Readers: You praised Bailey with perfect scores like none we have seen in recent memory, and we took your hint. Please welcome your newest staff writer, the gorgeous and talented Bailey Quarters!
Several years ago, when ye olde internet was still pretty new, I applied for an online game where you had to put in your character’s physical make-up — height, weight, etc. I had no idea what a normal woman weighed, and it never occurred to me to pop those stats into Yahoo. I never knew anyone who announced their weight, and since we had many family friends who resembled the Michelin Man, I just placed my best guess. My normal woman weighed a cool 245 pounds, and her trademark was wearing leather pants and a cowboy hat. Why I wasn’t accepted for the game was baffling to me!
Shaq is ready to take on that kind of mentality by whipping six young Florida fatties into shape on Shaq’s Big Challenge, and I love these kids already because I think they would’ve seen that 245 and raised it to a solid 4 hundo. I defy you to find anything better! Welcome to Shaq’s Big Challenge!
Away we go!
The show opens with a dramatic montage informing us that children will die younger than their parents. Right away we see one of The Chosen Six being loaded into an ambulance, glancing mournfully at the camera, and if you’re anything like me then you are now officially hooked for the season. The narrator explains that the government has done nothing to stop childhood obesity, and I imagine the government is enjoying a hearty laugh at this moment. A good way to stop childhood obesity is to not let your child eat a Belgian waffle encased in a pizza, Mom.
One man is ready to take on the challenge of curing this disease, and it’s Shaquille O’Neal, who immediately starts speaking in the third person. He said to himself, Shaquille O’Neal, do something. Great! He immediately calls the children the Bad News Bears of fitness, and in return, the largest boy of the crew farts on him during a sit-up. We’re only one minute in and already this show is all fat jokes and fart jokes. I am in love. Shaq will provide the kids with a staff including a trainer and a nutritionist, who asks one boy the last time he ate a baby carrot. He says never, but in his defense, he’s 182 pounds at age 11. He didn’t gain that weight from eating baby carrots, he was too busy gnoshing on an actual baby.
Shaq plans to take this challenge to schools and the government, which seems a bit over the top for an ABC reality show. Already he seems like an asshole about all of it, slamming his fists on his gym equipment and marching pissily down the hallway. Shaq is the kind of dude who would audition for American Idol and then tell Simon that he’s sooo much better than that stupid show anyway. One of his advisors tells him this will be harder than those four NBA rings he has (braggart), and Shaq shrugs it off and says everything will be easy. Sure it will be. He then announces the slogan for the show and looks so immensely proud of it, you want to like it, but it’s “To be or not to be fat, that is what the program is about.” Um. Does this series not have a writing team?
The show finally starts and Shaq says he has six kids of his own (holy shit) so this will be easy for him. He plays some basketball with his kid and jokingly berates him, or at least it sounds that way, but Shaq speaks as though he has a mouth full of marbles so it’s hard to tell. This is a shame because he’s going over plans like arriving to the governor’s office butt nekked, and I totally want the deets.
First we’re going to accompany Shaq on his trip to meet James, our boy who has never tasted a carrot. Shaq reads his stats from a notecard while he drives his car, which seems like a pretty terrible idea. James’ dream is to become a professional wrestler, and his reaction to meeting Shaq is to say “…wow.” He loves the sports figures, I see. His mouth is nearly watering from that excitement, or possibly from the sub and cheeseburger topped with fries that he’s currently shoveling into his gaping maw. Shaq expresses irritation that James is eating more than he is, and then shows off his muscles. James reaches to touch them but Shaq pulls away and says no touching. Shaq has roid rage.
James’ mom says she gives into the convenience of fast food because she’s a single parent, and when she makes popcorn she has to put two whole sticks of butter in there for the kid. Shaq is baffled and promptly gets into a disagreement with the boy about what kind of donut is better. I think it’s another joke, but Shaq raises his voice so his opinion can win. James burps in Shaq’s face, which pretty much settles that debate, but Shaq says he plans to make him the team captain. The smell of wet cheeseburger gets Shaq hot.
