Despite its ursine-sounding title and circus-like characters, TLC's latest gem, "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," is not, sad to report, a show about a plucky bear trying to make it big in the wilderness.
It is, however, about a bunch of untamed animals - or so it would seem to those of us who were raised to cover our mouths when we sneeze and not eat something called a "Cheez Ball" for breakfast or off the ground.
This increasingly popular - and, naturally, controversial - reality show is about Alana Thompson, a chubby 6-year-old "Toddlers & Tiaras" alum from the Macon, Ga., area, who calls herself "Honey Boo Boo Child," and her family: Mama, her 309-pound 32-year-old mother; Sugar Bear, her confused and tiny, dip-spitting father; Chickadee, her 17-year-old pregnant sister whose most poignant line so far has been, "The baby's hurtin' mah biscuit!"; Chubbs, her 15-year-old sister who is trying to lose weight through an innovative exercise move called Lying on the Floor; and Pumpkin, her 12-year-old mouth-breathing tomboy of a sister, whom I'm, quite frankly, afraid to look at because the one time I did I saw her bobbing for raw pigs' feet at something called the Redneck Games.
Why oh why couldn't this have been a show about a plucky bear trying to make it big in the wilderness?
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The problem so far with "Honey Boo Boo" is that it's, albeit regretfully so, rather enjoyable to watch.
In spite of, and maybe because of, the atrocities being committed against aesthetics, hygiene, nutrition, education and the English language, lots of people are tuning in to this show - supposedly more than both the RNC and DNC garnered for their high-profile speeches.
And they say Americans don't like to watch things with subtitles.
The show's popularity is not surprising, though. One of the most necessary aspects of a happy life is to be reminded from time to time that no matter how bad your day has been, no matter how many carbs you ate after 3 p.m., no matter how underachieving, dumb or useless you might feel, that you, by God, are not the worst-case scenario of humanity. And this show helps you see that.
But at what point does our gawking become rude? After all, these are real people, whose only crime seems to be, well, the actual crimes they committed. Both Mama and Sugar Bear have records for petty thievery. Go figure.
There are so many things to be appalled by here: their unkempt looks, their weight, that weird sore that randomly appeared next to Mama's eye and no one ever talked about, the fact that Mama has four kids from four different guys (at least three of whom have criminal records), their mispronunciations, their inarticulateness, their prominently displayed wall of extra toilet paper, their mud-bogging, their never-ending gassiness, their Dumpster-diving, their road kill-eating, their -- well, Mama's -- "forklift foot," and, good Lord, let's not forget about them what brung us: the pageants. The pageants!
Little Miss Alana has been called the Shirley Temple of her generation, which is about as shocking to me as allowing Lindsay Lohan to portray Liz Taylor. But I don't want to begrudge a child her glory. So let's just call her the Garbage Pail Kids version: Squirelly Trample, a loud, ADHD-ridden, belly-baring, moon-faced child with a wig of curls, who entertains a generation that demands less tap-dancing, less on-key singing and many, many, many more good ship lollipops dipped in Mountain Dew.
"Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" is, of course, another example of non-contributing, untalented fame- and money-seekers manufacturing some antics to hold our attention for 15 minutes, but at the end of the day the family does have a lot of heart. They seem very loving, optimistic and extraordinarily comfortable with who they are, and who can fault them for this? Sure, they should maybe consider picking up a honey book-book every once in a while, but hey, they're producing the only show on television that I watch with rapt attention ... while covering both my eyes.
Liz Farrell is the editor of Lowcountry Current. Follow her at twitter.com/elizfarrell.