TLC, or The Learning Channel, is an American broadcasting cable network that is part of the Discovery Channel family. Although it’s technically been a channel since 1972 (at that time under the name “Appalachian Community Service Network”), it only gained real notoriety in the late ’90s and the early 2000s. As of early 2015, over 95 million Americans have paid access to the popular channel.
The early years of programming did bring forth quite a few educational and informative shows. In tune with the channel’s namesake, learning was at the epicenter of most of the aired programs. Soon enough, however, the channel started to air more mainstream, reality-style programs, and ratings soared. Shows like Trading Spaces, A Baby Story, and Junkyard Wars were so well received that the channel focused all of its marketing budget on developing new and exciting shows that revolved around real people.
The last decade has been filled with a surge of new shows on TLC, each one more ridiculous than the last. It seems that there’s no topic that’s taboo; in fact, the more shocking and outrageous, the better the ratings. We, as viewers, just love to peek into the lives of the strange and the unknown. TLC has successfully marketed a brand of crazy real-life stories that is unprecedented by any other network. Despite the success, many of these shows push the limits into “overrated” territory. Here are 10 Most Overrated TLC Shows (And 5 That are Underrated):
15. OVERRATED: Honey Boo Boo
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo was a hit reality show on the TLC network, which ended in 2014 after 4 seasons. Episodes that were filmed for a 5th season, prior to the show’s cancellation, were aired in April 2017. The show followed the life and times of child beauty pageant contestant Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson. Her parents June and Mike, who were featured in the show, were highly criticized for their decision to enter their then 6-year-old into beauty pageants. Despite the negative reactions, people were so curious about this strange family, enough so that close to 3 million people tuned in to each episode. There’s something intriguing about the Honey Boo Boo gang, but you’re better off skipping this.
14. OVERRATED: 19 Kids and Counting
TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting aired for a total of 10 seasons until its cancellation in 2015. The show centered around the Duggar family, a gang of devout Baptists, hailing from rural Arkansas, with a penchant for children with names starting with the letter “J”. Parents Jim Bob and Michelle were on a Biblical mission to have as many kids as “God intended,” foregoing birth control methods that are frowned upon by the Church. Well, they got what they bargained for with 19 children — and more possibly on the way. In 2015, their son Josh got himself into some major legal trouble when he confessed that he had molested several young girls (including his sisters). A spin-off show, called Counting On, aired its first season in late 2015 and didn’t feature the accused. Skip this unless you’re a devout Christian with a desire to have close to 20 children.
13. OVERRATED: Sister Wives
What young girl doesn’t dream of sharing an unattractive, misogynistic, and borderline cray-cray husband with three other women? The lucky ladies of Sister Wives hit the jackpot as far as polyamorous relationships go; salesman husband Kody Brown is legally married to wife Robyn but in a spiritual union with his three other wives. Their relationships have produced a total of 18 children, all of whom will likely need therapy down the line. The strange polygamist family hailing from Utah all live together in a huge ranch-style home, with most of their children packed into shared rooms and close quarters. The show has shocked viewers for 11 seasons. We don’t need any more.
12. OVERRATED: Kate Plus 8
Kate Plus 8, which was originally titled Jon & Kate Plus 8, is one of the longest-running reality TV series on TLC. The show presents the real-life adventures of Kate Gosselin, a 42-year-old mom of 8 who had two pregnancies, which resulted in septuplets and twins. Her now ex-husband and father of all 8 children, Jon Gosselin, created quite a media splash back in 2009 while the couple was going through a very public divorce. Jon got himself involved with a rough crowd and was often photographed in compromising and unfavorable situations. Kate has also been criticized after she went through a bit of a body transformation; she altered her look dramatically, getting hair extensions and plastic surgery. The Gosselins are pretty outdated, and we can do without this family in our lives.
11. OVERRATED: The Little Couple
TLC sure loves little people! The Little Couple just launched its 11th season and regularly attracts over 2 million viewers per episode. Married couple Bill Klein and Jennifer Arnold both suffer from skeletal dysplasia, resulting in their short stature. Bill is exactly 4 feet tall, while Jennifer is 3’2. They both work in the medical industry; Jennifer is a neonatologist who works at the Texas Children’s Hospital, while Bill works as a medical supplies salesman. The show has centered around their two adoptions, Jennifer’s fight with a rare form of cancer, and the opening of a family store. Despite the fact that this couple is really likable and sweet, the show has covered so much already, and they’re quickly running out of ideas. Perhaps, it’s time to throw in the towel.
10. OVERRATED: Little People Big World
Here’s another little-people program, the one that launched the trend. Little People, Big World first aired in 2006 and follows the life and times of the Roloff family, an Oregon-based gang that includes 5 family members, including three who have dwarfism. TLC originally claimed that the show would end after six seasons, but that came and went, and the Roloffs are still going strong in Season 17. The family has claimed that they love the ability to educate people about dwarfism through the show. That might be well and true, but the money and fame definitely play a part as well. Due to their 10-plus year commitment, they’ve amassed a net worth of close to $10 million dollars. Take the money and relax — off the air!
