Lessons From The Learning Channel

With the increased publicity of comically-disturbing shows such as “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” TLC (some may find it strange that this acronym stands for “The Learning Channel”), has received a lot of heat about its importance on cable television.

The Discovery Company affiliate does fulfill all of its promises, with shows covering religious diversity, family life, cooking, style, coping mechanisms and much more — but we’re skeptical about how didactic these shows actually are.

After watching these programs, we admit that it is a little difficult for us to say that we’ve learned something new and informative. We can safely say that we feel entertained after a marathon of TLC programming, but then again, the E! Network has dibs on that. Sometimes we feel the shows are comedic, but again, we think that Comedy Central has the rights to that franchise. Perhaps TLC is just a hodge-podge of the misfit shows from other networks?

Delving deeper into some of the shows, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” being a favorite among some of us here in the New University newsroom, the direction of the channel seems … clouded. We guess what we’re trying to say is that none of them make any damn sense together.

First, you’ve got “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” which follows the lives of a dysfunctional, yet fabulous family in the pageant circuit. Next, there’s “Long Island Medium,” which chronicles the life of a sassy mom who communicates with spirits and acts as a liaison between the living and the dead. Pair these two kooky shows with “Breaking Amish,” which follows some wild teens raised in borderline religious cults as they venture out of their bubble (and use modern-day electronics for the first time in their lives), and top it off with “Abby & Brittany,” a new series where two girls share everything with one another … literally, they share one body!

So where does the learning aspect kick in? Let’s take a closer look into one of our favorite shows, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” to find out.

While some viewers may watch one clip of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” and conclude that it is just a disgusting show about a family that likes to eat a lot of cheese puffs and jump in mud pits, there are actually quite a few merits and lessons that can be gained from the show.

Just take a look at this family — while they may seem happy and care-free on the outside, they are not without their share of drama. The four daughters on the show — Lauryn, Jessica, Anna and Alana (who all go by the corresponding nicknames of “Pumpkin,” “Chubbs,” “Chickadee” and “Honey Boo Boo”) — all have different fathers. The father on the show — “Sugar Bear” — is Alana’s dad, but the other three have different fathers who are out of the picture and have criminal backgrounds. Jessica’s father was arrested for sexual exploitation of a child over the Internet; Anna’s father went to jail for stealing a handgun and several cartons of cigarettes; and Lauryn’s father can’t even be found.

We don’t list these offenses for shock value or to simply gossip — rather, these circumstances are meant to show that despite everything they have encountered, they are still genuinely happy.

Regardless of their dramas and the fact that 17-year-old daughter Anna is pregnant on the show, they do not let any of these obstacles bring down their morale. Rather than focusing on these issues and turning this show into a depressing drama similar to “16 and Pregnant,” the family looks past their problems and appreciates what they do have — each other.

No matter what, they are always happy to be together and really do value the importance of family. June is a dedicated mother who does whatever she can to provide for her children — which she shows through her excessive couponing, or by simply making a home-cooked meal of “sketti” with their special family sauce of ketchup and butter.

Aside from teaching viewers to love and appreciate their family through thick and thin, this show also values diversity. In the season finale of the show, Honey Boo Boo openly declared her support for the LGBTQ community after a visit from “Uncle Poodle.” (Sugar Bear’s openly gay brother, Lee.)

“Ain’t nothin’ wrong with being a little gay,” said Honey Boo Boo when asked about her thoughts on this social issue.

So there you have it — “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” shows us that we need to love our family, appreciate what we have and accept all people of the world — even the “poodles.”

And just when you think that you’ve seen it all, TLC comes up with another doozy to shock and awe the public. There is a bit of novelty in the shows in that they are something that America wants to see, but TLC allows us to find out more without crossing taboo areas.

It’s not just “Honey Boo Boo” that offers a didactic experience — you can find valuable lessons in a lot of the other available programs as well.

“Breaking Amish” teaches us to take on the world, along with its new experience, with a wide-eyed wonder and open mind. Despite their sheltered upbringing, these Amish tackle on life in the big city, trying to cope with the new world and the religion they’ve been raised to believe.

“Long Island Medium” tries to show us that there is something beyond the physical world. Whether you believe in spirits, voodoo or you’re a skeptic at heart, there is no way to watch the show without the slightest bit of awe.

Sometimes it’s as if the show allows us to see beyond the veil and hear what the other side has to say.

And “Abby and Brittany” breaks all of the questions of taboo. The series that follows conjoined twins Abby and Brittany, allows the public to see how they live their lives without the rude, probing questions of an interview.

The girls let the public in on their daily routine, and show that despite their medical situation they are capable of living their lives to the fullest.

And it is our sincerest belief that in times like these where discrimination, bigotry and just plain hatred are more prevalent than expected, a lot more people need to keep learning from “the learning channel.”

Jessica Pratt is a third-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at jrpratt@uci.edu.

Ryan Wallace is a fourth-year ecology and evolutionary biology major. He can be reached at rpwallac@uci.edu.