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Television Review

Rooting for 'Ruby' as she wages losing battle

By Joanna Weiss
Globe Staff / November 8, 2008
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A lot of docu-reality shows feature people you want to gawk at, mock, or generally wish ill will: celebrities like Paula Abdul, celeb-wannabes like Kim Kardashian, self-absorbed egomaniacs like the stars of various series on Bravo.

Ruby Gettinger, by contrast, is someone you want to root for. The star of Style's new nine-part series, "Ruby," has battled obesity all of her life. She has been as heavy as 700 pounds, now weighs about 500, and has gotten an order from her doctors: Lose weight or your life is in danger.

The triumphs and pitfalls of weight loss have been reality TV fodder for years, but what's striking here is a lack of self-pity and a cache of unlikely joy. Ruby isn't a whiner or a climber; she's a charmer, fun-loving and generally positive, with the lilting accent of her native Savannah (a city that isn't captured on film nearly enough) and a willingness to be out in the world, regardless of what others think of her.

It takes a certain level of self-confidence - and, often, self-delusion - to let the cameras capture you in a state of vulnerability. Ruby presumably came to TV by way of her friendship with actress Brittany Daniel, who is credited as one of the show's producers. But while she will visit Daniel in Los Angeles later in the series, much of the drama focuses on her Savannah environs, from the modest house she shares with a roommate to the nail parlor where she trades gossip.

The series will take viewers into the offices of Ruby's various doctors, including a psychiatrist who delves into Ruby's past. She will confront reality and cry. Still, the therapy scenes feel somehow less intrusive than the shots of Ruby sitting awkwardly on the back of a motorcycle, or listening as fellow patrons mock her in a restaurant.

What's redeeming is the way Ruby's friends seem to love her at any size - though they're committed to helping her get thinner, sometimes more so than Ruby herself. In the second episode, her closest friends chafe when an old flame returns to town on his Harley-Davidson. He broke her heart years ago, but now seems eager to reenter her life, so long as she actually loses that weight.

The mini-drama that follows isn't entirely unpredictable, but it's satisfying nonetheless. "I'm falling in love with myself," Ruby tells the camera quietly at the episode's end. If it were a line on "Grey's Anatomy," it would sound impossibly maudlin. Coming from Ruby, it just sounds true.

Joanna Weiss can be reached at weiss@globe.com. For more on TV, go to www.boston.com/viewerdiscretion

TELEVISION REVIEW

RUBY On: Style

Time: Premieres tomorrow night at 8

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