Huge, ABC Family. Episodes: ABC Family, Hulu. Based on the book by Sasha Paley, Simon & Schuster.
The Plot: A summer at weight loss camp.
The Good: This is not about fat teens at a weight loss camp. This is about teens at summer camp.
Will is sarcastic and angry. She doesn’t want to be at weight loss camp and loudly declares her pride in her body.
Amber is cute and optimistic and fully embraces her camp experience, including losing weight. The two clash because their outlooks are so different.
I love Amber, because there is such a niceness and decency about her. She looks for the best and is full of hope and anticipation.
And I love Will, because so rarely are teenage girls allowed to be angry, to be loud and vocal in their anger. It can be damn unattractive, but it’s real. Two very different girls, but both very appealing as characters. I want Amber to achieve her desires. I want Will to be true to herself but to have her anger be constructive rather than destructive.
In addition to Amber and Will, the other teens are Becca, a bookworm and nerd who organizes a LARP event. Chloe, who wants a boyfriend and popularity no matter what the cost. Ian, a musician who is friends with Will but likes Amber. Alistair, who is awkward and struggling to be true to himself. Trent, the camp jock and cool guy who slowly reveals multiple dimensions.
On the grown up side, there is the Camp Director, Dr. Rand, an alumni of camp who is rebuilding a relationship with the father who left her as a child. Her father, the camp cook, who is blunt but full of wisdom and makes one wonder, why did this seemingly nice (if gruff) guy abandon his family? George, the counselor who develops a crush on Amber even though he realizes it’s inappropriate.
Huge addresses issues that are true for any teen, no matter what weight. Does he like me? How do you tell a friend he smells? What if you don’t want to shower in front of strangers? It’s set at camp, so these teens do what all teens do at camp. They reinvent themselves. At home, they may not be cool. Here, at camp, they can be, if they want to be. The “she would be pretty if” girl becomes the camp hottie, with all the boys wanting her. Reinvention is not just about being in a new place with new people. It’s about not being around old people in an old place, so reinvention can be internal. The cool jock can embrace an inner artistic, softer side.
It is a weight loss camp, so there is a coach who pushes kids to play basketball and run; snacks are forbidden; the food is cooked to certain nutritional requirements. Amber puts up “thinspiration” pictures. Will counters with “fatspiration” pictures. Viewed in its entiriety, Huge is not about weight. Huge is about that huge moment in your life when you have the ability to recognize who you really are and change it if you want.
Huge could have been set in any type of summer camp. By setting itself in a weight loss camp, it allows for a more diverse cast. It’s a relief to watch a show featuring teens that are not all unrealistic size zeros and twos. Hayley Hasselhoff, who plays Amber, is gorgeous. So is Raven Goodwin who plays Becca. This is a cast of actors in a show where they can be the Musician, Popular, Mean, where on most other shows, they would be relegated to the role of Fat Friend. Each of these actors does a wonderful job of showing the layers and depth of their character. It’s a bit sad to think that on other shows, they wouldn’t get the chance to shine and to show their acting chops. For that reason alone — for giving these actors the opportunity to continue to show off just how good they are — I hope this show gets renewed.