Remember all those years CBS spent flirting with producing an unscripted version of “The Beverly Hillbillies?” They no longer need bother, since TLC has pretty much done just that with “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” a spinoff of the Georgia pageant family that went viral from “Toddlers & Tiaras.” Disturbingly condescending and almost irresistibly cheeky, this exploitation of deep-fried Southern rubes is balanced by the fact they’ll all likely be much richer, ultimately, for the experience — and nobody even had to strike oil or cut a sex tape.
While 6-year-old pageant contestant Alana is ostensibly the show’s focus, the real star here (a term used advisedly) is her 32-year-old mom June, whose estrogen-heavy brood also includes daughters age 12, 15 and 17. Do the math, then factor in that the oldest is pregnant.
In the half-hour premiere (which will follow “Toddlers,” naturally), the family attends a kind of redneck Olympics, where the events include things like having teenage girls bob for pig’s feet — an extremely un-kosher version of a wet T-shirt contest.
Not since “Mad Max” was dubbed from Australian for a U.S. audience have there been so many subtitles on a program ostensibly shot in English, but without them, deciphering June’s accent and malapropisms would confound even those who could understand Bane’s dialogue in the new Batman movie.
If there’s a silver lining to what’s clearly a carefully plotted exercise (one that conspicuously carries an actual “writer” credit), it’s that June and her girls don’t appear to have many self-esteem issues despite the family members’ extra poundage, though one does press mom to join her in trying to shed some. Of course, this is discussed over a breakfast of cheese balls, so take anything here with a super-sized shaker of salt.
“You gotta take pride in how you look,” June says at one point, objecting to the “vajiggle jaggle” on display at the redneck pow-wow.
As for Alana (a.k.a. Honey Boo Boo, which is at least preferable to her sister’s nickname, Chubbs), she does get a chance to participate in another pageant, and her sobs at the outcome — however fleeting — are the one moment that feels remotely real, and where “Honey” leaves a bit of a sour aftertaste.
One suspects historians will not look fondly on a period that saw children thrust into the media glare in this fashion, but TLC can derive some comfort from knowing its programming continues a long tradition of carnival barkers and sideshow attractions, albeit calibrated to a YouTube-friendly digital age.