They go outside to confront a boy who calls James fat, which is sad because he seems like a sweet kid, and bullies are bad, and blah blah emocakes. When Shaq drags the bully over though and says “You are James’ friend now,” I’m pretty sure this is the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I guess it’s a little cooler than a parent intervening and asking him to please be nice to his baby, but not by much. The bully (named Ashley, so he has no right to mock) says they’re cool and walks away, visibly trying not to laugh. Man, James is going to get dickslapped in the school locker room soon.
Cut to Shaq randomly singing in the car, explaining that black people don’t know words, but they know melodies. He’s butchering the Cheers theme and really doesn’t know the melody that well, though he looks mighty pleased with himself, which further proves the American Idol theory. He knows he’s great, so screw the rest of you!
He’s on his way to meet Chris, a Cuban kid who wants to be a baseball player. He’s 11 and 206 pounds, and he loves big dinners. Shaq doesn’t know what Cuban people eat, but he says Cuba loves him. Chris immediately starts wheezing when Shaq comes to the door. They get ready to sit down to a meal of sausage and Chris says his greatest weakness is portion control. You have to admire that the kid understands his problem, whereas the last boy was convinced he was not fat. Shaq tells Chris’ mom muchas gracias for the food, but he trash-talks it for his confessional interview later on. They break out the baby albums next, and Shaq says, “Look at you crying.” Chris counters that every baby cries, right? He’s met with a firm “I didn’t cry.” I think Shaq is deluded enough to believe the things that come out of his mouth.
They go to Chris’ bedroom to have a chat, and he tears up about other children calling him fat. Shaq does not console him because he doesn’t understand tears. Shaq is a robot.
Next we meet a girl named Ariel, 14, 211 pounds. She seems adorable, and Shaq actually treats her nicely too, telling her she’s going to have all the boys. She stares at him and says “Duh.” Now I want her to gain weight through this program, shut up with your sass mouth. Her segment is approximately 20 seconds long because she’s rude.
Kit is our next contestant. She’s 14, 263 pounds, and into anime. Doesn’t that say it all? She draws some kind of gothic symbol onto her face with an eye pencil and Shaq announces that he loves freaks, so that’s pretty comforting. He tells the girl’s mom that Kit will be beautiful just like her, and everyone’s heart is warmed. This is sort of a backhanded compliment though, because first he called her a freak and now he says she’s ugly. I know, I’m reading too much into this, but Shaq’s a dick.
Our next boy is Kevin, age 13, who weighs 230 pounds. He starts flicking his wrist and calls himself pretty, and Shaq tells us that Kevin has been teased in school. You’re kidding! Shaq says Kevin needs to become a comedian to offset the bullying, and an example is to say, “Yeah, I got a big stomach, but tell your girl to come rub on it.” Everyone laughs because Kevin is gay.
We cut to Shaq driving to his next destination and declaring that this project will be a tough task, because now…there’s Walter. He’s 14 and 285 pounds, and it goes without saying that his face is severely acne-ridden. He appears to get breathless halfway through his sentences, and he doesn’t even get up when Shaq comes to the door. What the hell? Let’s put this boy on Tard Watch. When he does get up, I sort of wish he would’ve just stayed down because it’s all too apparent that his breasts are bigger than mine, and I’m saddened by this fact. He brings Shaq to the kitchen and shows him a cabinet full of his sippy cups and baby bottles. Shaq makes some kind of siren noise when he finds boxes and boxes of pizza on the stove, but he gives a knowing look to the camera first, so I think he’s just telling us he’s in on Tard Watch. Warning, warning, we’ve got a Code Red.
Walter plays a lot of video games in his recliner, which he’s happy to tell us about. He says one kid at school calls him Pizza Face, which is pretty obvious because he does have some “acme,” as he calls it. Seriously. I felt bad about what I wrote before for like a split second, but not anymore, sorry Walt. Shaq asks if Walter will do what he tells him to, and he grunts an answer, which totally means no. He says two boys were betting on when he’ll quit the program, and Shaq says that after he completes it, he wants him to punch those boys right in the face. What a mentor this guy is! Maybe he’ll buy Walter some weed, too. Shaq says Dr. O’Neal will rectify the situation. What qualifies him to be hosting this show, I wonder?
