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Dr. Norris J. Chumley Satisfied Life

Did you happen to catch the premiere of ABC Family’s “Huge?”  It’s pretty interesting: it’s a drama about teenage angst and social experimentation, the location is “Camp Victory” a fat camp.  This is one of the now many TV programs addressing the demographic of obese people.  “Huge,” however, is different.  It’s smart, meaty, well written and the acting’s believable.
Of course this is TV melodrama, or even primetime soap opera – lest we not forget.  The characters all have huge emotions, and they’re on display.  Most anyone who struggles with obesity knows that there’s a river of emotions flowing in underground psyches.  Most people with obesity and eating problems I’ve worked with are not overtly emotional; feelings are often buried underneath the fat.  This show is interesting because the torrent of teen problems of sexual attraction, dating and self-esteem are on the surface.
Take Willamina, the main character played by Hairspray’s Nikki Blonsky.  She’s not at all happy to be at Camp Victory.  She claims to be proud of the fat, and does everything to gain weight this summer.  She not only sneaks foods, she’s running a black market in cakes and candies.  Will is not impressed by anything that’s going on.  A true cynic to the Nth degree, she disdains the emo group talk sessions, eschews the spinach and carrots for dinner, and particularly despises Amber, her bunk mate, who’s blond and pretty and is only a few pounds overweight.  Will is a colorful example of the fat acceptance movement bloated on steroids.
Amber, played by David Hasselhof’s daughter, Haley Hasselhof, is the stereotypical gorgeous blonde.  An interesting twist is that outside of a fat camp, she’d be unpopular because she has a few rolls.  Here, she’s the star.  Yet, Amber doesn’t know what to do with her popularity – she has to take advice on what to do with guys who look at her from her very overweight friends.  That’s a cool twist that I love!
Unfortunately, we have to again deal with meanness when it comes to overweight intervention.  The chief doctor of Camp Victory, Dr. Dorothy Rand, performed by Gina Torres, is a stern, cliché-ridden leader, who seems to be clueless about what it’s like to be fat.  The fitness director, too, is mean and cruel like a military sergeant.  Why do TV executives think solving overweight and obesity problems is all about discipline?  They just don’t get it!
Despite the resume’s of “Huge’s” creative team, Winnie Holzman (“My So-Called Life”) and her daughter, Savannah Dooley, there’s the Alloy Entertainment team who brought us “Gossip Girl,” and “The Vampire Diaries.”  Despite a tendency to manufacture vacuous hit TV formula, somehow they’ve managed to sneak some authenticity into the program; at least the first episode.
I liked the real feelings of embarrassment that we were privy to in the first scenes of “before” photo-taking.  I liked how we got glimpses of Will’s background struggles with her parents, behind some of her cynicism.  Moments of sexual tension, coming of age difficulties and sexual preferences were woven throughout – and that’s so pertinent.  One camper was bingeing and purging (bulimic), and had to leave.  Her bunkmates figured-out that that was “serious” and beyond what a summer fat camp can do – that’s excellent and totally appropriate.
All-in-all, I really like “Huge.”  It’s so much better that most of those fat shows, such as “The Biggest Loser,” and “More to Love.”  At least this one tries to get real and move beyond stereotypes and symptoms of overeating, digging a little deeper into what’s underneath a “huge” body.
Did you see “Huge?”  What did YOU think? Please comment.
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