Okay, they have crossed the line! Just when you think reality tv has used EVERY possible idea out there, another absolutely absurd and wild show comes on. When I heard about the latest addition to the “learning” channel, Breaking Amish I had to say something (that is after I laughed hysterically in disbelief). I mean we all know that reality television is totally exploitive, but now even someone’s religion is on stage to be mocked and dissected?! And also, how does this channel get away with calling itself the “learning channel” anyways??!! I wanted to know so I did some research and thought I would share.
According to Wikipedia, the most reliable source out there: The Learning Channel, once referred to as “a place for learning minds” was founded in 1972 by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and NASA as an informative/instructional network focused on providing real education through the medium of TV; it was distributed at no cost by NASA satellite. It was privatized in 1980 and was then named the Appalachian Community Service Network. In November 1980 this name was changed to “The Learning Channel”, which was subsequently shortened to “TLC.” The channel mostly featured documentary content pertaining to nature, science, history, current events, medicine, technology, cooking, home improvement and other information-based topics. These are often agreed to have been more focused, more technical, and of a more academic nature than the content that was being broadcast at the time on its rival, The Discovery Channel.
Perhaps due to poor ratings from a narrow target audience, TLC began to explore new avenues starting in the mid 1990s, deemphasizing educational material in favor of entertainment. In 1998, the channel began to distance itself from its original name “The Learning Channel”, and instead began to advertise itself only as “TLC”. (AHA!!) During the period of 1999–2001, there was a huge shift in programming, with most programming geared towards reality-drama and interior design shows. The huge success of shows like Trading Spaces, Junkyard Wars, A Wedding Story and A Baby Story exemplified this new shift in programming towards more mass-appeal shows. On March 27, 2006, the network launched a new look and promotional campaign, dropping the “Life Unscripted” tag and going with the new theme, “Live and learn”, trying to turn around the network’s reliance on decorating shows and reality TV programming. As part of the new campaign the channel’s original name, The Learning Channel, has returned to occasional usage in promotions. The new theme also plays on life lessons.
In early March 2008, TLC launched a slightly refreshed look and promotional campaign, alongside a new slogan: “Life surprises”. This new slogan came as TLC began to shift even more to personal stories, with a shift away from the once-dominating home improvement shows. Programs focused on family life became the core of the channel. Jon & Kate Plus 8 (UGH) which by 2008 was the highest-rated program on TLC,and Little People, Big World were joined by 17 Kids and Counting (which became 18 Kids and Counting and then 19 Kids and Counting), and Table for 12 in 2008 and 2009 respectively.
Cut to 2012. What are the most popular shows running on TLC now? Let’s review them in groupings:
This seems to be the largest category with 8 shows! All are about weddings or wedding dresses except for one – the last one about princes follows the 4 members of international royalty as they look for love in the US. I will admit I have never watched any of the shows in this category. Maybe because after you have been married for 14 years you are sort of over it. And the secret princes thing? Yeah, that is just dumb. Plus, what is the obsession with the gypsies??
- Say Yes to the Dress
- Brides of Beverly Hills
- Four Weddings
- My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding
- Randy to the Rescue
- My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding
- I Found the Gown
- Secret Princes
Another strong category with 7 shows! I am happy/embarrassed to admit that I’ve seen at least part if not all of at least one episode of 5 of these. I think they all deserve a little snip-it about each one.
- 19 Kids and Counting – Oh, the Duggars. Hey, no matter what you think about them you have to give some props to a woman who has spent 15.8 years of her life withchild! Ugh.
- Breaking Amish – Just when you thought there were no new ideas left, TLC found one!
- Sister Wives – I’m not gonna lie, I don’t get it. Any of it.
- Little People, Big World – Kind of a sweet show actually about a family where the mom and dad and one son are little.
- Abby and Brittany – Just watched a preview video about this tonight…these sisters are conjoined twins and the show follows their lives.
- Little Couple – Another show about a little couple.
- United Bates of America – Another show about a family with about 100 kids.
Baby/Pregnancy – Oh, yes A Baby Story! I remember watching this when I was on maternity leave….10 years ago! I enjoyed it then, but have not watched it since. Again, my youngest is 10 so I’m over it. As far as the “A Conception Story” business? Um…not sure I want to see that – I know how it works. And a show about women who do not know they were about to give birth until the baby was crowing in a rest-stop bathroom? I don’t think so.
- A Conception Story
- A Baby Story
- I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant
- Toddlers & Tiaras – Okay, this is just sick and disturbing! I remember watching one episode in which a grown woman (in her 30’s since the category was age 16 or older) was competing against 16-year-olds for her “crown”. Wow.
- Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo – I still have not watched this and I’m not about to start now. You can’t make me!
- Cake Boss – Seen it a couple times – people get too mad about baked goods.
- DC Cupcakes – Never seen it, but I think cupcakes in general are overrated
Okay, these shows are just downright disturbing about real people with real problems. I think they should funnel the money they use to produce these shows to actually help these people instead.
- Hoarding (Buried Alive)
- My Strange Addiction
- My Crazy Obsession
I’ll admit these are sort of interesting and there might be some nuggets to learn how to save money nestled in this edu-tainment!
- Extreme Couponing
- Extreme Cheapskates
- What Not to Wear – I’ll admit it – I do like this show! Stacy and Clinton usually have awesome ideas to help people look and feel better about themselves and I can’t really dis that!
- Bling it On – Never seen it, but apparently the gypsies are involved again.
- Four Houses – Trading Spaces, revisited.
I had to create a miscellaneous catory for weird stuff for the rest of these. I have only seen one of these…
- Little Shop of Gypsies – again with the gypsies? What is this obsession?!
- (Strange) Sex – Hmmmm
- Virgin Diaries – Seriously?
- Long Island Medium – Okay, this woman is frickin’ amazing! I’ve seen bits and peices of this show and it is pretty unbelievable.
So there you have it, friends. Most of the line-up for “The Learning Channel” in 2012. Now even though I used a critical eye to judge this line-up, let me be clear. Aside from the exploiting children and the psychological issues categories, most of the other shows may have some redeeming entertainment value in them. But, let’s not pretend it is about learning and let’s call it what it is: “The Entertainment Channel”. And we can leave the education to the more high brow channels like the History Channel, for example, where you can learn all about the Mayans and the 2012 Apocalypse or the live Mermaids (oh, wait a minute…).
Oh well, I guess not all channels can teach us things. I’m going to sign off now to go watch my favorite television show on yet another high brow channel – American Movie Classics (AMC) – “The Walking Dead”. Don’t judge! I swear it is about the character development!!!