TLC has gone from big families in the numeric sense (see “Jon & Kate Plus 8,” “18 Kids and Counting,” etc.) to a plus-sized family of the poundage variety, showcasing the Coles, a quartet who tip the scales at a combined 1,400 pounds. The pre-New Year’s premiere doesn’t suggest the highest of hopes for the six-episode series, which, like a lot of similar fare, wants to have its cake in exploiting the program’s corpulent clan and eat it.
One Big Happy Family” joins a TLC lineup that often seems devoted more to pithy titles than anything else — and usually involves some variation on the sitcom vision of “family.”
In this case, the characters are boiled down by their “The Biggest Loser”-like graphic descriptions: Name, age, weight. Tameka (36, 380) is the hard-working mom, while her 41-year-old husband Norris (340) is a stay-at-home dad. Yet we’re supposed to believe that the two have never really been concerned about the health implications of obesity until they’re told that son Shayne, 14, is in danger of becoming a diabetic if he can’t shed some of his 336 pounds.
So many Americans are wrestling with their weight that it’s easy to identify with the Coles’ struggles when it comes to eating better and exercising more, as their doctors propose. Daughter Amber, meanwhile (age 16, weight 348), whines about being forced to eat a turkey burger or endure drill-team practice as if she’s being waterboarded.
As TV, “Happy Family’s” plight works best if you can ignore the manipulation involved — such as sending the four to a water park, as other patrons snigger when their weight prevents them from riding one of the attractions.
Actually, had the Coles not experienced their “We must lose weight” epiphany in the second half-hour, the show might have been somewhat refreshing. As is, it feels like a warmed-over addition to TV’s weight-loss regimen, except with an African-American brood at its core.
After the Wet ‘N Wild excursion, Tameka says defiantly about strangers gawking, “If you don’t like it, don’t look at it.”
Sorry, TLC, but that sounds like an appropriate response.