Wesley Warren Jr. has what it takes to make it in Vegas.
Before we sit down to an hour of talking about a man's genitals, you need to know this about the show: It was originally a documentary that aired on the BBC. So it's classy.
Now back to this guy's "business."
TLC's special "The Man With the 132-Lb. Scrotum" is about Wesley Warren Jr., a Las Vegas man who, five years ago, accidentally smacked himself with his own leg, then woke up the next morning with a — well, the medical term for his condition is "scrotal lymphoma," so let's call it that — he woke up with a scrotal lymphoma the size of a soccer ball.
The affliction is more common in Africa and Asia where the swelling is usually the result of a parasitic infection. Typically, they will range in size from a grapefruit to a basketball, but they don't "max out," according to Dr. Joel Gelman, until the patient seeks treatment. In this case, Warren's trauma probably blocked the lymphatic vessels that drain fluid from the area.
The lymphoma put him on disability and eventually made it difficult to leave the house. No longer able to wear pants, Warren was forced to wear enormous upside-down hoodies. Due to the peculiarities (some would say "failings") of our medical care system, he was unable to visit any doctors outside of Nevada, and the top urological surgeon there told him he'd have to cut everything off.
So he did what any good American would do: He went to Howard Stern. And "Tosh.0." And any media outlet he could find to raise money for an operation. He had managed to raise $8,000 before an article in the Las Vegas Review Journal, accusing him of chasing fame and turning down an offer of a free surgery (from Dr. Oz in exchange for exclusive rights to his story), made the donations dry up, though Warren says he refused the surgery because of the quality of the doctors.
We meet Warren's friend Monique, his housemate Joey, and his hyper-religious aunt who contends that his lymphoma is the work of Satan, and we follow him on a trip to the recycling center, which is the only place with a scale large enough to weigh him.
Eventually, Dr. Gelman, Director of the Center for Reconstructive Surgery at UC Irvine and perhaps the single most knowledgeable and experienced person in the world on such matters, agrees to perform the surgery for free. Even still, it's dangerous; Warren's obesity and anemia complicate an already dangerous procedure.
There's a fair bit of gallows humor as Warren prepares to go under the knife. When told the surgery might be as much as 14 hours instead of the nine they thought originally, he asks if he's going to miss that night's episode of "Dallas." Then, "Unless the surgery is not successful. Then, of course, I'll never see 'Dallas' again."
But 13 hours later, the mass is removed and he's made it through. He wakes up four days later and 132 pounds lighter. Five weeks later, and he's back in Las Vegas doing the thing he's missed more than anything: driving.
Watch a clip from "The Man With the 132-Lb. Scrotum" right here:
The editor working the blur machine on this show must've been pulling double shifts for weeks to get through this one. Between the brand names on the shelves, the lymphoma that often fills the screen, and a waitress' skirt that blows up at a British pub, you could be forgiven for thinking that TLC had driven you partially blind. Oddly, the lymphoma was not blurred in the operating room, which opens a curious loophole that the network will no doubt exploit someday ("Girls Gone Wild in the OR"! "Andrew Dice Clay: Intensive Care Unit Uncensored"!).
Like any show focusing on a medical abnormality, it walks a fine line between empathy and exploitation. On the one hand, it does a good job of getting past the ailment and looking at the man underneath — though it missed an opportunity to highlight the flaws of a system that made medical care possible only by turning it into a TV show.
On the other hand, "The Man With the 132-Lb. Scrotum" was sandwiched between "900 Pound Man" and "My 40-Year-Old Child" on the TLC schedule, so there's a demographic being served here. Can't be long now before Medical Abnormality Month becomes TLC's answer to Shark Week.