Opinion: Viewers tune in to TLC shows and the psychology behind it

Inna Dinkins

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Man eating chips in front of screenAmateur Hub on Pexels

As much as we don’t like to admit it, you’ve surely tuned in to a trashy TV show before.

From the OG’s such as Jerry Springer and Maury, that for years dominated daytime programming. Known for their outlandish scenarios, these hosts poke a stick at messy real-life situations. Covering topics previously considered inappropriate from television, such as paternity testing or personal life scandals.

As viewership increased, they seemed to take it up a notch with each season that aired. This kept us on our feet and tuned in, (most often on sick days in bed). Although seasons have concluded, YouTube clips will remain notorious and excerpts from the show in GIF form live on to this day.

However, there’s no shortage of similar programming. It seems that our latest obsessions have fixated on a specific channel — TLC. A network that originally stood for “The Learning Channel” and began in 1980, it focused on educational topics including shows for preschoolers and dinosaur documentaries.

A far cry from today’s lineup which includes Seeking Sister Wife, I Love a Mama’s Boy, My 600-lb. Life, and the empire of 90-Day Fiancé (totaling 22 spinoffs).

You can see the full lineup on their site: https://www.tlc.com/shows/tv-schedule

When we as a nation collectively declared our love for reality TV, we kept demand for these shows high and found it was just us to blame. The network’s pressure increased to find the most compelling, disgusting, or embarrassing stories that tapped into a wide range of human emotions. One thing was true, the casting directors were surely working overtime.

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Seeking Sister WivesTLC

These shows share a common thread. They made us feel something from people who were outwardly sharing some of the most hidden aspects of their lives. Their emotions are heightened while they move through challenging life circumstances, unimaginable to you. It’s raw and vulnerable, and you may argue scripted storylines, but it’s certainly not edited to feel as such.

You would watch the show only to shamelessly text your friend if they’ve seen it. The wild scenarios prompt discussion to be shared with others. We can walk away with a variety of emotions, but they stay with us as we evaluate our own life.

In America, we are accustomed to movies with happy endings. So much so that it’s to be expected every time we tune in. You see happy couples and people living the dream when in reality you actually walk away feeling worse than you started.

Your own relationship and life choices are questioned as you hold them to the standard of the main character that so wonderfully acted out true happiness. That’s why when we end a reality show about a girl whose boyfriend would rather see his mom in the wedding dress, we think “thank goodness that’s not me”.

However, in other countries, they create more realistic movies that emulate people’s struggles and failures. All for the same reason of walking away and being able to reflect on your life in gratitude.

We have gotten too used to the same narrative of true love and “happily ever after” that these exposed, real TLC programs are exactly what we need.

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Denver, CO
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