See You Next Tuesday: Here Comes Honey Boo Boo

See You Next Tuesday is one of the Boomstick's regular columns. On Tuesdays, I bring you the week's most laughable scumbags, idiots, and jerks for your reading and reviling pleasure.  If you don't get the name, visit your nearest middle school playground and ask the first kid you see.  You can read previous editions here. 

It was only a matter of time before I was forced to mention the new low in repulsive televised voyeurism that is "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo."

I am certainly not the first or best writer to tackle this subject; the internet is rife with excited bloggers and critics for whom a juicy spin-off of "Toddlers and Tiaras" is a flaming car wreck we're all guiltily rubbernecking.  But, I made a big deal about hating too-easy targets, and "Honey Boo Boo" may be the easiest target out there since Countess LuAnn of RHONY released her paradoxical dance single.  So, I'm going to attempt to adhere to my own (admittedly tenuous, generally shoddy) moral guidelines, take a step back, and instead examine the network that made such a show possible.

I can do this because, even more pathetic than the very existence of this obese, redneck, fart-fueled, toddler-beauty-pageant-spinoff of a show, is the fact that this show airs on a network incongruously named "The Learning Channel."  And what's sad enough to be See You Next Tuesday worthy is that The Learning Channel is now an unrecognizable reality shell of its former substantive self.

The Learning Channel has noble roots: it was founded as the painfully dry-sounding "Appalachian Community Service Network" in the 1970s by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and NASA and distributed without cost by NASA's own satellites.  In the beginning, The Learning Channel was devoted to academic programs, gleaning a reputation for instructional and educational programs about nature and technology.  Its slogan was still "a place for learning minds" when it was  purchased by Discovery Communications, parent company to other, higher-brow channels such as The Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and The Science Channel. These days, the only thing TLC has in common with its sister networks is the high probability that its viewers are stoned. 
 
In the 1990s, The Learning Channel began rebranding, cancelling education-oriented shows (anyone remember "Cable in the Classroom?") and airing more reality and craft-based shows, rooted largely in house-flipping ("Trading Spaces"), and later expanding to personal stories like "A Wedding Story" and "A Baby Story."  In 1998, the Learning Channel officially rebranded to TLC.

(Aside: this very type of substance-diluted-to-acronym rebranding was pointedly mocked in the first episode of "30 Rock," where a female comedy hour called "The Girlie Show" was renamed "TGS with Tracy Jordan" to make room for their new male headliner.  The joke, of course, was that this silly, transparent rebranding completely destroyed the original purpose of a female-driven sketch show.  Well, it seemed transparent whey they did it.)

The era of TLC as interior-design peddler was effectively ended by ten people in 2008: the Gosselins.  The highest-rated show on TLC, "Jon & Kate Plus 8" (and later "Kate Plus 8"), was so successful that TLC followed it with "Little People, Big World," and "17 Kids and Counting," (now "19 Kids and Counting") shows that TLC would call "family-oriented" and the rest of us would call "thinly-veiled attempts at circus freak sideshows." 

Wouldn't you think Supercuts would give them a discount?
And thus, TLC abandoned its intellectual roots and became a network devoted to an increasingly grotesque parade of abberations and mockable weirdos (prompting one blogger to ask, "When did The Learning Channel become The Leering Channel?")  This is not to say that TLC doesn't occasionally succeed at sympathizing and respecting the subjects of its reality shows ("Little People, Big World" has been lauded by some for normalizing and positively portraying people with Dwarfism ), but acceptance and understanding are certainly not TLC's primary goals, and are more accurately a happy accident of charming, likable subjects than a conscious production consideration.

No, TLC's goal is to ringmaster a pathetic circus of outcasts so strange and bizarre as to be incomparably interesting.  TLC exploits that core, gut, juvenile instinct we all have to stare agape at the strange person on the street, the instinct that we grownups have learned to socially tame and swallow and to swat down the outstretched, pointing fingers of our children.   TLC lets us, from the privacy of our home, unbutton our pants, eat out of the carton, and drop our jaws at the knocked-up, the over-fed, the undereducated, the mentally ill, the sex freaks, the addicts, the polygamists, the mutants, the hoarders, the fundamentalists, the extremists, the virgins, and God knows, the absolute motherload: the obese deluded redneck beauty-pageant toddlers! 

And TLC not only lets us all tap into our childlike ids pointing dirty fingers at the odd and inexplicable, but it even answers some of those questions that polite society doesn't condone us asking: "Can two little people have a normal-sized child?" "How can you give birth without ever knowing you were pregnant?" "How do you raise 8 kids? How about 19? Who would choose to do that? Are you building a child slave army?"

So, how can any of us be surprised at the premiere of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" a show that's basically a big, sloppy stew of all the ingredients TLC has been perfecting over the years.  (One blogger pointed out that TLC's old slogan: "Home, Style, Cooking" is the exact same slogan as Applebee's but with commas.)  On the contrary, "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" will be such a fine addition to already stellar line up of "Sister Wives," "My Strange Addiction," "Hoarding: Buried Alive," "Tattoo School," "Long Island Medium," "High School Moms," "Breaking Amish," "Say Yes to the Dress," "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding," "Virgin Diaries," "Extreme Couponing," "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant," "Addicted," "My Crazy Obsession," "Strange Sex," and of course the brand new show, "Abby & Brittany" about a pair of adult conjoined twins.  The Learning Channel indeed!


TLC Promo - watch more funny videos
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© 2015 by Alison

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