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Huge 

Huge gives the My So-Called Life treatment to a weight-loss camp.

click to enlarge Drama at fat camp: not the disaster you're expecting
  • Drama at fat camp: not the disaster you're expecting

Here’s the ugly truth: We find attractive people more attractive than unattractive people. Oh, we try to be enlightened and objective, we try to claw our way above our basest, shallowest instincts. But our most reasoned arguments crumble before the flash of a stunning smile.

Physical appearance — sexy or slobby— burrows deep into our subconscious. We give more weight to weight than personality.

So it’s unsurprising that the media and its critics struggle in making honest, profound statements about appearance. A show like Glee makes overtures (literally) about celebrating the less attractive glee club members, then mocks the uglier, dorkier newspaper geek. Critics tut-tut our media for unrealistic standards of beauty, then slam a movie for imagining that Katherine Heigl — even when drunk — would sleep with Seth Rogen.

So you’d think Huge, a drama about a weight-loss camp, would be a disaster. It’s aimed at tweens, after all. It should be trite, offensive, melodramatic, even a bit exploitive.

But miraculously, it isn’t. In the first episode, one overweight girl comments how she loves staying at a camp full of heavy people — because the playing field is level. That’s crap, of course. There’s just as much hierarchy and infighting as in the “real world” — but at camp, they get to squabble as individuals.

We don’t just get “the overweight girl.” We get the “sarcastic girl” and the “stuck-up girl” and the “nerdy live-action role-playing girl” and the “pretty blonde girl” — all of whom happen to be overweight.

Thank showrunner Winnie Holzman, who used to write My So-Called Life, a show acclaimed as one TV’s best depictions of the angsty high school years.

Unlike, say, Glee, Huge respects its characters. They’re people instead of punch lines or plot fodder. Huge isn’t satisfied with talking points, with “just be happy with who you are,” or “society has too-high standards for beauty“ or “just decide to lose weight.” Those arguments arise, but only from the characters, and only to highlight frustrations.

And as Huge progresses, it becomes less about fat kids at fat camp and more about kids at camp — about their pranks and personalities and romantic crushes.

This is not Big Bang Theory-style mockery or an after-school special. Instead, it’s a teen drama — just not one cast from the Abercrombie catalog.

Huge (ABC Family, Mondays, 9 pm)

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