Even though it stopped formally going by "The Learning Channel" in the late 90s, TLC still occasionally uses the official title in promotions. And while it's an old joke — in my illustrious career writing Reality Bites, I'm pretty sure every reference to the network utilized quotation marks around the word "learning" — there is absolutely nothing in their list of current shows that would possibly lead to scholarship or enlightenment. Unless your doctoral thesis is "Network Programming Development in Context: The Dynamics of Mass Breeding and Interactions of Dangerously Overweight Dwarf Bridegrooms."
It's our fault, really. The channel's previous attempts at educational programming were as enthusiastically received as the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act chapter in our American History books. It's therefore not too hard to understand why execs at Discovery Communications, looking at ratings reports and taking note of how many copies of In Touch magazine were being bought each week, opted for more lowest common denominator programming.
But just as with Kentucky Fried Chicken changing its name to "KFC" or squid calling itself "calamari," nobody was fooled. Here are a few of my suggestions more indicative of the channel's actual ... strengths.
The Support Traditional Marriage Channel (Gypsies Optional)
90 Day Fiancé, Curvy Brides, Four Weddings, I Found the Gown, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding, Say Yes to the Dress, Something Borrowed, Something New
If there's anything they like at TLC, it's a wedding. Not just the ceremonies themselves, but the often hilarious events leading up to them. I make no bones about my incomprehension of anything related to the fashion industry, but the Byzantine rituals involved in procuring a wedding dress make Squad Leader look like Tic Tac Toe.
And almost more than nuptials, TLC loves it some trashy Romani. It's funny, because I thought the term "gypsy" was considered derogatory. Then again, given TLC's decision to air a marathon of 19 Kids and Counting during the Josh Duggar revelations, it would appear simple human decency isn’t their strong suit.
The Hilarity of Body Trauma Channel
Outrageous 911, Sex Sent Me to the ER, Santa Sent Me to the ER, Untold Stories of the ER
"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die." - Mel Brooks
I suppose one can claim these programs are still marginally educational, since they feature interviews with real life doctors and scienticians. Let's all be honest with ourselves, we're really just watching to see who comes in claiming they were changing a light bulb in the shower and it accidentally went up their butt.
The Go Forth and Procreate Channel
7 Little Johnstons, 19 Kids and Counting (for now), Kate Plus 8, The Willis Family
Only slightly less favored than matrimony on TLC are humongous families. Whether a results of the vile "Quiverfull" movement (the Duggars) the wonders of fertility treatments (the Gosselins), or apparently just being Irish (the Willises), these teeming broods of humanity are met with a combination of fascination and repugnance ("fascinugnance?").
Aside from my usual avoidance of reality shows on general principles, I can't watch any of these shows because living with that many people is my personal, Boschian idea of hell.
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The Short People Got No Reason Channel
7 Little Johnstons (again), The Little Couple, Little People, Big World
Between the renewed focus on little people on TLC and Peter Dinklage's excellent turn as Tyrion Lannister on Game of Thrones, I'm happy to report full equality has finally been achieved. Take that, Newman!