New drama Huge' puts the focus on childhood obesity

June 25, 2010 at 1:25 a.m.

WRITETHRU (CORRECTS embargo date from Sunday to Monday) (Monday 6-28 release)

By Chuck Barney

Contra Costa Times


You probably could watch 500 episodes of "Gossip Girl," ''90210," and other like-minded teen dramas and never hear a line of dialogue like the one uttered by the defiant, plus-sized Willamina in the new series "Huge."

"I'm down with my fat," she declares shortly after arriving at a summer weight-loss camp. "Me and my fat are like BFFs."

Refreshing, isn't it? In a genre populated by over-polished stick figures, "Huge," debuting Monday night on ABC Family, dares to embrace the chubby kids who too often are relegated to the role of wisecracking sidekick. In the process, it promises to explore vital issues of self esteem and body image at a time when we're being bombarded by alarming statistics pegged to childhood obesity.

It should come as no surprise that Winnie Holzman has a hand in this. Back in the mid-'90s, Holzman redefined the teen drama when she created the critically lauded "My So-Called Life." Now she's serving as an executive producer and writer for "Huge," along with her daughter, Savannah Dooley.

"Huge," which opens with a promising, albeit uneven pilot episode, lacks the edge and sophistication of "MSCL" (this is ABC Family, after all). Still, it has its merits.

Chief among them is Nikki Blonsky ("Hairspray"), who plays Willamina with ardent precision. Sardonic and rebellious, Willamina resents that her parents have shipped her off to Camp Victory, where she will spend the summer in the company of other plump teen outcasts, each of whom worries about being perceived as the biggest loser.

Willamina quickly becomes the R.P. McMurphy of Camp Victory, slipping contraband candy and snacks to fellow campers, breaking rules and shunning authority. She even has the gall to declare that her goal is to gain pounds during her stay.

Other campers are much more dedicated to the weight-loss mission, including the earnest Amber (Haley Hasselhoff), a blonde cutie whose relatively slim figure makes her the envy of all the girls and the hormone-fueled fantasy of all the boys.

Fortunately, the series appears to aspire to being much more than a heavyset version of "90210." Yes, there are the cliques and conflicts typical of any teen show, but it also finds fresh material in the insecurities, hopes and fears of its psychologically wounded characters.

If it succeeds in shedding more light on teen obesity and/or opening a dialogue among parents and their kids, "Huge" can be really huge.



9 p.m. EDT Monday

ABC Family


Chuck Barney:


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