September 14, 2012
Last week, I happened to be aimlessly watching TV when I saw that the reality show “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” was on. I’d laughed at clips from the controversial show while watching “The Soup,” but I had never actually seen an episode.
I decided this was the time, and I somehow made it through a half-hour of the program. During those 30 minutes, I had to pick my jaw off the floor multiple times, most memorably when the family was joking about purchasing products to get rid of the “neck crust” that accumulates between the rolls on the mother’s neck. Yummy.
After texting my friends some of the more ridiculous lines from the show, I began to wonder how a cable channel once titled The Learning Channel could feel good about running this sort of program. The sort of program that actually reaches into your brain and removes the smart.
Well, as it turns out, Ms. Honey Boo-Boo is quite popular. Last month, the fourth episode of the show beat out The Republican National Convention in the ratings. Nearly 3 million people tuned in to watch the self-proclaimed “redneck” family.
In fact, after combing through the many different programs aired on TLC, I’ve seen it’s quite clear that creating opportunities for education is the last things on the minds of TLC executives. Let me illustrate my point — “My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding.” No. “Long Island Medium.” No. “Sister Wives.” No. “Toddlers & Tiaras.” No. “Extreme Couponing.” No!
I’ll give TLC the credit they deserve for no longer officially advertising themselves as The Learning Channel. That’s a first step, but how about going the distance and rebranding themselves given that there are zero educational programs left in the lineup. Something along the lines of “Weird TV” should do the trick, don’t you think?
While I’ll argue that TLC is the worst offender, one can easily point out that a cable channel ignoring the original nature of its intended programming is not unique to TLC. Other major offenders include MTV (“16 & Pregnant”), VH1 (“Basketball Wives”), and A&E (“Shipping Wars).”
In fact, I would say that one of the only channels I believe has done a good job of toeing the line between creating successful reality programming and maintaining its intended focus of programming is the History Channel. “Pawn Stars” focuses on the historical pieces that are brought into the pawn shop, “American Pickers” has two men literally digging through history in strangers’ garages, “American Restoration” features antique items and “Counting Cars” showcases old hot-rods. Not only are these shows successful, they fit with the channel and I don’t feel terrible about myself after watching them.
What do you think? Did I miss any channels that are getting it right? Or getting it wrong?