Bigger getting better on TV

There's cause for celebration among the ranks of Hollywood starlets. Television, at least, seems to be getting over its fascination with razor-thin actresses. Maybe somebody clued them in to the fact that the majority of women in the United States are a size 12.

It probably started with ABC's successful series "Ugly Betty," in which the central character had a lot more in common with the girl next door than she had with a centerfold.

Then came Lifetime's "Drop Dead Diva," starring the zaftig Brooke Elliott as a moxie lawyer who becomes the new body of a scrawny model who is killed in an auto accident. The formerly self-obsessed gal has to learn what it's like to be a "normal" woman who has to make her own way without beauty as an entree.

This summer ABC Family surprised everyone with "Huge," the story of a fat farm and the six teens who go there to slim down, but really wise up as to what's really important. Starring Nikki Blonsky ("Hairspray") and Hayley Hasselhoff (David's daughter), the show is really about young people learning how to value themselves.

Coming this fall to CBS is "Mike & Molly," a love-story sitcom featuring a couple of overweight people who bond at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. Starring Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy, the show arrives from Chuck Lorre ("Two and a Half Men," "The Big Bang Theory") and Mark Roberts (Two and a Half Men").

Lorre admits that it is unusual.

"Television would normally have cast Chris O'Donnell and Courteney Cox as the people who meet at Overeaters Anonymous," he says. "But in this, we had the courage and, I think, the wisdom to just cast people that are just people ... they're trying to make their lives better and find someone that they can love and be loved by. It may be odd for television, but I hope it's reflective of some kind of reality that people will experience."

That's not to say that the pressure is off. There are still plenty of "reality" shows where the goal is to shame contestants into losing poundage. We all know the charm of "The Biggest Loser" and the new "Money Hungry," premiering on VH1 this week, where people lose girth while they gain green.

Many actresses today confess they've struggled with the image that has been set by ectomorphs like Audrey Hepburn, Calista Flockhart and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Bianca Kajlich, the curvaceous Jennifer of CBS's "Rules of Engagement," says, "I came here and had such a healthy body image. You started to look at the girls in the audition room with you. They're all very thin. I didn't notice at first, but when I wasn't getting jobs and you think, 'Is THAT the issue?'

"I remember I didn't get the job and the comment that came back from the producer was, 'We don't really want a bigger girl.' I would never think of myself as that. But it is what it is. And compared to some of the actresses here, I am a 'bigger' girl. I'm not a bigger girl in the world of sizes but in the world of Hollywood, yeah, I am. The thing I love so much, I've had so many people come up to me and say, 'It's so wonderful to see a woman's body on TV.' And I think that's a great aspect of our show."