“You’ve seen them on TV,” an ominous voice-over intones, “you’ve heard them, and on July 17, You. Will. Smell. Them!” The reason that voice is foreboding is clear from the images and sounds flashing on the screen in the promo spot: A dirty diaper, a stinky fish, and the crowning offense—a fart. It’s all par for the course on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, the reality show about a . . . spirited . . . child pageant star named Alanna (aka Honey Boo Boo) and her self-proclaimed “redneck” family in Georgia.
The ad spot is for the second season of the TLC show, and the accompanying promotion is as inventive as it is potentially stinky: The network is releasing a scratch-and-sniff card that viewers can scratch off while they’re watching the premiere. The way it works is People magazine and Us Weekly will include scratch-and-sniff cards with select early-July issues, and viewers are instructed to scratch off the numbered smelly circles as the corresponding number flashes on screen.
It sounds like a dicey proposition to try to entice viewers with the possible smell of farts, but Howard Lee, the creator and executive producer of Honey Boo Boo who came up with the promotion, thinks it’s a lighthearted and fun way to attract eyeballs to the new season. “I grew up with the scratch-and-sniff books and cologne ads in magazines,” Lee says, “And I kept thinking to myself, ‘wouldn’t it be amazing if anyone can smell this show as I did when I’m location? How do we bring the sensory experience to the audience at home?’”
Lee—who was recently promoted and is now an executive vice president in production and development at TLC—says he was also inspired by the writer and director John Waters, who included scratch-and-sniff cards alongside his movie Polyester (he called the gimmick “odorama”). Both Waters’s work and Honey Boo Boo share a similar brightly colored aesthetic and commitment to camp, and so the homage is no surprise. You could easily see Honey Boo Boo’s Mama June playing the plain-spoken matriarch in a Waters production.
Which smells Lee and his colleagues chose to include on the cards will remain secret until the July 17 premiere, but he says that some of the scents were specially made for Honey Boo Boo, while the companies TLC hired to make the cards had other smells on hand. If you aren’t in possession of a card but want to play along with the premiere anyway, TLC will have a game with animations representing the smells online, and winners of the game will be eligible for a $5,000 prize.
When I asked Lee if he was worried fans would be turned off (to the extent fans of the show can be turned off)--think the possibility of getting a whiff of dirty diaper or stale cheese puff--he laughed and said he wasn’t afraid. “I feel everybody knows it’s all for fun, and it’s all just a lot of fun to play along as you watch,” he says. He added, “Who knows what smells there are!” Indeed, they might all be freshly cut Georgia grass or Honey Boo Boo’s sink-shampooed hair. Either way, proceed at your own peril.