ABC Family’s teen series, Huge, is a thoughtful show that looks at an important issue in our society, teenage obesity, and handles it with sensitivity, humor and a great deal of superb writing and acting. At a time when the only heavy kids you see on television are cast as the “best friend,” (check any Disney show and you’ll see what I mean), here is a television drama that cast overweight kids and let them shine as performers. Huge is groundbreaking.
Nikki Blonsky proves that she’s not a one trick pony as she leads as stellar ensemble cast. Blonsky, last seen singing, dancing and stealing scenes from bigger named stars in the hit film, Hairspray, stars as Willamena, “Will,” Rader. She’s been sent by her parents to Camp Victory, a summer weight loss camp for overweight teens. Camp Victory is the last place this sarcastic, rebellious girl wants to be and she makes it known every chance she gets. Will is placed in a cabin with a group of girls, all of whom dream of being thin. To Will, a feminist, she hates the images that society places on girls. But no one listens to her; they think she’s just being obnoxious.
Will’s home life is troubled, which accounts for her rudeness, so she’s surprised when she makes friends with some of the other girls, most importantly Becca (Raven Goodwin), a quiet, bookworm who went to the camp the previous year. Will also develops a crush on Ian (Ari Stidham), a talented musician with his own problems at home. Unfortunately, Ian has feelings for Amber (Hayley Hasselhoff—proving that she’s a much finer actor than her father), the thinnest and prettiest girl in camp. As the summer progresses, these kids, and the friends they make, take charge of their lives and do their best to move toward a healthier lifestyle.
Huge deals with many of the same issues that you’ll see in most teen shows, except that the kids in Huge look like real teenagers. None of them are waifer thin; none look like they just stepped out of the pages of a catalog. This show is grounded in realism and is not some soap opera like Gossip Girl. Those same teen issues, such as body image and getting intimate, are amplified, though, because they’re being shown through the perspective of characters rarely featured on television except as a punchline.
Behind the scenes, Huge was executive produced by Winnie Holzman and her daughter, Savannah Dooley. If Holzman’s name doesn’t ring a bell, you should know that she was the creator of My So-Called Life, one of the most acclaimed teen series in the past twenty years. In adapting the bestselling book by Sasha Paley, Holzman and her daughter have brought the same class and heartfelt drama of that beloved show had to Huge.
Unfortunately, Huge suffered the same fate as My So-Called Life, in that it was canceled after one short season, well before the show had completed the stories it had tell. Look, I understand that television is a business and that advertisers must be appeased. But there comes a time when a network should take a stand for quality; they must take a stand in putting on content that deals with human issues realistically and not in the guise of a teen mystery or a college life. ABC Family should have found a way to let Huge finish its story, at least for the fans. While I am grateful and admire the courage they had in placing an unconventional show like Huge on their schedule, I’m disappointed that they would cancel it after one short season.
Nevertheless, the network has teamed up with Shout! Factory to put out the complete series on DVD. Obviously, fans of Huge will have a chance to relive their favorite moments. Additionally, there is plenty of bonus material, as Shout! Factory continues to be a leader in that category for TV on DVD. Huge: The Complete Series comes with audio commentaries, featurettes, a blooper reel and two music videos. This is a lovingly put together collection that will make the fans happy, and make new fans out of this wonderful series.
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