Huge -- TV Review
EmptyWill (short for Wilhelmina) is fat and has a bad attitude. Stuck at a weight-loss camp for the summer, she's got contraband food in a false bottom of her suitcase, finds cliques and mean girls even among the "level playing field" of fellow overweight teens and has no intention of listening to the skinny, bossy counselors.
Welcome back Winnie Holzman, you have been missed. Sixteen years ago, the co-developer of ABC Family's new "Huge" created "My So-Called Life," a show that reveled in a generation of grunge-era kids drowning in inarticulate, inchoate angst and rage. It's far past time for a network to clear space for her sensitive, often hilarious insights into the adolescent mind.
"Huge" is no "MSCL 2," but the warm touches of Holzman and daughter Savannah Dooley, her writing partner, are everywhere: from a girl's adoration of her crush's loaned hoodie to the awkward retainers the teens wear to bed. Will (Nikki Blonsky of "Hairspray") is a perfect anti-hero for the series, a rebel who isn't interested in slimming down -- she's giving a raised middle finger to her parents by insisting she's going to gain weight at camp -- or making friends. In her unlikability, she is a breath of fresh air amid the brainwashing the other girls bring; one has been dieting "since I was 10" and talks about "thinspirations" when she hangs up photos of models by her bunk.
But the series, no matter how well-written -- and that comes into question in places, too -- feels off-key. "Huge" gets the details right, but the bigger picture can seem forced, with coincidence and pat resolutions -- Will escapes to a diner, ending up in the booth right behind the camp director; two snitches promise not to rat one another out. Still, the bigger problem is this: What is "Huge" trying to do? Is this meant to be a screed about the unhappiness of being overweight can bring, or is it meant to be about accepting yourself for who you are?
These two concepts feel incompatible, though with Holzman at the helm, perhaps they will coalesce in a few episodes. They certainly need to. Surely, the last thing "Huge" wants is to be the one show on television with an institutionalized thumbs up for beating up on fat people ... because they'll be the ones throwing every punch.
Airdate: 9-10 p.m. Monday, June 28 (ABC Family)
Production: Alloy Entertainment, Half Full Entertainment, ABC Family
Cast: Nikki Blonsky, Andrew Caldwell, Zander Eckhouse, Raven Goodwin, Harvey Guillen, Hayley Hasselhoff, Ashley Holliday, Ari Stidham, Gina Torres
Executive producers: Leslie Morgenstein, Bob Levy, John Ziffren, Kim Rozenfeld, Winnie Holzman
Developed by/teleplay: Savannah Dooley, Winnie Holzman
Based on the book by: Sasha Paley
Co-executive producer: Gayle Abrams
Consulting producer: Robin Schiff
Producers: Savannah Dooley, Dan Dugan
Director: Allison Liddi-Brown
Director of photography: Ernest Holzman
Production designer: Greg Grande
Costume designer: Kathryn Langston Orindgreff
Casting: Barbara Stordahl, Angela Terry