Entertainment became the staple of the old Learning Channel decades ago when the publicly owned channel went private, stopped airing educational programs and shifted to documentaries and reality shows. With the shift came ratings and with the ratings came millions of dollars worth of revenue from advertising and subscriptions. Since then, the old Learning Channel has bloomed into a callous gong show aimed at awe-struck disaster tourists looking to see how far the network can go to humiliate and demoralize more willing participants.

Beneath the heartfelt facade of gleeful midgets and harmonious sister wives lies a dark reality. Shows like Sister Wives  and Little People, Big World  give the impression of innocent voyeurism and offer lessons in tolerance, but even these shows have evidently damaged the lives of their participants, albeit not as badly as some of the channel's less savory examples of "entertainment". To the benefit of themselves and their millions of slack-jawed viewers, TLC has shamelessly and proudly ruined countless lives.

Long Island Medium

Each year in America alone, thousands of people are defrauded and taken advantage of by people claiming to be mediums. In most cases, these mediums claim to have the ability to speak with deceased loved ones and relatives. Of course, their incredible services and talents are rarely offered for free.

The shows star, Theresa Caputo, has been under investigation for fraud. Ron Tebo, who runs the fraud complaint website, SciFake.com, told Radar Online  that Caputo is a vulture who preys on the vulnerable. His site has received hundreds of complaints about Caputo and her alleged "abilities". Many, including Tebo himself, claim that Caputo has significant resources available at her disposal and several sources that help make her "readings" as accurate as possible.

According to Tebo, who is also a private investigator, Caputo and her show's producers investigate all of Caputo's prospective clients before she provides them her services.

The product we see on television reflects tearful clients being reassured that their dead relatives and spouses are alive and happy in some other dimension of space and time. To the bleeding heart believer, and even to the skeptic, there isn't any harm in healing the wounds of mournful clients who are only looking for some closure. The problem with this is the same as the problem with any fraudulent product that gives customers a false peace of mind and security based on misrepresentation, false advertising and deception. The fact is that it's just simply wrong.

Everyone from Howard Stern to Anderson Cooper have called Theresa Caputo a fraud. A simple Google search of "Theresa Caputo Fraud" gives enough verifiable evidence to back up the claims of Ron Tebo and the hundreds who have filed complaints against her. Anyone with a rational and scientific perspective on reality knows Caputo is a fake, yet TLC continues to sell the placebo effect to her clients and their viewers. Why? For ratings.

Little People, Big World

One of the more endearing shows on TLC is this one. It peers into the lives of a midget couple with three normal sized children and one abnormally sized son. The family is known as the Roloffs and they own a large acreage in Oregon that is frequented by fans and locals during pumpkin and wedding seasons.

After the show hit the airways and became one of TLC's biggest hits, damaging family secrets began emerging in media and in tabloid magazines. The prying eyes of a curious public were all over the Roloffs and not everything they were seeing was innocent and beautiful.

Homophobic and racist slurs from Jeremy Roloff's MySpace account made some tabloid headlines and Jacob Roloff's Twitter account showed off their youngest son's obsession with marijuana. An old DUI charge against the family patriarch was also revealed. When the show started in 2006, the family appeared happy and well put together. By the show's 9th season in 2015, Matthew and Amy Roloff were getting divorced and Jacob Roloff (their youngest son) had abruptly moved away and dropped out of high school.

All of this might sound like ordinary and normal family drama, but both Amy and Matthew Roloff have admitted that their heightened profiles and increased fame have caused personal dramas and rifts to emerge within the family. It has been reported that Matthew's creative "projects" around the family farm increased exponentially after the family invited cameras into their lives in 2006 and that the couple began growing apart as a result. It has also been reported that Jacob chose to move away in an attempt to avoid being a part of the show.

Naturally, all of these resulting dramas have worked to benefit TLC's bottom line.

Breaking Amish

One of the most questionably phony, scripted and well planned shows on TLC follows a few disenfranchised Amish kids as they break away from their communities and venture out into the real world.

Back in 2012, it was revealed that most of the cast had left their communities long before the show documented their first encounters with human civilization. Family members told media that TLC had tried to buy their silence to keep up the facade that portrayed the cast as first-timers. It was also revealed by personal friends and acquaintances that Jeremiah Raber had left his Amish paradise at the age of 18. By the time Breaking Amish  premiered, Jeremiah was in his thirties.

Many scenes that depict the Amish community as authoritarian and vindictive have been criticized as misrepresentations by TLC. In several scenes in the first season, Jeremiah Raber is seen telling cameramen and producers to duck down and hide, out of fear that the town Bishop would punish him if they were caught. According to several sources, Jeremiah had left the community long before the filming and his fears about the community and its Bishop were entirely fabricated. As a result, TLC producers and Raber were accused of unfairly characterizing and disparaging the community.

Other cast members, such as Rebecca and Abe, were alleged to have born children and been a part of the "English" community for years before the show aired. They too were accused of unfairly misrepresenting their community as being vindictive and cruel.

In its attempts to create drama and garner ratings, TLC willfully and shamelessly misrepresented and exploited Amish communities across America.

Sister Wives

Among the most socially controversial shows on TLC is Sister Wives. It peers into the lives of a polygamist family with a patriarch named Kody Brown, who thinks polygamy is perfectly fine as long as it's only men who are allowed to marry multiple partners. Legalizing polygamy for women would be totally unacceptable, as far as Brown is concerned. Straying from modern Mormon orthodoxy, the Brown family is one of the few polygamist Mormon families left in America.

Aside from the polygamy, the Brown's are a pretty normal and loving family. Unfortunately, almost immediately after the show began airing, it brought unwelcome attention from authorities in Utah and the family was forced to uproot and move to Nevada to flee criminal prosecution. This was the first consequence of putting themselves up as entertainment in TLC's twisted game of harvesting real drama, in the lives of real people, for ratings.

Of course the Brown family probably takes home a good coin for doing the show, but the sum they earn doesn't compare to the revenue the show brings in for TLC. Sister Wives is one of the highest rated shows on TLC and is currently in its 6th season. It was in this latest season that visible cracks began to emerge in the Brown family.

Due directly to the family's exposure on TLC, sister wife, Meri Brown was personally stalked and catfished on the internet by one or two malicious trolls looking for thrills. TLC has been eager to exploit the growing disconnect between Meri and Kody, so there was no question that they'd be eager to exploit Meri's internet shenanigans and the drama that would unfold as a result. Her internet exploits turned into a nightmare after she was catfished, harassed and threatened by a woman posing as a man with romantic interests. In typical TLC fashion, the producers of the show exploited and used her personal drama to bolster their own ratings.

Some personal responsibility is due in this situation, especially on part of Meri Brown, but it's easy to conclude that much of the family's recent problems have come from TLC's desire to create drama where drama didn't exist. It's not unrealistic to conclude that some of these rifts and personal dramas might not have occurred with such intensity, if at all, had their lives not been so thoroughly documented and manipulated by TLC.

As we've seen, no matter how heartfelt the show, TLC's line-up of drama and "reality" has a dark side. Communities have been falsely characterized (including the Mormon faith), families have been torn apart and lives have been infused with drama that wouldn't have existed without TLC producers. The best way to combat TLC's incessant and shameless exploits is to quit watching, before the network zeros in on another set of lives to destroy.

       June 2016 Commodus
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