Ellen Gray: Winnie Holzman, creator of 'My So-Called Life,' delivers new show, and it's 'Huge'

The kids in "Huge" are spending the summer at a weight-loss camp.
The kids in "Huge" are spending the summer at a weight-loss camp.
Posted: June 28, 2010

HUGE. 9 tonight, ABC Family.

I'VE WAITED A long time to see Winnie Holzman, the creator of "My So-Called Life" and the Tony-nominated writer of Broadway's "Wicked," do another show about adolescent girls.

Now she has. And happily, it's "Huge."

Developed by Holzman, who's always worn her inner teen on her sleeve, and her daughter, Savannah Dooley, and based on a young-adult novel by Sasha Paley about kids at a weight-loss camp, "Huge" is the latest addition to ABC Family's collection of shows targeted to tween and teen girls.

Based on the two episodes I've seen so far, it's also one of the best, full of believable characters who may have both more and less to hide than those girls on "Pretty Little Liars" but at least won't be required to do it while wearing bikinis.

At least not after the initial weigh-in.

It doesn't hurt that in a medium lately obsessed with turning weight loss into entertainment, "Huge" suggests the problem's a bit more complicated than NBC's "The Biggest Loser" might lead you to believe.

After all, Becca (Raven Goodwin), the shy girl who lost 26 pounds the summer before, only to gain it all back over the fall, winter and spring, isn't the only recidivist at Camp Victory, whose no-nonsense director, Dr. Rand (Gina Torres), might have a few issues of her own.

Nikki Blonsky ("Hairspray") stars as Wil - short for Wilhelmina - who's decided that the best way to get back at her parents for shipping her off to fat camp is to see if she can spend the summer gaining weight, while the model-pretty Amber (played by David Hasselhoff's model/actress daughter Hayley Hasselhoff) is desperate to achieve a perfect body - but intrigued to discover that in a camp full of less-than-perfect ones, hers is already considered pretty close.

What quickly becomes clear in "Huge" is that though a place like Camp Victory might, as one character notes, level the playing field, hierarchies tend to spring up independent of body type.

In other words, you don't have to be thin to be popular or an outcast, a geek or a jock.

I don't know how those who make their money promising transformation to teens and their parents will deal with the implication that weight loss might be at best a temporary side effect of a summer spent being drilled by Jillian Michaels wannabes, but there's a sense here that a camp like Victory might serve the same purpose as one that specializes in kids with an illness or disability, giving them a safe place to figure out who they are apart from the thing that separates them from peers at home.

It's not that "Huge" is necessarily pro-obesity: It's just that it's pro-kid.

There are boys here, too, and one particularly cute counselor named George (Zander Eckhouse, whose father, James, played Jim Walsh on the original "Beverly Hills, 90210"), who's struggling with an imperfection that's less obvious than most.

Blonsky, despite being, like so many actresses playing teens, years older than some of her co-stars, is believably cast as Wil, whose willingness to question authority - and supply campers with contraband - quickly makes her a polarizing figure within the camp.

You probably know kids like Wil and Amber and Becca already, in your so-called real life. But on television, where a cast full of adolescents is likely to have, at most, one girl who's not model-thin, a character whose BMI's over the line ends up representing all fat kids everywhere.

What ABC Family acknowledges tonight is that the differences between any two kids - or any two human beings - can be, well, huge.

All 'hoff, all the time

Because the opportunity to mention David Hasselhoff more than once in the same column will probably never present itself again, may I just say that "The Comedy Central Roast of David Hasselhoff" has been scheduled for 10 p.m. Aug. 15?

I know, I know. You have to run off and mark your calendars.

Don't worry. I'll wait.

Osama hunter visits DaveĀ 

Gary Faulkner, the construction worker from Colorado who was detained June 13 while attempting to cross from Pakistan into Afghanistan on an unauthorized one-man mission to kill Osama bin Laden, will now take the next logical step: a guest appearance tonight on CBS' "The Late Show with David Letterman" (11:35 p.m., Channel 3).

Can a Comedy Central roast be far behind? *

Send e-mail to graye@phillynews.com.

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