Starved is an FX Network television situation comedy that aired for one season of seven episodes in 2005. The series was about four friends who each suffer from eating disorders, who met at a "shame-based" support group called Belt Tighteners. Its characters included those with bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating disorder. Eric Schaeffer created the show as well as writing, starring in and directing it, based upon his own struggle with eating disorders. In addition to his own life experiences, Schaeffer also drew upon the experiences of the other members of the principal cast, each of whom coincidentally had struggled with food issues of their own.
Starved was the lead-in of FX's hour-long "Other Side of Comedy" block with It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. FX executives wanted to use the two series to begin building comedy programming and broaden the network's demographic. The series debuted on August 4, 2005 to poor critical reviews and was cancelled in October 2005, when FX picked Sunny over Starved for renewal.
Starved and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia were developed for FX under the auspices of FX president John Landgraf, who sought to expand the network's viewership by providing a wider variety of programming. The shows were the network's first attempts at sitcoms following the short-lived 2003 series Lucky. FX at the time was known primarily for its edgy dramatic series. Bruce Lefkowitz, then executive vice president of Fox Cable Entertainment, outlined the strategy: "We kind of staked out a unique space in dramas that are very different from everybody else’s, so the next natural evolution is to do something in the comedy space." The network ordered seven episodes of each series.
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Starved premiered to an audience of 1.54 million viewers, scoring a Neilsen rating of 0.8 and a 2 share among adults 18-49, the network's target demographic. Reviews were unfavorable. Variety echoed the slogan of Belt Tighteners in dismissing the series as "not OK." Noting the series' edgy content, Variety allows that "Pushing the envelope in terms of standards is all well and good, assuming that series earn the right to do so." Starved, it says, did not earn that right. The series' "stabs at poignancy feel unconvincing and forced" and "from an emotional standpoint there's seldom a truthful note."
The Washington Post concurred in this assessment, describing the premise of the show as "Hey, what happens if you take the characters from Seinfeld and give them eating disorders?" While crediting Starved for "a few inventive laughs," the language and sexuality of the show are described as "exceptionally coarse" and "outrageous for cable television, even later at night." Worse than these issues, the Post felt that Schaeffer neglected to develop the characters in favor of coming up with contrived situations for them. "[T]his failure to build understanding into the show dooms it to emptiness, with a sour aftertaste. As if you had just, you know, hurled."
The New York Times credited the series for its bold premise and noted that the show provided some insight into eating disorders while offering "a few flashes of clever dialogue and satire." Ultimately, however, the Times found that "Starved relies too heavily on sight gags and gross-out farce." The Los Angeles Times found the show "vexing" for being "at once assured and shallow, accomplished and unconvincing, well-acted and empty." The review singles out Schaeffer's character Sam as "especially unappealing" and points to Schaeffer's roles as creator, producer, writer and director as "an object lesson in the wisdom of a system of checks and balances." Perhaps most damningly, in noting Schaeffer's experiences with addiction, the reviewer writes that "just because you’ve had an experience doesn’t mean you have anything interesting to say about it or are able to articulate whatever interesting thing you have to say."
FX cancelled Starved in October 2005. FX president John Landgraf told Variety, "The show had a lot of fans, so it was tough to choose [between it and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia]. Ultimately, we felt that we're just not in a position to spread our resources. We launched our dramas one at a time, and launching two [comedies] like we did this summer just didn't work out as well.