Total Lost Cause

Recently, I discovered that the channel most of us know as TLC actually stands for “The Learning Channel”. I am still not sure how I failed to already know this, but moments after finding out, I burst into laughter because that is one of the funniest things I have ever heard. Learning? The only thing I have ever learned from this station is that Toddlers & Tiaras is actually terrifying and I never want to attend a big fat gypsy wedding. Ever.
Sure, there was a time when this channel actually possessed some educational value, but here and now I think a more accurate acronym would be “Total Lost Cause”. It’s probably best that not everyone knows what the actual acronym stands for else they TLC would probably be forced to change it. If that ever happens, I am sticking to my above suggestion.
In 1972, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and NASA founded what is now TLC as the Appalachian Community Service Network. It was with great hopes that TV could be the medium that would connect viewers with educational enlightenment, and for a while that actually was the case.
In 1980, the Appalachian Community Service Network was privatized, which is when “The Learning Network” was born, later shortened to TLC.
Rather than being known for shows featuring individuals who consume 40,000 calories a day or families who basically collect children and give them all unfortunate names, TLC thrived on documentary-style programming pertaining to nature, science, history, medicine, current events and home improvement, remaining true to their initial intent of being an educational outlet.
Some of shows during this time included Paleoworld, a show about prehistoric creatures, Home Savvy, a “how-to” for the average homemaker and The New Detectives, which followed true crime stories.
At the time, TLC had a reputation for being geared solely towards an audience who wanted to learn, was curious and hoped to gain further insight on topics not discussed nearly enough. Imagine if you will, programming that walked viewers through battlefields, told the true and triumphant stories of real life heroes, brought audiences as close to different parts of the World as they will ever be and actually enlightened minds.
TLC’s instructional and educational programming continued right up until the 1990s when it could no longer compete in a World driven by mass marketing, but more importantly, within an industry thriving on entertainment.
It was around this time that TLC started straying from its original roots and ended many of the programs that made it what it was. In other words, educational value went out the window and left Honey Boo Boo in its place.
Soon, reality-dramas and interior design shows of a more entertaining nature were featured, such as A Wedding Story, A Baby Story, Trading Spaces and Junkyard Wars. These shows all found success and eventually inspired many spin-offs, which were also featured on TLC in the incoming years.
In 2008, TLC introduced their slogan, “Life Surprises”, which was intended to pave the way for their focus on family life, an intentional shift and TLC’s attempt to redefine itself. Through this transition came shows like Little People, Big World, 17 Kids and Counting (which later became 18, then 19, now probably 34) and the highest-rated program on TLC, Jon & Kate Plus 8.
Since then, TLC has not slowed down in regards to family life programming; in fact, standards no longer seem to exist. Before, if there was a family with a unique story, that is what made them more than qualified for a show of their own. Now of days, TLC seems to be handing out contracts like communion in church.
If you’re raunchy, you get a show. If you’re stupid, you get a show. If you’re annoying, you get a show. If you’re completely useless, you get a show. Exhibit A: Gypsy Sisters. Exhibit B: Extreme Couponing. Exhibit C: Breaking Amish. Exhibit D: Sister Wives. Exhibit E: Secret Princes. I can honestly “Exhibit” all the way to Z, but you catch my drift.
Now, I know I appear to be bashing TLC, but I am merely pointing out the obvious. Admittedly, I love Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and it has provided me with numerous golden quotes that I often find myself yelling at my roommate. In fact, I usually force her to watch it with me just so I can see a look of disgust takeover her face.
I understand the whole entertainment factor that TLC is going for, but even Here Comes Honey Boo Boo was inspired by and spun-off of Toddlers and Tiaras, arguably the worst show in the entire World.
For those of you who are not familiar with either, Toddlers and Tiaras follows the stories of various families as their young daughters (and sometimes even sons) compete in child beauty pageants. Aside from “glitzed-up” children (big hair, caked on make-up, spray tans, fake teeth, padded bras and ridiculous costumes), it can be argued that most of the amusement comes from the parents, specifically the over-caffeinated, loud, hostile and intolerable mothers who stand stage-side yelling and dancing. For those of us who were never forced into beauty pageants, we should all go home and thank our parents. As for those of you who were, I speak on behalf of all of us when I say that I am sorry.
In one episode of Toddlers and Tiaras, viewers are introduced to six year-old Alana Thompson and her mother June. Alana won audiences over because she could not be further from the stereotypical pageant child. In one part of the episode in particular, Alana grabs at her chunky stomach on camera and says, “This is what I show to the judges”, making the camera crew laugh on film. Right away, viewers wanted to see what this unashamed child would do next, so TLC did what they do best and signed her and her family on.
It is that same raw energy that makes every episode of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo as funny as it is (and at times disturbing), but it does not change the fact that it is in no way educational. This is the case for 90 per cent of the shows that comprise TLC. We watch them because they’re amusing, they’re bizarre, they’re “glitzed-up”, but that does not make them educational in the slightest. I mean, unless of course you had no idea that ketchup and butter makes “sketti”, in which case, consider yourself enlightened. 

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