Walter’s ancient parents appear from nowhere and insist that he eats constantly from morning to night. For evidence they ask how much he weighs now. When even your parents are mocking you, shit is going rough, my friend. Walter is speechless with shame. He says he weighs 280, and I’m waiting for Shaq to interject that he’s actually 285, but he takes the high road. Color me shocked. Walter promises to stick to the program, but we’ll see about that.
Shaq offers some encouraging words about how he’s got a really great team, but before we go to commercial, we see highlights of the kids failing at the President’s Physical Fitness Challenge. I remember that from gym and it always sucked balls, so I can relate. Shaq says this was much harder than he thought it would be. I’m sure the girl who gets hauled off in the ambulance agrees.
After the break we meet the trainer, Dr. Carlon Colker, who is lovingly massaging Shaq’s calf. Dr. Colker is the voice of reason here, informing Shaq that meeting with the governor and conducting this whole experiment could be a big embarrassment for him. I admire his use of the words “could be,” because saying “it will be” would’ve been apt as well. Dr. Colker says it will be a tough road and Shaq says to pull out the ATVs, baby! The camera lingers on Shaq just long enough to let you know this is the best line he’s got. Swell.
Now it’s time for the President’s Physical Fitness Challenge, which James finds hard to say. It’s a lot of syllables, baby, I feel you. The test consists of push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and a mile run. Dr. Colker says this shouldn’t be a problem, right? He’s no longer the voice of reason and now just a fellow idiot.
As the kids lament that they’ve never been able to do push-ups, it’s obvious that Kit is wearing eye makeup and earrings, which irritates me. Who wears accessories to work out on a hot day in Miami, especially when she’s obese? Kit says her problem is that everywhere you go, it’s just a big food sign saying to eat me. Fittingly, she briefly resembles the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.
The kids line up to do their push-ups, and Chris goes first. He caves before he can even do one, but Shaq pats him on the ass as a reward. Chris is disappointed at his progress, and the jury is out on the bottom slap. Ariel comes up next and also fails, but she has confidence that’ll change. I like this attitude but I’m still put off by her prior sass mouth. I’m holding a grudge with a 14-year-old.
Walter immediately collapses underneath his own weight, but he says it’s the closest he’s ever come to doing a push-up. Kevin gives him a side glance as if to say, “Girl, I know you did not.” He manages to pull off six push-ups, the most out of anyone, so he’s proud even though Dr. Colker says he should’ve done 24.
It’s time for sit-ups, and the kids roll about while Colker gleefully shouts “None!” Jubilee! Walter sprawls out for his turn and lets that ripper fly. Colker appears to laugh so hard he falls down. Remind me to hire this guy as my personal trainer should I ever find myself in the Sunshine State. He tells Shaq that all of these kids are in terrible shape, and Shaq slams his fist into a metal pole and says he doesn’t like this test. I wish I were kidding. He then turns green and explodes out of his garments.
After he calms himself, he encourages the kids to pick their heads up and stop being down, because it’s time to run the mile. They start to trot and Walter takes the lead, prompting Kevin’s mom to yell “Go Walter!” adorably. Then he immediately falls behind. Kevin jogs along at a solid pace while his dad encourages him. His mom just likes Walter more, I suppose. We’re back to him again, and Shaq says he’s basically his favorite at this point, so I guess that means James isn’t the team captain anymore. It was probably not a smart idea to establish that with the first kid he met anyway.
Kevin and James finish, followed by Chris and the girls. Walter is still makin’ it happen (oh, great), so Shaq forces everyone to band together and run with him. This is a sweet gesture but you can see in some of their faces that they’re like, what the hell? We already ran our mile. Walter says everyone cheered for him and it felt good. Shaq and the doctor agree that things are going great, but as soon as the kids are gone, they talk crap about what the kids couldn’t do. They flunked, says Shaq! This guy is so helpful, I can hardly take it.
