'Here Comes Honey Boo Boo' came here to British screens on Tuesday night, and hit the ground running. 10 minutes in, it felt like we'd never not known the Thompson family, with the pig-tailed munchkin at its centre.
Honey Boo Boo is at the heart of the Thompson family of McIntyre, Georgia
I think it's fair to call this family a matriarchy. With the exception of 'Sugar Bear' Mike, who knows better than to argue with anyone, it's all about mother June Shannon, and her four daughters, Pumpkin, Chickadee, Chubbs and Alana aka Honey Boo Boo.
The introductory double-bill had a few narrative strands to lean on - Honey Boo Boo's tears after another failed beauty pageant, some big belly flops at the annual Redneck Games, the arrival of Glitzy the teacup pig, a beleaguered etiquette expert doing her best with this bunch of Eliza Doolittles and finally... the piglet breaking wind in its cot.
So, why has this self-contained portrait of small-town life caught the imagination of three million US viewers, and impinged on the consciousness of even the nation's leader? Well, the pleasure in viewing seems to lie somewhere between the low opinion we're meant to have of people who happily break wind at the dinner table, and their own evident lack of self-doubt.
For while eyebrows can definitely be raised about their diet, or lack thereof, there is much to admire in a family who enjoy each other's company this much, who can find their own Swallows and Amazons idyl with belly flops into mud, whose mother rules her family with a will of benevolent iron like a real-life Roseanne.
More disturbing was the visit to the mini beauty pageant, and the tears of Honey Boo Boo at yet another defeat. Never mind, "she's always a winner to me," says mum, which is a pretty accurate assessment actually, when you consider this family of 'losers' are actually the ones tucking 50,000 notes in their back pockets per episode.
Which cuts to the whole heart of the matter. This programme has been accused of being horrifyingly exploitative, but can that be true of a family enjoying such a chunk of change? The way they shop, that's a whole lot of shampoo in bulk.
But does paying them make it okay? One presenter, Sherri Shepherd on the US show 'The View' reflected, ""Your job is to protect your child and if you don't think paedophiles are watching this show, I have a bridge I want to sell you."
But at the heart of the family is June, a woman who only wants her girls to have self-esteem, has no problem with her weight, only urging women of a similar size to put some clothes on, and reflects of her own lack of glamour that she just needs to "put a little paint on this barn".
Compared with the pointless posing, self-promoting, brand-bashing Kardashians, who don't blink unless a camera's rolling, this lot, this is all quite refreshing, along with the family's fun, ability to live in the moment and behave in front of the lenses exactly as you know they would be anyway.
So... what do you reckon? I have to say I really have no idea what to think, and currently my favourite character's Glitzy the pig. Will I never tune in again, or sit religiously through ten more episodes? Don't know, but something tells me they're not going anywhere soon.Suggest a correction