Humorless sitcom ‘Starved’ for class

FX, a sleeper network among primetime juggernauts like NBC, ABC, FOX and HBO, has quietly made a name for itself over the past couple of years.

The network populates its 10 o’clock hour with edgy, cult favorites like Shawn Ryan’s cop drama “The Shield,” Dennis Leary’s sarcastic and sometimes scary take on the FDNY entitled “Rescue Me” and the always terrifying, always enthralling medical drama “Nip/Tuck.” With shows like these, and the addition of an excellent new look at the war in Iraq aptly named “Over There,” FX has seemingly found the answer to the big networks’ syndicated series (ER, Law & Order, NYPD Blue, etc.,). By constantly pushing the envelope, FX has consistently raised their quarterly figures.

However, in their latest quest to be edgy, FX may have finally gone over the edge.

Eric Schaeffer’s “Starved” is a comedic sitcom about four people who are either stricken with or recovering from eating disorders, among them anorexia nervosa, compulsive overeating and the dreaded bulimia nervosa. No, you didn’t read that wrong. I did use the words comedy and bulimia in the same sentence.

For those of you who don’t know what the disorder is, bulimia nervosa is a disorder where people are caught in the devastating and addictive binge-purge cycle. In plain English, these people regurgitate the majority of the food they eat – doesn’t exactly sound like the premise for a half-hour laugh riot, now does it?

“Starved” has four main characters: Sam is an anorexic commodities trader who is obsessed with “Finding Nemo” snack cakes. He is enamored with Billie, a recovering anorexic and up-and-coming singer/songwriter. Adam is an officer of the NYPD who suffers from and takes no steps to get help for bulimia nervosa. Dan is the token fat guy in the group, which is a much heavier (unintentional pun noted) burden in this motley crew. Dan is a compulsive overeater who has scheduled a gastric bypass surgery in the event he reaches 300 pounds. When he asks about the one in 200 possibility of death during the operation, the desk nurse comforts him by saying, “The other 199 people go on to live happy, non-fat lives.”

The above quote is a run-of-the-mill punch line for the show. In the third installment of “Starved,” Billie spits out a similarly offensive line. While working out at the gym, Billie notices another woman losing a startling amount of weight per day. After seeing this, she declares “If I don’t beat her today, I’m going to start throwing up again.” You’re supposed to laugh after this line, but if I were a betting man, I’d say your lips are curled up in something not at all akin to a smile.

I watched the latest episode of “Starved” on Thursday and for the first 10 minutes, found myself fairly impressed with the show. In a surprising scene, Sam actually confronts Adam about his bulimia. This causes Adam to have an epiphany of sorts and attend a self-help clinic with the rest of the group. Sadly, the episode’s promise dies here. This momentary hope is surrounded by Sam trying out a ridiculous trendy form of anorexia called “Breatharianism” (the Breatharians survive on a diet of sunlight and oxygen), Dan getting his jaw wired shut so he stops eating solid foods and the foursome being kicked out of their self-help clinic by a clique of bulimics who like their group the way it is. Most of the episode’s punch lines are based off these events, and none of them will tickle your funny bone.

“Starved” is a comedy that won’t make you laugh, and will leave you scratching your head as to its ultimate purpose. It takes itself seriously just long enough for you to be disappointed when it reverts back to taking jabs at eating disorders. Maybe my sense of humor is dead. Maybe my sense of decency has to die for me to understand this show. In either case, I don’t have the stomach for “Starved.”