I admit it. I was among those who considered TLC's surprise smash hit Here Comes Honey Boo Boo a train wreck, signaling the beginning of the end of western culture. But I have finally come around and with a stunning realization that maybe, just maybe, we have seen this before.
A generation ago, a supporting character on a popular television show who was presented as a former gang member and high school dropout was, nonetheless, lovable and quickly became a huge star in his own right. I am speaking, of course, of Henry Winkler, aka Arthur Fonzarelli. The similarities between these two pop culture phenomenons are striking.
Like seven year old Alana Thompson, who is known primarily by her nickname Honey Boo Boo, Arthur Fonzerelli became known simply as The Fonz or Fonzie. He was originally a supporting character on the decade-long ABC hit sitcom Happy Days and he soon became the main character. Honey Boo Boo was originally featured on Toddlers & Tiaras and her spin-off became a standalone success starring her entire family: Mama, Sugar Bear, Chickadee, Chubbs and Pumpkin. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the show's fourth episode attracted almost three million viewers, beating the coverage of the Republican National Convention in its time slot.
The Fonz made "ayyyyy" part of the national lexicon just as Honey Boo Boo has given us "redneckinize," "beautimous'" and "biscuit," among others, and added "go-go Juice" and "sketti" to our dinner menus. Just like The Fonz, Honey Boo Boo has us all rooting for the underdog, whether it be that likable auto mechanic or the spunky, would-be junior beauty queen. At their core, both Fonzie and Honey Boo Boo are unapologetically true to themselves and full of heart. While they both get into mischief, neither seem to have a malicious bone in their bodies. That is the true appeal of both characters. Like all of us, they try and often fail, but through the ups and downs they keep on smiling. That's a lesson that most all of us would do well to learn.
So to Honey Boo Boo and her family I offer this honest apology. You are not the beginning of the end. You are a call-back to a simpler time, when television families had their challenges resolved in 22 minutes, plus commerical breaks, offering some laughs and leaving us feeling a little bit better about ourselves. I officially redneckinize my mistake.