Back at his house, Shaq interacts awkwardly with one of his children and makes phone calls to find a childhood obesity specialist. He has never heard of ye olde internet, I suppose. The woman on the other line says, “You wanted to WHAT?” Mouth full of marbles, I’m telling you. He listens to different automated messages on telephone lines and keeps asking if anyone is there, hello, hello? Shaq can barely function in daily life. He finally gets in touch with a specialist and then works his child to the bone. The kid is like three, and when he misses a basket, Shaq has him do push-ups and sprints.
Now we accompany Shaq to the hospital with the children, and he pulls a gag that he’s done many times this episode, pretending to hit his head on a doorway. Get it, he’s tall! Oh, that wit. He meets Dr. William Muinos, the obesity specialist, who interviews the kids. He asks Walter if he gets headaches a lot, to which Walt answers, “Only when I get up and accidentally hit my head on my bed.” Okay…
The doctor confirms that Walter is retarded. Code Blue, Code Blue!
Dr. Muinos sets up a BMI test to measure how much body fat each child has. They’re all off the scale, so they’re put in for MRIs to examine where the fat is. I’m no doctor, but can this dude not see where the fat is? Hello. James comes out in a hospital gown, and he and Shaq stare at each other strangely for a long period of time. Shaq enjoys children quite a bit, methinks.
Up next is the stress test to determine their physical capacities, which I have a feeling will be rather low. Just a hunch! While Walter slaves on the treadmill in a mesh top, Shaq asks if he wants to talk to Britney Spears one day, but he says he’s no good at talking to girls. Yes, that’s the only problem standing in his way there. As predicted, these tests go miserably. They should last 20 to 30 minutes, but Ariel in particular collapses after five.
The doctor sits down with Shaq to explain that the kids are all obese or morbidly obese. “Morbidly obese, to me, sounds like death,” says Shaq, the owner of a fourth grade education. Dr. Muinos stares blankly and replies, “It is like death.” He has to explain what morbidity means. You can see the wheels turning uselessly inside Shaq’s enormous head, so it’s time to just move on. Now comes the hard part, telling the kids and their parents the results of their exams.
Chris is considered morbidly obese. The doctor says he’s like a bomb ready to blow up, which is one of the most hilariously mean things I’ve ever heard. The other kids are equally as large and are startled when their parents are upset. Shaq comforts Ariel’s mom by telling her, “Mom, don’t cry. Doc and the Shaq is here.” Ariel’s mom laughs in his face.
The machine cannot even attempt to measure the fat on Walter’s body. Kit’s body fat percentage is 50%, the highest of any other participant. The doctor says they’re not there to point fingers, but by saying that, he basically points the finger right at these fat children. Shaq inquires as to how the kids will actually lose weight. He obviously has no game plan. He asks about liposuction and diet pills for children. This automatically informs us that he is nowhere near qualified to be helping anyone, let alone on a television show. He says he never knew what the terms “obese” and “morbidly obese” actually meant before. Shaq is painfully dumb.
It’s time to meet nutritionist Joy Bauer to help the kids improve their diets. Shaq will be going on the same diet to get down to 10% body fat. She makes him promise to follow the nutritional plans and he says he will, but you know he’s lying. Joy and Shaq show up to James’ house with bags of junk food, the equivalent of the 12 fast food meals he typically consumes in a week. She shows him all the food he usually eats, and Shaq degrades James by rubbing his stomach to show how fat he is.
Joy describes all the calories in the foods she’s brought. She holds up a model of five pounds of fat, which is revolting, and emphasizes how heavy that is to carry around. Shaq immediately takes it and slams it against his forehead for no real reason I can discern. Next Joy shows how many cups of sugar are in the 12 sodas that James consumes each week. While startling, it did not stop me from opening a can of Coke about four seconds ago. Shaq says “No comment,” which again has no bearing on anything, and then asks James to eat some vegetables for him. It won’t be carrots, we know that much! Shaq and James do odd hand/eye gestures that mean they’re watching each other.
