×

Preview: ‘Honey Boo Boo’ Adds New Dimension: Smell-O-Vision

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.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth WarrenSecond 2020

    ABC News Sets Moderators, Rules for Third Democratic Debate

    ABC News has announced the moderators for the third Democratic debate, as well as the qualification rules. The debate will be held on Thursday, Sept. 12, and will spill over to Friday, Sept. 13 if more than 10 candidates qualify. The moderating team will consist of chief anchor George Stephanopoulos, “World News Tonight” anchor and [...]

  • James Corden Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke

    James Corden Got a Little Help From Paul McCartney on His Drive to the Emmys

    Saying “Baby, I could drive your car” has proven to be a very good strategy for James Corden — never more so than when he put Paul McCartney into the highly sought passenger seat. The primetime special “Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney, Live From Liverpool” is a contender in five Emmy categories this year, [...]

  • Starz Logo

    Starz Orders Horror Comedy Pilot 'Shining Vale'

    Starz has put out a pilot order for “Shining Vale,” a horror comedy which hails from “Divorce” creator Sharon Horgan and “Trial & Error” co-creator Jeff Astrof. The prospective series is about a dysfunctional family that moves from the city to a small town into a house in which terrible atrocities have taken place. But no one [...]

  • Bethenny Frankel at the showtime Emmy

    Bethenny Frankel to Exit 'Real Housewives of New York' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bethenny Frankel is stepping away from the “Real Housewives” franchise. Variety has learned exclusively that Frankel is poised to exit Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York” ahead of its upcoming twelfth season. Frankel first joined the acclaimed reality series back when it premiered back in 2008 before exiting the series in 2010 during the [...]

  • Dolly Parton

    BBC Commissions Dolly Parton Feature Documentary

    The BBC has commissioned a feature length documentary about country music legend Dolly Parton, it announced Wednesday. The documentary, tentatively titled “Dolly’s Country” will air on BBC Two this fall as part of a season of programs dedicated to country music. The broadcaster announced earlier in the day that it had acquired Ken Burns’ upcoming [...]

  • UCP to Develop Ann Shen’s 'Bad

    UCP to Develop Ann Shen’s 'Bad Girls Throughout History' as Anthology Series

    Universal Content Productions (UCP) is developing an anthology series based on Ann Shen’s book “Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World.” The project will be titled “Bad Girls,” with each episode featuring a different influential woman throughout history, including famous figures like Ada Lovelace, Rosa Parks, Mata Hari, and Ruth Bader [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content