Dec 05 2012
Several years ago, a new cable TV station premiered. It was called The Learning Channel, or TLC. As the name implied, the intent was to provide a destination where you could expand your boundaries and learn about all of the great things in the world.
Well, some time has passed and TLC is still going strong. A quick look at their web site will list some of their most popular programs:
- “Breaking Amish” (teens leave Amish country for NYC)
- “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo”
- “Brides of Beverly Hills”
- “Extreme Cheapskates”
- “Long Island Medium”
- “Abby and Brittany” (adventures of conjoined twins)
- “Say Yes to the Dress”
- “Extreme Couponing”
- “Little People Big World”
- “Secret Princes”
- “Sister Wives” (polygamous relationships — and yes, until recently they lived in Utah)
- “19 Kids and Counting” (a show whose name changes about every nine months)
- “Toddlers and Tiaras” (young beauty contestants and their mothers)
- “What Not to Wear”
- “Hoarding…Buried Alive” (the best incentive you will ever find to get your teenager to clean her room)
- “My Crazy Obsession”
- “My Strange Addiction”
- “Extreme Cougar Wives” (older grannies preferring way younger men)
Now I have nothing against any of these programs. (Okay, that’s a bald-faced lie. I have written about TLC before, and I firmly believe that most of TLC’s programming is designed for the kind of people who gawk at traffic accidents and who go to carnivals just to see the freak show. I am also gobsmacked that so many people are willing to allow themselves to be ridiculed on national television just for their fifteen minutes of fame and a little bit of money. Don’t those mothers on “Toddlers and Tiaras” realize they are being portrayed as monsters?)
But in the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that someone tinkered with our TiVo so that it regularly records some of less-odious fare. Not Honey Boo Boo. Even we have our standards!
Even though we may watch some TLC shows, I think it is a pretty sad commentary that a station that was launched with such noble intentions has been reduced to running shows about people with physical deformities, parents who live their lives through their children’s beauty pageants, and people with creepy compulsions and predilections. (If you drink your own urine or have teenage girls change your diapers even though you are a 40-year-old man, TLC wants you!)
TLC makes no pretense of trying to teach its viewers these days. Nowhere on the TLC website do you find any indication of the original meaning of the TLC acronym. I guess they decided a long time ago that it was best to disassociate their content with any kind of learning!
I also remember when People magazine was launched back in 1974. The first few issues actually were about real people — the kind who lived down the block, and not just the ones who live in Hollywood. I was a newspaper reporter in Salt Lake City at the time, and when I saw that People was looking for writers, I sent the magazine a list of fascinating people who lived in Utah. I wrote that I was an experienced writer and would be excited to have the opportunity to showcase these interesting individuals.
This resulted in a rejection letter, where I was thanked for my submission, but informed that my suggestions did not conform to the editorial direction that People wanted to pursue. Within the next couple of issues, it was obvious from the content that the editors were interested in celebrities and not ordinary human beings.
I still look through People magazine while I am waiting in a medical office that doesn’t have Nat Geo or Smithsonian, and am saddened that what started out with great potential has just turned into another celebrity rag — albeit a very successful one. Am I the only person on the planet who doesn’t think that most so-called celebrities have done anything to merit our devotion?
Like many things in life, I guess that money is the bottom line. If Honey Boo Boo draws more viewers than Albert Einstein, she’s the one who gets the show.
Sadly, I wonder how many of us are the victims of diminished expectations in our own lives. How many of us started life with great promise and enthusiasm, only to get sidetracked into a rut from which there is seemingly no escape?
Fortunately, we as humans have great potential to change our situations, and history is full of men and women who have been able to make magnificent life transformations almost overnight. Sometimes they just need a little confidence, or someone who believes in them. Sometimes it comes from hard work. Sometimes people get a lucky break.
I’m also a firm believer in the power of prayer, and the potential it has to open our minds to the possibilities before us, and then open the doors to help us reach those possibilities.
If you’re one of those people who have been sidetracked into a rut, do not despair. It doesn’t have to be the end of the road. Change is possible. You may yet climb metaphorical mountains and slay dragons. Anything can happen, as long as you don’t give up.