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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

In the Spotlight

This week, CTC started a new sitcom called "Love Isn't What It Seems." The heroine is a plump girl called Alisa who blames all her troubles on her extra pounds. She escapes to the Internet, where she constantly chats with a mystery man but is too afraid to meet him. When she starts a new job, the grumpy but gorgeous boss ignores her because he's too busy tapping away at his computer.

And I think you can fill in the rest of the plot.

The storyline is similar to the Russian version of "Ugly Betty." In that sitcom, the heroine had retainers, bottle glasses and a grannyish wardrobe. But this sitcom has taken a different route, casting an actress who is so grotesquely overweight that she might have to buy a size medium in Topshop.

It's not as if there aren't any larger actresses in Russia, despite a national tendency for slinky hipbones. Anna Mikhalkova, who sometimes presents the children's show "Good Night, Little Ones," comes to mind, for a start. So it's pretty depressing that a plum role like this went to Darya Ivanova, an actress with round cheeks and dimples but a blatant lack of spare tires.

In the first episode, Alisa was shown in a dead-end job wearing a giant foam-rubber pretzel costume to hand out flyers for a bakery. I initially thought that this was a brilliantly surreal touch and that she would wander around like this for the whole sitcom. But when she pulled off the pretzel costume, we saw a normal-sized girl who was simply wearing lots of layers of clothing.

In the first episode, a friend persuaded Alisa to apply for a job at an ad agency. It turned out that she has a degree from Moscow State University, so she was a bit overqualified to work as a pretzel.

She got the job, because the motherly recruitment lady said she was sick of leggy but clueless girls. But she faced hostility elsewhere. "The cleaning job is already taken," an ad man told her, after looking her up and down.

She also got off to a bad start with her boss, Artyom, by knocking over his computer and pouring coffee on his keyboard. She immediately decided he was a "psycho," so very different from her Internet heartthrob.

Even worse, she encountered Artyom's bitchy, thin girlfriend, who told her to get liposuction.

In subplots, we saw that Alisa's so-called extra pounds come from a grandmother who feeds her pirozhki for breakfast. And there was also a little homily about her pretty friend who doesn't appreciate what she's got and who decided to pay for silicon lip implants and dump her poor but loving boyfriend.

Even though its message of girl power is pretty shallow, the sitcom is trying to break some new ground. It experiments with split-screens and voice-overs expressing the characters' inner thoughts. In a fun extra, it also has a web site,, where you can read blogs written by Alisa and her boss, who call themselves "Thumbelina" and "Film Lover" online.

You can also spy on their virtual correspondence, which is a little too correctly spelled to be authentic. "All my life goes on in virtual reality. How I understand you!" Alisa writes. "In the real world, I'm lost and I hurry back the screen to find you."

At the moment, though, poor Artyom is unable to use instant messaging because Alisa has dropped his computer in the first episode -- although you would expect an ad director to have a Blackberry.

He posted his mood as "enraged."