Editors Pick Kirstie Alley, 1994 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Under-appreciated Kirstie Alley deserves better

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Under-appreciated Kirstie Alley deserves better

Actress Kirstie Alley has had fame and controversy, but the one thing she isn’t without is talent. Jettisoned to fame with a great character performance in the TV Sitcom “Cheers,” she has meandered through acting opportunities since. But one of her best efforts, Fat Actress, deserves a second chance.

By Ray Hanania

Kirstie Alley is talented. We all loved her in Cheers, the 275-episode 11-year TV sitcom that reinforced and launched a dozen memorable Hollywood personalities from a simple comedy format at a neighborhood bar from its ratings domination of the 1980s.

Alley entered the series in Season 6, as Rebecca Howe, taking the place of Diane, played by Shelley Long. Alley was a placeholder to keep a great series alive. And she did it, helping to keep Cheers alive for another 6 years.

She played in 22 movies, starting with a memorable character in Star Trek as the sexy Lt. Saavik in The Wrath of Khan, and in 45 TV appearances and shows.

Her second big TV break came in 1997 with the four-year, 67-episode series Veronica’s Closet, a play on Victoria’s Secret, the story of the owner of a New York lingerie company. Risque. But funny. And, Kirstie won several awards for her performances. Deservedly.

Kirstie Alley, 1994

Kirstie Alley, 1994 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But when I look back at everything, one series of seven half-hour episodes, stands out above all in terms of her raw talent, and a no-holds-barred subject matter and wildly funny characters and dialogues. Fat Actress.

The series only lasted seven episodes in 2005. It was one of the first scripted reality shows, the story about Kirstie Alley dealing with her excessive weight gain. Obesity is not something to make fun of, but by making herself the focus of the series, she was able to present the reality of the challenges overweight people faced.

Yes, the name says it all. The story about a Hollywood actress on the lam from “film industry demand” trying to get back on TV or in a movie while pretending to deal with her weight problems by eating everything in sight.

The uniqueness of the show was the ability to take a serious physical issue and turn it upside down in a humorous way so the public could see the truth about the pain of obesity that many people, the rich and the poor suffer, in a way that they can understand. She made it possible to talk about obesity.

Of course, in 2005, it pushed the envelop way past the line of acceptability for most people. Unfortunately, it was never renewed.

Actress and anti-Scientology crusader Leah Remini. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Actress and anti-Scientology crusader Leah Remini. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The problem, I think, had more to do with Alley’s private life. Alley is a major activist defending the indefensible, the Church of Scientology. The series included many appearances by her Scientology Hollywood colleagues including John Travolta, Kelly Preston, and Leah Remini.

Of course, Leah Remini broke from the “church” and has led a campaign to expose what many called was really a “cult.” Remini’s series offers convincing evidence that Scientology abuses its members, bullies its critics, and oppresses anyone who tries to challenge its policies.

Alley had been very close friends with Remini until Remini broke with Scientology in 2013 and then produced the series, Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology. Some people think that the Scientology curse overshadowed Alley’s success.

I like Kirstie Alley. I’d really like to see her make a comeback. Fat Actress was a great example of great talent taken to the extreme, which is what the public wants.

But I’m not sure if a Scientologist who can’t speak to the documented grievances, abuses and hatred that has come from their cult, is worthy of embracing the hearts and minds of the American people.

Leah Remini was the best performer in that 2005 Fact Actress series. The episode with the “little people” is hilarious, although all seven episodes were phenomenal. It was seeing Remini on the show that made me think. In 2005, it meant nothing, but in the aftermath of so much that has been exposed about Scientology by Remini, it was hard not to see why Kirstie has vanished from Hollywood success.

That episode with Leah Remini was the best in the 7-series season.

While you have to shake your head over Kirstie Alley’s failed career, Remini, on the other hand, deserves enormous praise for fighting to expose an important truth. Remini is one courageous person. Her series, Troublemaker, has raised so many questions its imperative that something must be done.

In a world where everything is fair, Kirstie Alley should pick up the telephone and call Leah Remini and break from Scientology by talking about the truth of the cult.

Break from the cult, Kirstie. You’re a far better actress without it. There’s so much that you could have given us. Fat Actress should have been an ongoing series. But many viewers stayed away from it because of the lingering concerns about Scientology. How could someone be so good and yet be part of a cult that is so bad? It haunted Kirstie Alley, and maybe she doesn’t understand how her career has been harmed by it.

Maybe she should consider a new show, Fat Scientologist, although my guess is that would certainly do far worse.

Watching past episodes of Fat Actress on Showtime reminded of what could have been done by an actress freed from the ugly Scientology smudge.

Kirstie Alley deserves better. But losing the weight of her physical body is not the problem. What she needs to do is lose the burden of Scientology.

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, author and former Chicago City Hall reporter (1976-1992).

He is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club Lisagor Awards, the 2009 Sigma Delta Chi Award for journalism, and was named Best Ethnic American Columnist by the New America Media in 2007.

His personal web page is The Daily Hookah at www.TheDailyHookah.com (and www.RayHanania.com).

Hanania writes a weekly syndicated column for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia and is the managing editor of the American Arab online news website, www.TheArabDailyNews.com.

His mainstream columns are published in Chicago's Southwest Side and Suburbs in The Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers, the Southwest News-Herald and the Des Plaines Valley News.

Hanania is the managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com.

Email Ray Hanania at rghanania@gmail.com

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