Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Huge: "Parents' Weekend, Part 2"

Image for article titled Huge: "Parents' Weekend, Part 2"

In all likelihood, this is the last any of us will see of Huge. There will probably be a DVD, and I suppose there's an outside possibility that the show's fans could bombard the ABC Family offices with track suits or something. But the ratings are soft, the show hasn't caught on in the press like it might have, and the executive who greenlit the show and seemed proud of it has moved on to a bigger, better job. Usually, the first step of any new TV executive is to sweep out everything from the previous regime that wasn't working ratings-wise and Huge is probably going to be dragged down by that problem, even as it doesn't deserve to be. It's a show that was never going to be a huge hit, but I had always hoped it would hang on to just enough of Secret Life's audience to stay alive. Instead, the Secret Life audience tunes out in droves, perhaps frightened by quality.

If this is where we're going to leave Huge, however, it's not a bad place to leave the show. Dr. Rand and Will sit and look up at the stars and talk about the futility of trying to change even something like your weight. When Dr. Rand started out trying to lose weight, she hated herself. Now, she doesn't exactly like herself, but she does hate herself less. Is that progress? Or is it just ignoring bigger problems? Does Will have the right idea, that learning to love yourself as you are is more important than trying to change what you think you don't like about yourself? Or can self-improvement be a good thing in and of itself? Can you figure out a way to change what you don't like about yourself without creating an endless race to be a person you barely know and don't really care about? These were the issues Huge grappled with, and it summarized them beautifully and succinctly in one tiny scene over the credits.

This entire episode was about getting rid of the false drama that closed last week's episode and getting back to the small, insightful scenes the show does so well. Trent finally stopped pretending Amber was his girlfriend for his dad and kissed Chloe in front of dad and his stepmom. Salty telling Will where the key to the larder was paid off in Will breaking in with Amber, the two of them eating a full row of low-fat brownies. George waved off interest from the hot sister, pining instead for Amber (somewhat improbably, I might add). Dr. Rand and Salty fought one last time, and he told her that she has a sister she's never met named Violet. Alistair found Trent's stepmom's missing pendant and put it on happily, cutting up his shirt to look more like one a woman might wear (honestly, we never got a good enough look at him for me to confirm this suspicion, but it seemed like what he was going for). It wasn't a finale full of huge moments. It was a finale full of tiny moments that felt huge in their inevitability.

It's here, I suppose, that I should talk about the irony of a show called Huge, which is about people at a fat camp and aimed at teenagers (never known for their love of subtlety), being possibly the most delicate and tiniest show on television. There's an occasional over-the-top scene, but for the most part, this show traffics in small moments, connections between people that are often fleeting and transitory. The show has been building up to a scene all season long where Becca finally asks Chloe just why they stopped being friends, but the answer is always what Becca feared it would be: Chloe just wanted to hang out with more popular people. It's still a beautifully written and performed scene, one where the characters seem a little embarrassed to even be having the conversation (which feels realistic), but it's been so long in coming that some viewers might be excused for finding it somewhat predictable.

Most TV shows are after the unexpected. They want to create that water cooler moment that brings you back the next week, still buzzing about what you saw before. John Locke was in a wheelchair. Livia Soprano takes out a hit on her son. Michael Scott drives a car into a lake. The secretary runs over the new guy's foot with a lawn tractor. All of these moments - good and bad - traffic in that instant when you gasp in shock and awe, amazed by the way the storyteller led you away from what you expected and toward something else entirely. Being surprised by a story is one of the most basic of human thrills. But I don't think it should be the only thing we build our stories off of. The more storytellers try to surprise the audience, the more the audience goes in always expecting to be surprised. But stories can do other things as well. They can move us or comfort us. They can create a way for us to re-hear truths we've long believed. They can reflect our lives as they're really lived. Surprise is a great tool, but it often seems like the only tool TV fans and critics value anymore. There's something to be said for a story that holds a mirror up to our own flaws and emotions and says, "We know how this feels, too."

The earliest storytellers were building communal experiences. People gathered around the fire and listened to someone talk about how the world came to be or why things were the way they were. It was a chance to be entertained, yes, but it was also a chance to be a part of a larger community. There's a reason so many art forms have remained communal experiences, a reason why TV as an art form has taken off so handily in tandem with the arrival of the Internet, which provides us a way to experience these sorts of stories communally. What I like best about Huge is the fact that it doesn't feel pressured to surprise or shock. It doesn't feel like it needs to do anything outrageous or over-the-top. It has a quiet certainty that if it simply builds a world that's forgiving and accepting enough and invites us all in, we'll be more than happy to come on by. Given the ratings, that doesn't seem like the case, but I hope there's room for more shows like Huge in the future. Surprise is good. Belonging is better.


Stray observations:

  • The music on this show really does sound like the music from Friday Night Lights.
  • I loved the scene where the characters all sang the camp song. It definitely felt like one of those community activities at camp, the ones that bond everyone together even more. And seeing Ian and Amber come in holding hands was a nice capper, showing just how far outside of this circle Will still is. The scene where she and Becca finally have it out was another that was a long time in coming.
  • The question now becomes: If this is the final episode, does it work as a finale for the show? While it's a bit grim in places - what with very few characters getting what they want and the interesting split between the kids on their own and with their parents - it does restate the themes the show pursued nicely, creating not a perfect final moment for the story but, rather, a serviceable one.