Having finally wrung every possible dollar out of the Gosselin clan, TLC has moved on to exploiting people with more pressing problems than an overabundance of sickeningly sweet toddlers. The six-episode reality show “One Big Happy Family” follows the morbidly obese Cole family (father Norris, mother Tameka and children Shayne and Amber) through their weight-loss journey and the resulting struggles. After an alarming doctor’s visit during which Norris discovers that his obesity causes his health problems, Tameka decides to develop a more healthy and balanced lifestyle for her brood with the help of doctors and other medical professionals.

One Big Happy Family

Tuesdays at 9 p.m.
TLC

“One Big Happy Family” could be a relevant and important program for TLC: a truthful, unflinching look at the struggle to develop healthier habits could provide inspiration to millions of Americans and elevate the network from the reality-show dredges into which it has sunk.

However, “One Big Happy Family” is an utterly typical reality show; the manufactured conflict of each episode always neatly resolves by the episode’s end, creating a wholly artificial experience that doesn’t resemble reality at all. In the second episode, for instance, the Coles lock horns over attempts to make a healthy dinner after Amber and Norris refused to eat Tameka’s meal. After a two-minute chat with a doctor, however, the family somehow develops an iron-clad will, then power-walks as a team down the street while performing an inspirational rap about their ability to persevere.

While the show’s predictability simply makes it boring, its offensiveness makes it downright uncomfortable to watch. Members of the Cole family are presented as caricatures: Wacky music plays as Norris sits lost in thought in a doctor’s office waiting to discover the extent of his medical problems. It’s implied that his distracted nature stems from the appealing aroma of fast food. Lascivious close-ups of a funnel cake the family devours are prominently featured, as are shots of Norris pouring grease onto his turkey burger.

While the show will undoubtedly prominently feature food and the family’s struggles with it, these issues are presented in an almost joking way, turning the Coles’ problem into a source of humor. Even the name “One Big Happy Family” seems designed to poke fun at the group.

A healthy lifestyle is central to the plot of “One Big Happy Family,” but the program’s obsessive focus on activity dedicated to weight loss and healthy eating presents a skewed and uninteresting portrayal of the Coles. They seem like they would actually be an engaging bunch if allowed to discuss or participate in any activity not directly tied to healthy eating. As it stands, the program veers between boringly clinical and bafflingly offensive, making it a chore to watch.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.