“Huge” Hit: A Brief Overview of TV’s Hottest New Fat Camp Drama
When I first heard a few months ago that ABC Family was planning to create a series about overweight teenagers and their trials and tribulations at fat camp, I was honestly intrigued. While I was wary of how easily a show like that might dip into stereotypes, I also remained excited by the prospect of television’s first all-plus-size cast. It could offer audiences not just the single episode weight-related B-storyline of the token fat friend, but a breadth of narrative possibilities to showcase heavy people as human beings and not just “fatties.” Heck, I was even considering sending in an audition tape. Sure, the title leaves something to be desired – (Huge isn’t exactly endearing in this context) – I reasoned to myself that it’s probably also a reference to “huge” self-esteem or some other bull shit.
Created by Winnie Holzman (who was also behind My So-Called Life, and if that’s an indicator of potential I don’t know what is) and daughter Savannah Dooley, the show stars Nikki Blonksy (Hairspray) as Wil Rader, a rebellious feminist who is determined to be the only person to ever leave fat camp having gained weight as both a “fuck you” to her disapproving parents and a society that tells women they can only look one way to be worthy. Wil is friends with Becca (Raven Goodwin), a painfully shy veteran of Camp Victory and has a serious (though unspoken) crush on Ian (Ari Stidham) the indie-music loving introvert with a rockin’ Jew-fro. Unfortunately for Wil, Ian only has eyes on her rival Amber (Hayley Hasselhoff, David’s daughter), a quiet and stunning blonde who would barely even pass as fat in the real world (and she herself has an awkward flirtation with the camp’s junior trainer, a smoking hot college student named George.)
Huge has turned out not only to be a original, but also incredibly compelling. Since it’s debut three weeks ago I’ve become increasingly impressed with the writing and the acting. I particularly love how the writers have incorporated characters and storylines I’ve never seen before on TV – from the ultra-loving parents who can’t bare to part with their daughter when they bring her to camp to tackling the problem of how to tell an acquaintance he needs to take better care of his hygiene. I also find it refreshing that there are no black-and-white villains versus good guys. The head of the camp, Dr. Rand (Gina Torres, of the late, great Firefly), isn’t an image-obsessed slave driver but a caring, insecure woman who’s primary concern is how the campers fare emotionally during the weight-loss struggle. The “popular kids” (because even they exist in this fat-centric pocket of the universe) remain interested in sports and hooking up but aren’t outrageously cruel as they are just…snarky like most adolescence. And they’re still as relatable and vulnerable as our central characters. Best of all our protagonist is an angry, punky anti-heroine with feelings for a fellow dork, not some wallflower every-girl pining after the jock of her dreams. This series, based on the 2007 novel of the same name by author Sasha Paley, doesn’t try extra hard for its audience to like it or try to cater to a certain niche. It’s just teenagers doing their thing.
Watch, watch, watch this show. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before on serialized television.