It's that time again! Time for another season of mud floppin', sketti eating and, evidently, a new horror called a "cup-a-fart." Yes, "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" is back -- or it will be back in just a few more days.
That's good news for some reality TV fans as Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson and her oh-so-quotable family make for must-see TV for them. For others? Well, let's just say those who don't watch the show are just as passionate when it comes to how they feel about the gang from McIntyre, Ga. -- maybe even more so.
Critics of the show often accuse the production of exploiting its subjects, as if the family isn't "in on the joke" of their own behavior. They've pointed to "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" as evidence of the dumbing down of America, called it crude, uncivilized entertainment.
Some find fault with the show's kiddie-pageant, "Toddlers & Tiaras" roots, and they find the young star at the center of it all -- known for her sassy quips and ability to play to the cameras -- to be more problematic than precocious.
But the truth is many of those same critics are making big assumptions, many of which just don't apply to this bunch.
It's not that Mama June, Sugar Bear and the rest are really high-brow folks in disguise. They're guilty of being exactly who they are. But just because their idea of fun is usually silly, free and undeniably gross (see "cup-a-fart," above) doesn't mean they don't bring anything of value to the small screen.
Those who've only seen promos and sneak peeks might miss "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo's" real appeal. Hidden somewhere in between the easy laughs and the ridiculous situations are a couple of surprises.
For one thing, this family doesn't fit any stereotype. Say what you will about their mud-loving ways, their road-kill menu or even their ample waistlines -- and many non-fans say quite a bit about those things -- but this family will let it roll right off. They're truly comfortable with who they are.
And it seems they want others to feel that way too. Mama June and the girls often host fundraisers to benefit anti-bullying campaigns. In fact, the whole family is vocal in their enthusiasm about acceptance, whether they mean acceptance for themselves, their extended family -- including a gay, HIV-positive uncle who's sometimes part of the show -- or those from all walks of life in their own community.
Their other charm is simple: love. Sure, that might sound a little too twee to be true, but that's really what makes "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" work beyond the obvious gags. The hijinks would get old if that's all that brought these people together. But it's not.
The bizarre is always balanced with what counts: hugging, laughing and getting along better than almost any family you could find on the small screen and better than many you could find off-screen.
See for yourself when "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" returns to TLC July 17 at 9 p.m.
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First published July 13 2013, 5:08 AM