Comcast’s low-profile Style network has a likable if unlikely new mascot: Ruby Gettinger, a 480-pound resident of Savannah, Ga., who has decided it’s time to do something about her morbid obesity. For a nation at odds with (and often unable to find) its waistline, she’s surely a relatable and refreshingly empathetic character, unfettered by the contest elements that characterize participants in programs such as “The Biggest Loser.” Appealing as Ruby the person is, though, “Ruby” the series succumbs to the common excess of being a little too stage-managed for its own good.
Ruby is pretty upfront about the fact that she loves to eat and has lost the battle with what she calls “the beast,” or the food cravings that drive her. The hourlong premiere (episodes shrink to a half-hour thereafter) deftly portrays the limitations size places on Ruby’s life — having trouble moving around, needing to bolster her bed, the inability to fit in a bathtub, and the inevitable gawking and sniggering by strangers.
“The world’s not made for me,” she says.
The realization that Ruby must lose weight, however, begins to take the series in wholly predictable — and at times uncomfortably intrusive — directions, including sitting in on therapy sessions where a tearful Ruby discusses large memory gaps in her childhood. Is she eating because of some deep dark mystery?
An old boyfriend of Ruby’s also shows up far too conveniently in episode two, arriving with what appears to be a camera mounted on the handlebars of his motorcycle. Similarly, Ruby lives with a teenage nephew who explains that he’s vacated his parents’ house because they’ve gotten a cat and he’s allergic, with no further mention regarding why they’d choose a pet over their own kid. In reality TV, it’s moments like these where trust and suspension of disbelief begin to break down.
If “Ruby” has a saving grace, it’s the support network of friends that surrounds and appears to want the best for her, exhibiting a warmth that prevents this from being the freak show it could have become in less-sensitive hands. Yet while the series is slick enough to leave you rooting for Ruby, there’s a nagging sense that whether or not she sheds pounds and finds happiness, the process of capturing her struggles will tip the scales profitably in Style’s direction.