Maybe TLC should do a reality show about apologies — they’re getting a lot of practice. Before “Mama June” — the corpulent matriarch of the Honey Boo-Boo clan — was discovered to be having a relationship with a convicted sex offender who molested her daughter, TLC had to apologize to British TV viewers who were offended by the coarse language and profanities in one of the episodes. That was in June of 2014. Then came the scandal with the sex offender, leading to the cancellation of the show. Throughout,  TLC has been shocked, apologetic, disappointed…did I mention shocked?

Now they have a new molestation scandal with Josh Duggar who, in the past, molested five of his siblings. It’s a little hard for TLC to play the “shocked” card this time around since Oprah got wind of the  molestation charges in 2006 and abruptly cancelled an interview with the Duggars. Did TLC not ask why the interview was being cancelled? It’s a little hard to believe the information never traveled their way, especially since the accusation was reported to child services.

They aren’t the only network to scramble for the right words when a reality star goes off the rails. A&E issued their own version of shock and disappointment when Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame went on a homophobic rant in 2013. They suspended him, then re-hired him, although in 2014 he went on another tear against gays and the network didn’t say a thing. Most recently, he took on atheists, spinning out a horrific imaginary scenario in which an atheist’s family is shot, raped, and decapitated in front of him; then the attackers sever his manhood from his body. Maybe A&E has run out of mushy sounding apologies. Or maybe they don’t care anymore as long as the show is making them money.

Here is why the expressions of shock and disappointment are so reprehensible. These networks seek out people who are bizarre to say the least. They throw money at them, they shine a bright spotlight on them,  and turn them into “celebrities.” Then they’re surprised when some of these characters go off script. Oh wait, there isn’t supposed to be a script, is there — it’s reality television. Yet somehow there is a naive assumption that people who were plucked out of obscurity precisely because of their weirdness will stay between the lines that a network has designed for them. The message seems to be, ‘We want a freak show, but don’t get too freakish on us.’

Somehow these networks fail to realize that dating sex offenders, molesting underage girls, and going on grotesque rants against gays and atheists isn’t freakish to these reality stars. It’s their normal.



  1. Michael Anketell says:

    Point well taken. TLC continues to amaze me
    Although I’ve never watched a full episode
    of the Dugger’s the few brief minutes I did
    watch sincerely grossed me out.
    It was almost like watching American
    Horror Story Freak Show, but that was
    entertaining. Not this mess.

  2. penni Barnett says:

    When I have some rare free time to watch TV I want to see “talent” and real entertainment. If I want to see freaks I can shop at Wal-Mart. Why would anyone want to watch people whom we wouldn’t associate with in our personal lives? Great article, Patti.

  3. Stacey Brooks says:

    When did The LEARNING Channel fall down into the gutter? The gutter that was built by Bravo. It’s sad times when we reward the despicable and mediocre instead of those that we should truly be rewarding and admiring. I have a difficult time just “Keeping Up” with my OWN life, let alone some minimally talented punch a media “prostitutes.”

  4. Mick Bysshe says:

    Doing just fine without owning a television set. Having grown up in a quiverful family (3rd of 11 children) I can attest that it is a weird dynamic. The Duggers were/are using Bill Gothard educational curricula–Gothard has had his own share of inappropriate behavior toward females.

    As the Duggers grow up I am sure some of the children will suffer for being in the spotlight for so long.

  5. Valerie Brekke says:

    I admit I watch these shows because I am awestruck by the freakish nature of all of them! I mean, who knew there was an Amish Mafia, Irish Gypsy weddings, Sister Wives, and that we could be “fascinated” by multiples and little people?? What I had somehow hoped was that one or more of the Duggar offspring would take up smoking, cussing, drinking, actual dating and JimBob and/or Michelle would have an apoplectic fit because their offspring did something a “normal” rebellious teen would do. Instead, child molestation and its cover-up (ala Catholic priests) is way beyond anything normal, rebellious teens would do…It’s disgusting!

  6. @flyoverland says:

    Another good reason to watch TCM. The only bad thing is they aren’t making any more old movies. Its kind of like waiting for that new Vivaldi album that never comes.

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