At first glance there might seem something slightly odd about a show centered on the efforts of a morbidly obese woman to slim down from upwards of 500 lbs appearing on the Style Network. At second glance Ruby might in fact seem to be the very worst, most insidious idea so-called “reality television” has ever vomited forth from its diseased orifice.
After all, here is a woman so beyond obesity that to continue her lifestyle even one more day invites debilitating sickness and death that nonetheless is prepared to exhibit her impossible struggle on television for mass consumption. And compelled by the very nature of reality television you can be sure that on the other side of the camera is a room full of “development” people, commanding a salary, whose sole purpose is to dream up ways for her to potentially stumble and fail and then somehow integrate them into the show.
What a blessed relief than that at no point does Ruby ever allow this to become just another cynical sideshow. A bright and bubbly Savannah southern belle, Ruby Gettinger is an irresistible force of personality whose warmth and openness about herself and her condition just draw you towards her. Joining her on this epic odyssey of weight loss and rehabilitation are Ruby’s live in roomies and self-confessed serial enablers: the camp-as-a-row-of-tents Jeff, and her hilariously gormless home schooled “nephew” Jim, who bizarrely lives there because his parents “got a cat and he’s allergic.” (!)
But this is far from just another tired makeover show and being conventionally beautiful never seems to be the destination. Instead Ruby’s goals are irresistibly heartwarming; she wants to fit in a bubble bath; sit on someone’s lap; be able to use an airplane bathroom. The sheer scale of Ruby’s mountain is quite staggering and the logistical complexities of her day-to-day life are certainly an eye-opener. A single pair of underwear for Ruby costs $30 and her bed sits atop an arrangement of concrete breezeblocks to keep it from collapsing.
Yet Ruby never places blame on anyone but herself, has an army of loving friends, and keeps herself busy tutoring and teaching Sunday School. She doesn’t cry, she doesn’t throw tantrums, and she doesn’t invite pity. She’s certainly not without help having assembled a crack team of trainers, nutritionists, and analysts to aide every aspect of both her mental and physical recovery. It’s this focus on the process and the distinct lack of any manufactured drama that make Ruby such an easily digestible dose of sunshine, combining a can-do message with Ruby’s charm and her terminally positive outlook.
Lurking somewhere in the background is a potentially unpleasant subplot about Ruby’s complete amnesia over her entire childhood prior to the age of thirteen, beneath which is surely the root cause of her obesity, but thankfully the show decides not to venture down that lurid path and keeps it on the fringes. At twenty minutes a slice this is as perfect a life-affirming pick-me-up as you are likely to find and proof positive that you can make a good reality show without the shameless histrionics of a room full of strangers arguing over bullshit.
Starring: Ruby Gettinger
Executive Producer: Sarah Weidman
Network: Style Network
Showtime: Sunday, 8:00pm EST
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