Two things I have a total weakness for are teen dramas and movies or TV shows that take seriously certain activities or cultures that are typically derided or dismissed. So the new ABC Family drama Huge, about teens at a summer fat camp, is right up my alley, and I wish I liked it just a little more than I do. It's not bad, and by the third episode (the first and third episodes were the ones available for review), it settles into a calmer groove than is indicated by the pilot. But it's still a little too hung up on being all "inspirational" and "fat people are people too" to be a truly effective drama and not a spread in an upbeat women's magazine.
Still, I'd trust My So-Called Life creator Winnie Holzman (she co-created the show with her daughter, Savannah Dooley, based loosely on a novel by Sasha Paley) to know her teen angst, so I may stick around for a little while longer. And it's refreshing to see such a range of body types on one show; most teen dramas feature only one type of skinny, but Huge embraces many different types of overweight, from the barely-at-all (the camp hottie, played by Hayley "Daughter of David" Hasselhoff) to the fat-and-proud (surly main character Will, played by Hairspray's Nikki Blonsky). It walks a fine line between being sympathetic and supportive and being careful not to endorse what's perceived as unhealthy, and as such it can be a little clumsy.
The pilot in particular has an annoyingly heavy-handed plot about Will dramatically running away from camp and then returning because, somewhere inside, she knows this is the best place for her. And her character in general is a little disingenuous, rebelling against the "body fascism" that drives people to places like this, but also in the end having to learn the lesson that she probably belongs there. I don't think this is a show that's going to end up being embraced by the fat acceptance movement, but it's also pretty carefully trying not to put those people off, either. Past the storylines that deal overtly with weight, though, there is plenty of your typical teen-drama stuff (cliques, crushes, battles with authority) going on here, and most of it is handled pretty well. I would have preferred to see a show with overweight characters that didn't feel the need to be completely about their being overweight, but at least Huge is a start.
Premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on ABC Family.