I cannot believe the type of programming TLC (aka "The Learning Channel") dishes out on a daily basis. A modern, broadcast version of the freakish sideshows that used to be in vogue on Coney Island and elsewhere, TLC titillates viewers with a mishmash of the most bizarre and warped things imaginable.
One show, for example, follows the plight of some unfortunate person who has a 400-pound tumor extracted from her body. Another depicts such emergency room horror stories as scalpels and other doctors’ tools being left inside unsuspecting patients. Then, there’s the show about "the boy whose skin fell off," a series about "little people in a big world" and all sorts of other bizarre features, including "99 Most Bizarre," to satisfy even the most prurient interest (not that I would know anything about that, mind you).
My interest in TLC stems, in part, from having worked on the publicity team that originally helped launch the cable channel back in the early 1990s. At that time, TLC was truly all about learning and education. Programming was aimed at parents, teachers and kids, and was designed to bring a new, broadcast dimension to what was being taught in classrooms. As a matter of fact, I can remember pitching local market reporters and urging them to write positive articles in support of TLC’s being selected by a regional cable operator instead of, say, the SciFi Channel. But, my, oh my, how things have changed. Today’s TLC offers more bizarre beings and events from the real world than the SciFI Channel could ever hope to emulate with its fictional offerings.
I guess sleazy, surreal sideshow stuff trumps informative programming every day. And, while TLC obviously appeals to someone (or some thing), I do think it’s a great example of a once-proud brand that’s really lost its way. While TLC does air a few educational shows as they relate to cooking and home improvement, the cable network seems to be synonymous with "freakish."
Business is business, and I’m sure TLC’s management is laughing all the way to the bank. But, this sort of programming should be kept where it originally existed: in a circus sideshow.