekly sometime and watch the hilarity ensue, Hollywood.
But, if all of this media hoopla pressured ABC into keeping Less Than Perfect for the rest of season, more power to ’em. What if a frenzy could be stirred up over the same network’s doomed Push Nevada—something about the lack of IRS agents as heroes in pop culture?
Yeah, that’s more of a stretch than fat chicks in a sitcom.