The nutritionist sets up some rules, such as fast food only once a week and no more sodas. He also has to keep up a food diary. James says yes to all of the above but his eyes say no, at least until he and Shaq do more gestures. James is sad they must throw away all the junk food Joy brought over.
Next week is training camp for Shaq, so he won’t be able to get away and work out with the kids. Instead he’ll open up the gym for them, and he thinks they’ll do all their activities because it’s him asking. If you haven’t noticed, this man is his own wet dream. Inside the gym there’s a message board where he wrote “The only person that can truly motivate you…is you! ” Wait a second, I thought the only person who could motivate them was Shaq? I’m so confused now.
The workout plan consists of cardio and strengthening exercises, and the kids have to be in the gym five days a week. Walter rocks out to some tunes while he walks and says, “Oh yeah, that’s my jam!” Let’s just say he was listening to Hollaback Girl.
This is my shit, This is my shit!
The kids finish their clipboards of activities and generally put in a decent amount of effort. Chris says he feels good and has never done this before. On the second day, Walter shows up and immediately trips down a step when he enters the gym. Kevin comes in and says “Hey Walter!” queerly, and James then reveals that the other three kids aren’t there. Oooh, Shaq’s gonna have to smash some plates.
On the third day, no one shows up. Natch.
Shaq is having a media day, and he kvetches about the show a little bit before leaving to check on the kids. Now we cut to Week 2, in an example of great continuity, and the gay kid seems to mock Walter while he exercises on the treadmill. Just because you can do six push-ups doesn’t mean you can harass him, Kev! He asks a series of insulting questions and then asks, “How fast you goin’, Walter?” When Walter says 0.5 miles per hour, Kevin replies, “UH-HUH!” What a brat.
Shaq phones the kids from his car, and Walter seems to genuinely have no idea who’s on the other line. He’s told to keep working hard and eating right, so the next shot is of him doing an interview while curled up on a filthy gym mat. Chris runs up and bounces a yoga ball off of Walter’s stomach. Chris proves to be more of a jerkoff, lying to Shaq on the phone about how hard he’s been working. In reality, he’s been doing five sit-ups and marking it down as 25. He bounces the yoga ball off Walter again and then promises Shaq he’s not lying. I’m sure that fun game was on the checklist, no worries!
All the kids are sitting around doing nothing, and Shaq says some people don’t know what it means to work hard. We cut to him exercising intensely, and when the trainer says he thinks the kids will disappoint him, Shaq insists that he’s never wrong and he never fails. You just want to knee him in the crotch, right? He finishes a workout and throws his weights to the floor in a sweaty burst of rage. He says the kids are doing their full workouts because “I’m a superstar, I know they’re telling the truth.” I want to punch Shaq in the mouth.
Dr. Colker shows up at the kids’ gym on a spy mission to see if they’re actually exercising. After recording some footage, Doc goes to Shaq’s palace and wanders through his countless number of rooms to find him. This is basically a showcase on how great Shaq’s got it. He eventually turns up at a bench near the river, which is apparently his backyard? Maybe Shaq is occasionally homeless.
They go inside to insert the DVD, which Shaq is instructed to watch and weep. Chris proves to be exceptionally useless, doing movements that can’t even be called crunches. James lolls on the treadmill, resting his head and moving impossibly slowly. The doctor has never seen anything so pathetic in his entire life. That is, until we cut back to Chris, who checks off all the exercises on his daily list without doing them. He’s now my favorite, until he kicks a yoga ball into Ariel’s bespectacled face. Walter hides behind that message board to escape the flying balls. It’s funny, I would’ve expected Kevin to get more into that one.
After a few more clips of mediocrity, Shaq says it’s boot camp time. He smashes a glass against a table and says no more Mr. Nice Guy.
Will Shaq lay down the law? Which kid is the worst? Is Shaq the biggest asshole you’ve ever seen? Leave your thoughts!