Last night's episode of Huge (created by My So-Called Life's Winnie Holzman and her daughter) included some heartbreaking moments of teen angst unrelated to being set at a fat camp: Embarrassment, jealousy, shattered confidence, rebellion, manipulation, body odor and LARPing.
Ian, the Brian Krakow of the show, was assigned the task of telling Alistair, the weird kid (who says, in a group therapy circle, "I know I'm weird — you think that's an insult?") that he smells. I went to lots of schools growing up, public and private, and there was always at least one kid who smelled terrible. Puberty is all about your body betraying you!
(Alistair's issue? He didn't feel comfortable with the group shower situation at the camp, where he felt that everyone was looking at him.)
Meanwhile, Becca (Raven Goodwin) was trying to overcome her shyness by getting people interested in LARPing. Will (Nikki Blonsky) attempted to help get other campers interested in Live Action Role Playing, but in doing so, steamrolled all over Becca's original vision of the LARP event.
To make matters worse, while having a LARP meeting in the woods, Will and her posse ran into some kids from the neighboring tennis camp. One tennis camper, Brad, knew Will from school, but that didn't stop him and the rest of his tennis crew from mocking and verbally harassing the Camp Victory kids, teasing them for being fat and nerdy.
But here's where things got really interesting: Amber (Hayley Hasselhoff), who spends time reading magazines, doing quizzes and talking about fashion, also ran into the tennis camp crew — and they didn't realize she was from the fat camp. They spent time laughing and talking and Brad flirted with her. As the "thinnest" camper at Camp Victory, she "passed" for a regular teen — and reaped the benefit of not being ostracized.
The show does an excellent job of touching on sensitive subjects without being too obvious, preachy, or cloying. All of the characters are flawed, including the adults, and there's a general "let's just make it through the day" attitude that feels… real. When you're swamped with crappy (scripted) reality shows featuring characters unlike anyone you know, it's actually refreshing to watch a well-written program about people slightly more relatable.
Still: It's an ABC Family show for teens. At the end of the ep, Alistair finally showered, the tennis campers realized Amber was from fat camp, and Becca found her voice. But as long as the writers continue to layer complex emotional situations while showcasing a physically and racially diverse cast, we'll continue tuning in.