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Here Comes Honey Boo Boo

If you haven't yet put your affairs in order, this would be a propitious time to do so. 

    The world as we know it is about to end. How do I know? Because "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo." 

    Many people assumed that the death knell for civilization was tolled by TLC's "Toddlers & Tiaras," a reality show about the distressing demimonde of child beauty pageants. 

    "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" is a spin-off built around the most outrageous contestant ever to wear sequins and way too much eye makeup on "Toddlers & Tiaras," 6-year-old Alana Johnson. 

    This ball of attitude and impudence is a blue-ribbon camera hog and a real handful - and that's before her mother loads her up with her patented "go-go juice," so Alana's personality is extra sparkly when she struts in front of the judges. 

    The titular nickname is a colloquial invention of Alana herself, as in, "Ain't nobody going to take home that trophy but me, honey boo boo, child." That pronouncement is made while forcefully tipping her head from side to side. 

    The series, which debuts Wednesday at 10 p.m. EDT on TLC, follows Honey Boo Boo after the sham-glamorous pageants to document her home life. The Johnsons don't live on the wrong side of the tracks in McIntyre, Ga. Their shotgun shack lies virtually on the railroad tracks. Southern Pacific brakemen could grab a bottle of go-go juice as they pass through without leaning out of the train. 

    There isn't much floor space in the homestead, between Honey Boo Boo's trophies and the bulk cleaning-supply inventories of Mama June, aka the Coupon Queen. 

    Add in Pumpkin (Lauryn), 12; Chubbs (Jessica) 15; and the pregnant Anna, 17, and things get a little squeezed. That's five females and one small bathroom. 

    Sugar Bear (the father, Mike) works seven days a week, probably as a matter of survival. And when he is home, he seems to have perfected a knack for sleeping sitting up with his eyes open. 

    In the pilot, all the girls decide to take off a few pounds, because Chubbs is about to start high school and wants to look her best. If only Mama's astonishing weight-loss theory were true, this would be a cinch. But you worry for their progress when they refer to a giant tub of cheese puffs as "the breakfast of champions." 

    One theory about why we watch so much reality television is that the marginal and maladjusted characters we see there make us feel better about ourselves. 

    So, where do Honey Boo Boo and her clan go for that reassurance? Why, to the Redneck Games in southern Georgia. Mama describes it as "sort of like the Olympics but with a lot of missing teeth and a lot of butt cracks showing." And the family really does spend a lot of time there decrying humanity's sadder examples - when that is, they're not busy bobbing for raw pigs' feet. 

    Once the pageant season begins, there's little time for diversion. As viewers of "Toddlers & Tiaras" know, this is very much a team sport. The little girls practice their modeling walk, rehearse smiling while keeping eye contact, and choreograph their saucy little dances that all seem to have been borrowed from rap videos. 

    But it's the moms who tart them up, put together the elaborate, often age-inappropriate outfits, and gesticulate crazily from the audience when their kids have their moment in the spotlight. 

    Honey Boo Boo doesn't need much encouragement, but every time she takes the stage, you can hear Mama June scream, "Work it, Smoochie!" 

    The before/ after transformation is so dramatic for this pudgy little girl, you have to wonder what that will do to her identity in the long run. And what's driving Mama June to pour so much of her time and energy into this strange pursuit? 

    If nothing else, it makes you grateful that Honey Boo Boo got her own series. Because chasing the Grand Supreme title, even for 5-6 year olds, is an expensive, all-consuming habit.

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