When the opening shot of a TV show is a scale, one thing is clear: this show will be about weight. But true to what actress Nikki Blonsky told me in our recent Q&A, her new ABC Family show “Huge” is about so many things beyond just body size. “Huge” debuted on ABC Family last night and it’s cute, funny and just like Blonsky said, it’s unlike any other show on television. Visually, the show is a complete anomaly: Nearly every single actor is plus-sized. Their size stood out at first, but soon I forgot it was a show about kids at a weight-loss camp and just saw it as a show about kids.
Spoilers, after the jump …The show opens with Wilhelmina’s (“Will”) first day at Camp Victoray, as she’s standing in line with a bunch of overweight kids in their bathing suits. It’s the first day of camp and they are taking their “before” photos. Will, who’s got a bad attitude and blue streaks in her hair, pronounces this “sick” and refuses to take off her clothes. She has attracted the attention of Dr. Rand, the no-nonsense staff doctor, who she tells she forgot her suit. Dr. Rand informs Will she can either strip down to her own suit or use a “community suit” shared by everybody. Horrified by the thought, Will remembers she actually is wearing a bathing suit and does a defiant burlesque-style striptease in front of all the campers, shaking her hips and slapping her butt.
The girls move into their bunks and Amber (played by Hayley Hasselhoff, the Hoff’s daughter), who has already been pronounced the skinniest girl at camp, and thus one of the popular girls, is Will’s bunk mate. Amber, who says she’s been dieting since she was 10, tapes “thinspiration” to the walls — photos of models with bikini bodies — while a counselor confiscates their sugar-free gum and cough drops.
Then the kids meet Shay the trainer, an obvious and hilarious Jillian Michaels (of “The Biggest Loser”) parody, who screams she’s “YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE!!!” And this is what I love about “Huge.” On any other show, it would be the fat people who would be played for laughs. On “Huge,” it’s the psycho trainer. Shay introduces George, the hot assistant trainer who is obviously going to hook up with girls on the show.
Will might be stuck at weight-loss camp, but she’s not about to play by its rules. She is “holding” — stashing candy and junk food in shampoo bottles back in her bunk — and starts selling to the other kids. Will has no intention of losing weight and instead wants to gain weight while she’s at Camp Victory. In group share time, she tells Dr. Rand and all her peers, “I’m down with my fat. … everyone wants us to hate our bodies,” but she refuses to hate herself. Dr. Rand tells her it’s not about self-hate but about health. If Camp Victory is about health, Will asks, then what is Amber — the skinny one, remember — doing there?
The next thing Will knows, Amber has ratted her candy-selling operation out to Dr. Rand, who threatens to kick Will out. Back in the bunks, Amber is staring at herself in a mirror and criticizing the fit of her pants when Will confronts her. It’s obvious that being the most popular girl at camp has gone to Amber’s head. She dismisses Will by telling her no one cares what she does. That, of course, is the most eviscerating thing anyone — especially a teenager — can hear.
I tweeted last night that I was watching “Huge” and a couple of people tweeted back, asking if the show was awful toward plus-size people. No, it truly isn’t — and I don’t think it’s helpful to treat plus-size people like they are so precious. In an ideal fairytale world, the only show with all plus-size actors wouldn’t have to be set at a weight-loss camp. In an ideal fairytale world, there’d be a plus-size actress on “Gossip Girl” and “90210″ and plus-size reality stars on “The Bachelor” and “The Hills.”
That ideal fairytale world doesn’t exist, though. Instead I think we should welcome this first attempt at, for lack of a better word, integration. Yes, it’s kind of annoying that it has to be set at a weight-loss camp, but I hope in time we’ll look back at “Huge” not as annoying, but groundbreaking. [ABC Family]