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Comedy 'Starved,' explores the dilemma of eating disorders



Published: Sat, August 6, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The dark comedy revolves around a group of friends who have issues with food.

By TERRY MORROW

SCRIPPS HOWARD

Eric Schaeffer won't feel like eating Thursday.

With the premiere of his dark comedy series, "Starved" (10 p.m. Thursday, FX), Schaeffer says he will be too nervous to eat.

When his nervousness passes -- he suspects it will be on Friday -- then he will be tempted to binge.

For the writer, actor and series creator, food is something he cannot escape.

"I have anorexic thinking," he admits during a dinner party to promote "Starved," about friends with eating disorders.

He says he is "addicted" to sugar and watches his weight in an almost unhealthy manner. In the series that he created, he plays Eric, a man who is obsessed with dropping weight.

Eric wakes up every morning, pulls at his stomach and then steps on the scales. When he gets upset, he binges. He sifts through garbage to find chocolate.

As an actor in Hollywood, Schaeffer and most of his friends stew over their weight.

"I'll starve myself during the day, thinking it will keep me thin," he says. "That's an anorexic."

Food for thought

"Starved" focuses on Eric's dysfunctional friends, too: a policeman who purges; an overweight man who fears surgery to staple his stomach; and a lesbian with image issues.

They come together in a diner to talk about their problems. The four are also part of a support group in which the leader berates the participants for their behavior.

A recovering alcoholic, Schaeffer says he created "Starved" out of his own issues. Alcohol and drugs can be avoided, he says. "There is no escaping food.

"Food is really the last bane of my existence. If I start eating cake, it is all over."

Working on "Starved" does not have him working out personal issues with food, he says.

In fact, he says he finds the experience of acting on his own show "annoying" because of the repeated takes he must do in food scenes.

"It's like bite, bite, bite then spit it out for another take," he says.

The main course

Schaeffer had ambitions of being a pro athlete as a kid, but he says an injury and drugs ended those dreams. In college, he got into acting and writing.

He drove cabs in New York for eight years as he wrote screenplays.

At age 30, after years of rejection, he decided to stop writing. "I have tremendous will power, but I did not want to keep bashing my head against the rock," he says.

A last-ditch attempt to save his career resulted in the low-budget indy film "My Life's In Turnaround," about slacker buddies in Manhattan. The film got positive critical notices and got him noticed.

He has created six films, including "If Lucy Fell" with a pre-"Sex and the City" Sarah Jessica Parker.

He is hoping "Starved," though, is what puts him on the map. He says the series is not about a message.

"I'm not trying to convert anyone," he says. "This show will make people feel unified because we all have issues with food."




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