9. OVERRATED: Gypsy Sisters
Gypsy Sisters was a spin-off to hit show My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding, which aired for 4 seasons, ending in 2015. The show follows the unique lifestyles of Romanichal gypsy women living in West Virginia. The Gypsy franchise has been met with more than a little bit of criticism from viewers. Allegations of racism, sexism, and ethnic misrepresentation have been at the center of the hype. The American Romani/Gypsy community has spoken out about the show, claiming that these people aren’t actual gypsies but fame-hungry imposters who are giving the group a bad name. This alone, without adding in the ridiculous behavior, the outrageous outfits, and the terrible dancing viewers are subjected to, is enough for us to steer clear of the series.
8. OVERRATED: Long Island Medium
Nothing screams “authentic” quite like a television psychic, am I right? Theresa Caputo has made quite the living on her hit TLC show, Long Island Medium despite her credibility being challenged on numerous occasions. Theresa claims she can communicate with the deceased, and the program centers around her sessions with clients who wish to get messages from other realms. Her popularity has gained her 10 seasons on TLC (and counting), and she’s published several books and started her own jewelry line. Despite her many critics, she regularly draws over 2 million viewers, so clearly, she has an audience. Even so, you might want to skip out on this. The cheesy hair and overly general readings scream “fake!”
7. OVERRATED: My Five Wives
Oh, great. Another d-bag with five wives and twenty-four children. Just what the world needs right now! Luckily, this series was canned after airing for 2 seasons. It followed the life and times of polygamist Brady Williams, another Utah native. The sad thing is that these women are desperately attached to Brady. The wives fight over who gets sleeping privileges each night, and Brady has to rotate beds so that each wife gets a turn at least once a week. Ugh! How horrifying is that? In fact, in contrast to the gang in Sister Wives, Brady and his wives are actually shunned by their church. They’ve been disowned by several family members as well and live in near isolation somewhere outside of Salt Lake City with their two dozen children.
6. OVERRATED: 90 Day Fiance
TLC seems to be in the business of making people as uncomfortable as humanly possible. And that holds true for the contestants on their shows and their viewers at home. Enter 90 Day Fiance, a reality series that follows the adventures of international couples who must decide within 90 days if they want to marry or separate. Marriage would secure a visa for the foreign partner and guarantee that they could live and work legally in the United States. The show deals with the challenges faced by International couples, such as culture shock, adapting to new work and living conditions, and dealing with different customs. Each season is centered around a different couple; some seem super in love, and some seem, ahem, just wanting to get a visa (not naming names, but take a look at the photo of this happy couple).
5. UNDERRATED: Extreme Couponing
Extreme Couponing is one of the few TLC reality shows that can actually teach you some interesting lessons about being a savvy shopper. Although it no longer airs on TLC, it’s broadcast on sister channel Discovery Family. The program follows extreme couponers as they navigate grocery stores and take advantage of coupons, mail-in rebates, and special offers. Despite the fact that the shoppers end up walking away with tons of items for mere dollars, the show has been criticized for promoting hoarding behavior. While it’s true that these ladies have lifetime supplies of products that will likely go bad before they’re used, it’s still really interesting to see how much money can be saved with a little bit of effort.
4. UNDERRATED: Breaking Amish
What happens when five young Anabaptist youth trade in their strict Amish lifestyle for the big city? Breaking Amish is a very untypical coming-of-age reality show that demonstrates the opposite scopes of life. These young teens are faced with one burning question: are they ready to break free from the life that they’ve always known, one of routine, religious devotion, and isolation from society? Are the temptations of the free world, filled with partying, young love and fashion enough for them to say goodbye forever to the only family they know? Tattoos, DUIs, and underage pregnancies are just some of the fun topics that come up in this black-meets-white series. Season 6 just wrapped up, and Season 7 is expected to start airing in the spring.
3. UNDERRATED: Trading Spaces
Trading Spaces was one of the original reality-style hit shows on TLC. First airing in 2000, it spanned 8 seasons until its cancellation in 2008. Hosted by Paige Davis and featuring carpenter and Mr. Fix It Ty Pennington, the show treated viewers to beautiful renovations. The concept was simple: friendly neighbors swapped homes for a long weekend, while a room of their choice was given a total makeover. Painting, refurnishing, and new floors were all par for the course. The original budget for the facelift was $1,000 (later upped to $2,000), so the renovators had to be frugal and thrifty with their budget. This made the transformations all the more surprising and epic. This one goes down in the vault as a classic.
2. UNDERRATED: Untold Stories of the E.R.
Untold Stories of the E.R. is another long-running program on TLC. Based on real events, the show treats viewers to dramatic recreations of the most shocking and incredible medical events that have taken place within the walls of various emergency rooms in America. The tales are comically narrated by the real-life medical staff (or so we’re led to believe… they might be actors, for all we know!) Women having babies without knowing they were pregnant, turtle attacks, and accidental shootings are all par for the course in this silly but fun series. Airing since 2004, this is a true staple in the TLC directory of shows. If you’ve been living under a rock, treat yourself to an episode.
1. UNDERRATED: A Baby Story
A Baby Story started airing in 1998, right around the time that I started high school. I can still remember getting home from school and watching the 3:00 PM show every day. It followed the lives of expectant parents right up until the time that their bundle of joy arrived into the world. Some of the labor and delivery are included in the show, although highly edited clips at that. Afterward, you see a happy-ending segment, which is filmed once the family makes it back home. A Baby Story ended in 2007 and was soon replaced by spin-off show, Bringing Home Baby. Although there’s no shortage of baby-momma style reality shows out there, this one was actually pretty good. Into the vault of classics.
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