I didn't think the collective content of The Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel and Discovery Health could sink any lower. Then, I saw the "tree boy." If you haven't viewed this bus wreck of a "documentary," avoid it at all costs. It depicts the travails of an Asian man who, because of some rare genetic defect, has sprouted tree-like limbs, foliage and shrubbery all over his body. It's truly horrifying. But, it's what the three "Discovery" channels have become. They're a 24×7 cavalcade of freaks, oddities and spectacles.
One recent scan revealed "the 200-pound tumor" on one network, "the 800-pound girl" on another and "the 30,000 calorie-a-day man" on a third.
It's disturbing to see how far the brand has strayed from the vision of John Hendricks, its founder. I helped publicize The Discovery Channel in the early 1990s and was part of the publicity team that launched The Learning Channel. Content in those days included environmental programming for the former and classroom education with the latter. Both were considered intelligent, insightful and inspirational.
Their modern-day successors are trivial, trite and trashy.
TDC is a brand that is more distorted than some of the people it profiles. They pander to the sleazy side of human nature and, I for one, recoil in disgust before I channel surf to find something a little less revolting. That said, P.T. Barnum must be smiling contentedly in the great freak show in the sky. It was Barnum, after all, who first brought us Tom Thumb, Jumbo the elephant and countless other sideshow spectacles. I'll bet he'd love the tree boy.