TLC and its trailer-trash superstars cross another stinky, shame-free threshold
It’s a gimmick, of course — and a completely unnecessary one at that — that the premiere of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” incorporates a “Watch ‘n Sniff” stunt, with a half-dozen nondescript smells available via cards being distributed in conjunction with the July 17 premiere.
Frankly, TLC’s standout series — the “Toddlers & Tiaras” spinoff that noisily crowded its way into the cultural zeitgeist — doesn’t really need the assist to make its mark on TV any more tangible.
As I said when the show premiered (can that really have been only a year ago?), “Honey Boo Boo” is both “disturbingly condescending and almost irresistibly cheeky,” reveling in an “exploitation of deep-fried Southern rubes.” What made the formula pop, ultimately, is how the show managed to unite disparate constituencies — big-city types (including media folk always on the lookout for colorful oddballs) who embraced its reality-version-of-“The Beverly Hillbillies” conceit, and a large Southern contingent able to laugh along with it and probably understand the garbled dialogue without help from subtitles.
One can gripe about the stereotypes associated with the current wave of what might charitably be called Redneck TV, but in a niche cable universe, attracting that very audience has turned out to be winning proposition.
The whole “scratch ‘n sniff” idea is nothing new, as those who endured John Waters’ early-’80s artifact “Polyester” can attest. (If memory serves, the movie lured you in with flower and new-car smells before the really rancid odors landed. We’ll skip spoiling the particulars here.)
So dispensing with that part of the festivities, the new season is really just more of the same, with the clan attending a wrestling match (the only sport that might be more heavily scripted than a “Honey Boo Boo” episode), spending a lot of time talking about farting and planning a birthday for family patriarch Sugar Bear, who is turning 41, and doesn’t look a day over 59.
The one missed opportunity, seemingly, is that these first two half-hours exhibit no evidence the family’s life has changed in any way thanks to its new-found fame. Granted, the producers and TLC might be reluctant to tamper with success, but it strains credibility to act like a sumptuous meal of roadkill (“Roadkill is yummy!” 7-year-old Alana exults) is the best they can do these days, especially after reports of a sizable salary increase. OK, it’s not Charlie Sheen money, but that still buys a lot of hog jowls.
That said, mama June (the real star of the show) still produces some moments and asides that would be difficult to script, from referring to the days of black-and-white TV and no cellphones as “medieval times” to her epic struggles to get into and out of a Go-kart. And yes, you’ll never guess what we’re reminded that “kart” rhymes with.
Despite the show’s underlying themes extolling a family that loves each other and self-acceptance (such as June referring to her ample frame as “voluptuous”), the series sets up its intrepid heroes to be laughed at, not with.
Odds are the clock has already begun ticking on the “Honey Boo Boo” fame meter, but for now, TLC and the Shannon family can each enjoy the ride. And if it doesn’t take much of a cynic to see the possibility of roadkill in the latter’s future, hey, I hear it’s dee-licious.