NEW YORK — The message of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” seems to be: Don’t worry, be happy, consequences be damned.
This devil-may-care philosophy seems to work fine for June Shannon and her outrageous household, at least as captured for the TLC reality show that burst on the scene last summer as a backwoods celebration of mischief-making, fart jokes and dietary excess that would rattle Paula Deen.
It returns at 9 tonight with more of the same.
Set in tiny McIntyre, Ga., the show continues to plunder Southern and rural stereotypes. On a hand-painted sign, “Peaches” is spelled “Peches” (proof that Southerners can’t read or write). The soundtrack is larded with cornpone country music. And to reinforce the notion that this is an alien culture whose spoken tongue is unintelligible, the dialogue is often subtitled.
To its credit, “Boo Boo” has a sweet tone. It remains a big-hearted show.
Then again, most everything about it is super-sized, especially June, who, at 33, is a bleach-blond Buddha living with four daughters sired by four fathers, including her youngest, 7-year-old Alana (aka Honey Boo Boo), whose dad is Mike (“Sugar Bear”), a 41-year-old chalk miner who serves as resident patriarch and de facto granddad to baby Kaitlyn, whose mother is June’s 18-year-old daughter, Anna (“Chickadee”).
This brood of seven lives in a three-bedroom/one bath home and gets by, according to June, on $80 a week in grocery costs.
How do they do it? June is an accomplished coupon-cutter and a thrifty homemaker who, in the season premiere, scores a culinary coup: a dead hog struck by a car up the road.
“We’re not really hunters in our family,” she explains, so road kill is always welcome. “We bring it home, skin it, cook it, eat it, save money. That’s the way the cycle of life works in our family.”
Warning: Watching them prepare the family’s pork-and-beans feast could turn you into a vegan.
However hard-pressed, the family has its share of fun, although some of the high jinks seem staged for the reality-TV lens.
In one scene, Alana, 13-year-old Lauryn (“Pumpkin”) and 16-year-old Jessica (“Chubbs”) wrap themselves in plastic bags, pour cooking oil on the floor, grease themselves all over with gobs of butter and turn the house into what they call “Redneck Slip ‘n Slide — Extreme Home Edition.”
They and the house are soon an oozy mess. But it may be the most benign use of butter ever seen on the show. Reflecting the family’s high-cholesterol regimen, Alana recites what to her must seem like the three major food groups: “butter, sketti (spaghetti) and ketchup.”
“Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” centers on Mama June, but title character Alana, who’s a chunky hybrid of child stars Shirley Temple and Gary Coleman, is rarely out of sight.
Indeed, it was her participation in beauty pageants on TLC’s “Toddlers & Tiaras” that snagged her a series of her own, and she makes the most of her stardom to a degree beyond brattiness.
Following in the family tradition, she is a specialist in jokes inspired by flatulence, such as when she boasts that her secret pro-wrestling move “would be the Cup-a-Fart: You fart in your hand and throw it at the enemy’s face.”
Is this really the way for a 7-year-old to be encouraged to behave? Sure, when it serves the interests of a reality-TV show. A viewer may cringe at what may lie ahead for her when the cameras are gone and the audience’s amusement at her overwrought bid for attention has passed. But there’s no point in worrying about tomorrow. No one appearing on this show ever seems to.
The point of the show is to marvel at how these folks exist in the Now, a redneck state of Zen with no apparent regard for health, family planning, economic advancement or other issues imposed by an uncertain future. Theirs is a live-for-today lifestyle the audience is free to admire for the moxie it implies, while mocking them for their abject recklessness.
Not that there aren’t moments any viewer can relate to.
For instance, after a somewhat chaotic birthday party for Sugar Bear (the party theme: his favorite TV show, “The Dukes of Hazzard”), he whisks the girls out of the house with designs on a little romance with his woman.
“If there’s any chance of June being a little frisky,” he reasons, “it’s on my birthday.”
In their boudoir, he presents her with a cream-filled, candle-lit cupcake.
June is unimpressed.
But in the show’s final moments, shot discreetly from out in the yard, viewers can hear June submitting with a line that would do justice to a top-notch sitcom: “Just be quick!”
As set-up as it seems, no scene in the hour rings truer.