ABC Family's Huge premiered last night. Written by My So-Called Life creator Winnie Holzman — and her 24-year-old daughter, Savannah Dooley — the show introduced us to Camp Victory, where weight loss is the focus.
The show centers around Will, played by Nikki Blonsky, and Amber, played by Hayley Hasselhoff. Amber is "the thinnest girl" at camp, according to the other campers, but it's clear she is completely uncomfortable in her body. She decorates her bunk with "thinspiration" pictures — photographs of models cut from magazines, sometimes without their head or feet; it's the slim torso and lean legs she seems to be interested in.
Will, on the other hand, is totally comfortable in her body… Or at least, she pretends to be. In the opening scene — before the credits roll — the camp director, Dr. Rand (played by Gina Torres) asks Will why she is not wearing her bathing suit. Will first says that she forgot her suit, but then admits that she is wearing it under her clothes. As she tales off her T-shirt and shorts, she makes a big scene — a loud, attention-grabbing striptease — which shocks, titillates and amuses the other campers. She stands on a chair, victorious, slapping her fat, but once she gets down, she says quietly, "Oh my god. Why did I just do that?"
The pilot covers a lot of territory: Will, who hides gumballs in a shampoo bottle, sets up a business in which she sells (forbidden) sugary and salty snacks out of the bathroom in her bunk. She announces that she is determined to gain weight while at camp, and mentions that her parents sent her to Victory because they don't want to look at her. In her defiance and anger, she misjudges Amber, makes trouble for Dr. Rand, and even runs away from camp. She comes back, of course, but when Dr. Rand says something like, "I know you're scared," Will claims: "I'm not scared. I just think everything you stand for is crap."
The pilot is not without clichés: The snack-lust feels condescending (fat kids can't resist Hostess cupcakes!) and one camper's battle with bulimia is only talked about once she has disappeared from camp. But the show has a lot of promise, and the characters, even in their inconsistencies, ring true.
In an interview with New York, Savannah Dooley says:
For my whole life, Winnie and I have often watched portrayals of chubby girls on TV and movies and felt really frustrated by the portrayal. We would say to each other, "Oh my God, of course she just has to listen, and give advice, and have a little crack about how fat she is." As two people who throughout our lives have struggled with body image for ourselves, we've always been really attuned to how that's been reflected in the media. In doing this, we wanted to create the complicated look at body image and weight that we had always wanted to see.
She and her mom are off to a good start.