Viewers will have many reactions to "Starved," the situation comedy about compulsive eaters that debuts tonight at 10 on FX: It is raunchy, discomforting in spots, and uproariously funny.
But they should not come away thinking that people like the four
main characters Sam, Billie, Dan, and Adam don't exist. If you come away from the show thinking that way, you are wrong, pure and simple.
I can make such a fat-out statement because I'm one of them.
My numbers, just for credibility: My top weight was around 450, in the late '80s. And even though I've been in a fairly normal-size body for about 15 years, the insanity of addiction contributes to and even
now, sometimes controls my thinking every day. For your sake and mine, don't test me on this.
I'd be willing to bet that Eric Schaeffer, the show's creative force who also plays the lead character Sam, is a food addict too. It's the only plausible way to explain the telling anecdotes he packs into the
three episodes I saw. Delving no further than Sam's quirky relationship with Little Nemo chocolate cakes, any food addict would conclude the same.
Since most food non-addicts will undoubtedly miss some of the plotline's finer points, here's some of what to look for:
When Sam saunters up to the kiosk across the street from his building, he orders a Little Nemo almost as an afterthought. "One?" asks Sanji, the proprietor. Sam thinks for a couple of beats before
deciding that no, today he'll have four. Sanji lets slip a knowing smirk as he puts the four into a sack, just like he does every day. He knows that Sam is hooked, but as long as he doesn't let Sam know he
knows, Sam will keep coming.
More than once in my life, I've taken a piece of paper into a sub shop and read off the "orders" I was fulfilling, varying the condiments to account for the various tastes of my "friends," even though I knew
I'd be eating all the sandwiches myself. Certainly, the guys behind the counters knew too.
For Sam, there's much more to Little Nemos than just the thrill of eating them. There's the having them, the holding them, the stacking and unstacking them. Think foreplay.
There are more than a few unpleasant consequences of eating lots of chocolate cake, of course, beginning with the remorse that sets in within seconds of the last bite, or even the first. So sometimes, after
he's bought his Nemos, Sam throws them in the trash, unopened. Of course, they're still safe as long as they're wrapped; that's why, when the remorse really starts working on him, Sam douses the remaining
cakes with powdered cleanser.
Detergent dousing has always been enough to keep me from going into the trash after something, but then, I used the liquid kind, which is harder to eat around. In Sam's little world of loopholes, as he
explains when the trash man catches him at the dumpster the next morning, nibbling cake from the bottom up, "the icing acts as an impenetrable barrier."
It's not meaningless coincidence that the first image of the first show is a doctor's scale. To understand the full power the scale holds over a food addict, pay close attention to Sam's multiple weigh-ins
upon arising, particularly the one after he relieves himself. You never know how much that stuff might have weighed.
I have friends who would weigh themselves a dozen times a day or more. Upon awakening. After going to the bathroom. After showering. After dressing. First thing after returning home. After taking off
school clothes. After putting on play clothes. On and off. On and off. On and on.
My point is not to sell Schaeffer's show, though certainly, I'm with him a lot more than the boycotters at the National Eating Disorders Association. They say the show is "dangerous" and "tasteless."
Regarding the latter, I say, so what? Yes, the show takes its caricatures a tad too far. The generous profanity not to mention the climax of an episode on colonics is not inoffensive. But I will be watching, and I'm telling my addict-eater friends to watch. Even if not every aspect of every depiction is accurate, the portrayals are the
truest I've ever seen.
I'm hoping non-addicts will tune in, too, especially the ones who accept that alcoholism and, say, cocaine addiction are diseases but think that overeaters (and bulimics and anorexics and the rest of us)
just need to have a little more willpower. They don't get it yet, but this twisted sitcom just might help them understand.