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The summer of weighty TV: Are 'Dance Your Ass Off,' 'Drop Dead Diva,' et al a step forward or back?

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It’s getting hard to enjoy some guilt-free ice cream while kicking back with summer TV, what with everyone inspirationally losing weight every time I turn the set on. If I’m not watching people drop pounds through dance on Oxygen’s Dance Your Ass Off, I’m learning important lessons about weight and self-esteem (and the pros and cons of cheese spray) on Lifetime’s dramedy Drop Dead Diva, about a thin model’s soul trapped in a plus-size lawyer’s body. (Don’t ask about logistics. Just go with it.) Then there’s Style’s charming Ruby, a reality show about the title character’s struggles to break free of morbid obesity, and next up is Fox’s Bachelor for “regular people,” More to Love (debuting July 28).

Clearly weight issues are compelling, if this lot is any evidence. I keep trying to cull down my summer DVR list — certainly there’s a book I could be reading? — but I can’t bring myself to ditch any of these pleasures. Now I must know if the deft-footed Ruben wins Dance Your Ass Off, if Ruby ever gets a job, and, sorry, I simply can’t resist Brooke Elliott playing a ditzy, skinny model inside a smart attorney with a healthy appetite for donuts. (That might be the one show here during which I do feel okay about the ice cream …)

I recently caught a sneak peek at More to Love, and it doesn’t quite make the same kind of inspirational claims as the other shows here. For one, there are egregious close-ups of meat skewers, begging the question of when we’ve ever seen the hors d’oeuvres on The Bachelor. And yet, it’s a simple, watch-worthy fact that just changing the body type of the “contestants,” as well as the “prize,” makes for different interactions. The stakes are simply higher for women who feel they’ve been ignored most of their lives, and even for the guy who’s never quite had his pick of ladies. (Also, did I mention there are meat skewers?) Then again, does this need to be a separate show? Why can’t we just see these folks on The Bachelor?

That’s the real question: Is carving out a separate niche so we can have all these “regular people” populating our summer airwaves an unqualified good thing? Sure, it’s great to see a body shape other than unhealthily thin represented, but there’s a fine line between inspirational and exploitative. What do you think, PopWatchers? Are you also enjoying all the weight loss shows? Are they doing an adequate job riding that line between inspiration and exploitation? Does ‘More to Love’ sound like a winner as well, or have you had enough of all this “regular people” programming?

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