TLC: Making Profit from Disgust and Despair

Ian-Fortey by Ian-Fortey on May. 02, 2013

Do you remember when TLC was actually The Learning Channel?  Like MTV they rebranded a few years back and kept the initials but lost the meaning.  MTV is obviously not music television and if you learn anything from TLC it’s that you shouldn’t be watching TLC.  The entire motivation behind the network seems to be to enthrall audiences with a sickening, morbid curiosity.  To turn us all into gawkers at the scene of an accident, watching in the hopes we’ll see some guts spill on the road.  There is nothing at all of merit on the network, just a parade of grotesqueries, a sideshow of depravity, exploitation and silent, apathetic judgment.

That video was from My Crazy Obsession, aired a few nights ago.  So a show that pretends on the surface to present you with people who have a serious OCD or other disorder is now just about gross people eating bugs that don’t even taste good.  In a restaurant.  With a crowd watching.

Of course you can’t call out TLC’s shameful behavior if you don’t mention Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.  The network tries to defend the program as a glimpse into the life of unique and colorful characters, they’re just a loving American family who do things a little differently.  Or they’re a golden cash cow of farting, nose picking and “sketti” centered around people who were discovered on another show trying to exploit their youngest child for money in beauty pageants.  They include a fart in the opening credits.  Not even Nickelodeon would stoop to that.

19 Kids (or is it 20?) and Counting follows the Duggar family, who literally have a busload of children.  They were last in the news when their newest child died. And they still want more children.  And that would be fine, for them, if this was their private life and they wanted to live in such a way, but it’s not their private life.  It’s their public life.  No one goes on TV with blinders no, no one accidentally has cameras following them all day every day.  So when a family whose mother gets referred to constantly as a “clown car” in the media decides to have yet another child, people will judge and cringe and shake their heads and they should, because it’s being put on TV for everyone to see.

Toddlers and Tiaras was an early flagship of exploitation for the network, chronicling the misadventures of parents who do the pageant circuit, which is to say they spend loads of moaning dressing their little girls up like women to parade on a stage and win trophies for being sexy, a sentence that is just gross to even type.  Unsurprisingly, many of the kids have tantrums and are unhappy, most of the mothers come across as psychotic and TLC tries to stand in the background so you don’t notice them rubbing their hands together and smiling like hyenas watching a kill.

TLC’s lineup currently includes two shows about rednecks, two shows about gypsies, two shows about midgets, two shows about abusing children, three shows about mental illness, 8 shows about weddings and a show about cupcakes.  If the network isn’t programmed by a single, desperate, child hating racist woman who makes fun of everything different from herself, we’ll all be greatly surprised.

If you want to learn something, watch PBS.  Better yet, read.  If you want reality, watch the Food Network, at least the food they cook isn’t being exploited or mocked for anyone’s amusement.  If you want poof someone has a worse life than you, watch TLC, that’s all it’s there for.