TV Preview: Heavy

A&E, the network that brought us Intervention and Hoarders, is now doing for the morbidly obese what it's done for addicts and obsessive-compulsives with its new series Heavy.

Those folks have cornered the market on neatly bound, one-hour docudramas, have they not? And Heavy doesn't deviate from the formula. Each episode profiles two people whose health is threatened by their weight -- we're talking people weighing in between 400 and 700 pounds -– and follows them on their journey to transform their overweight Before selves to healthier, thinner After shots.

Is the show a game, like The Biggest Loser? No. A&E doesn't play like that. Does it take psychological illness and turn it into a compulsively watchable sideshow? Thankfully not. Heavy treats its subjects respectfully, like humans, rather than carnival freaks.

The premiere episode follows Tom, 37, who initially weighs in at 638 pounds, and Jodi, 36, whose extreme weight has already resulted in a minor stroke. Photos of a young Tom show he was an active, thin kid. Now, he can't walk five steps without losing his breath. Jodi claims the mantle of Funny Fat Girl by showing the contents of her fridge to the cameras, and calling the supersize jug of Ranch dressing "the fat girl's staple."

A&E continues to do what it does best: turn long, difficult recoveries into dramatic-yet-tidy one-hour bites. Tom and Jodi are working towards a goal: to live longer by shedding pounds. It's hard. They almost give up. They see a therapist or a trainer, and try again. They almost give up again. We're led to wonder: will they lose the weight? Will they gain it back? Will the overwrought music that surges every time someone steps onto a scale just freaking stop, already?

The good news of this premiere episode is that after six months of hardcore therapy and exercise, Tom and Jodi do come out the other side happier, healthier, and yes, somewhat thinner. We get our After shots.

But compressing six months into one hour means there's a lot we don't see, of course. We're told that Jodi has a toxic mother who laughs at her when she attempts to exercise, but we only hear about how Jodi had to kick Mom out of the house during the interview after the fact. We don't see the big fight. At one of Tom's check-ups after initially losing 50 pounds, we learn that he's gained it all back, plus 30 more. But we're not there with him in his house when he backslides and binges on fried food. So a lot of Tom's and Jodi's journey is relayed second-hand. Which makes it less real, and more... compact.

Heavy could be a sobering look at a national epidemic, if it just slowed down. Instead, it's too invested in the quick, one-hour road to a happy ending with a bow on top.

Heavy premieres on A&E tonight, Monday Jan 17th, at 10 PM ET.

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