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Feb 6, 2015

Imaginary Spinster Aunts & Other Theories About TLC

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to pronounce TLC the most batshit channel on television. The Learning Channel, colloquially known as TLC—probably officially known as TLC, too, since the producers have clearly abandoned that whole ‘learning’ thing—is the leading network for wedding programming. Their stellar line-up also features murders, cupcakes, hoarders, little people, murderous cupcake-hoarding little people (they're real, and on TLC - Tuesdays at 9); but I have yet to completely give up on my life, so I stick to the wedding shows.

On first glance, TLC covers an unexplainably random spectrum of topics. However, there is one sole theory that can rationalize TLC—it is run by a gaggle of spinster aunts. I imagine a herd of 57-year-old women. I imagine charity 5K baseball hats worn over grey frizz. I imagine cat sweaters with sassy captions. A group of feisty middle-aged females who were sick of their middle school vice principal jobs, sick of what was on TV, and darn sick of not doing anything about it. Until finally, they pooled together their vice principal money and bought a television network. Ladies and gentlemen, your TLC board of directors. This has to be why it’s called The Learning Channel. Not because we the viewers are learning, but Sharon and the gals are learning this fancy television talk as they go along.

It’s a learning experience for us, okay? Are we a channel about weddings? Are we a channel about psychics? Are we a channel about midgets? Wait, Janice, are we allowed to say midgets? Am I gonna get in trouble for saying that? Eh, who cares! We’re the Learning Channel, ladies. We’re learning! Carol, put on that show with that guy with five wives. No, not that one. The other one with a goatee just like that crazy guy’s on Food Network. Yes, Carol. Put it on, who cares. Alright! We got this! Yes, ladies!

Yes, ladies. Yes, indeed. You are learning, and I’m loving every single second of it. TLC’s most pervasive parasite, Say Yes to the Dress, is already a smash hit—since the title rhymes. All of America’s most loved shows have poetic titles: Bill Nye the Science Guy, Rachael Ray’s Week in a Day, Dora the Explora, etc. However, the thought process behind SYTTD abruptly ends there. It’s as if a TLC aunt thought of the title, high-fived the other aunts, then was unexpectedly forced to come up with the entire show’s premise right then and there.

-Say Yes to the Dress! Love it! What’s it about?
-Well, Sharon, it’s… uh, it’s about choosing dresses.
-Ack. I don’t know, Carol. That’s it? A half-hour of choosing dresses?
-No! Uh, there’s more. They’re, um, choosing… wedding dresses! They’re choosing wedding dresses.
-I LOVE IT!!!!!!!! **faints from excitement**

The most outstanding part of Say Yes to the Mess is that it is so simple that you can mute it and still fully grasp everything that’s going on. Yet, they have a narrator—for those who are just baffled by girls walking into a magical room and walking out wearing something totally different. Wait! How did they…? Did they change personalities, too? What’s going on?! My easily confused sisters, fear not, for TLC’s gallant narrator is here to hold your hand and walk you through it. This glorious aspect of SYTTD means that there is a real man out there, with a real man voice, whose real job title is ‘Say Yes to the Dress Narrator.’ Really.

Mornin’, Bill. What we got? Great. Short day today. Jesus, Bill, you think I don’t know cigarettes are bad for my voice? Jeez, you sound like my bitch wife. Can we just record this damn thing so I can afford to feed my kids? Can we start already? Great. Jesus, Bill. Alright, here we go—

‘Becky loves the mermaid silhouette, but Mom has something different in mind!’

Got it? Alright. Nice, Bill, for once. Same time tomorrow? Great. I hate myself.

If SYTTD is too simple to you—maybe you’re fighting a constant battle between your craving for intellectual challenge and your craving for wedding trash—don’t worry, the zany vice principals at TLC got you covered. For lovers of math and reading and other confusing stuff, may I present to you – Four Weddings. In this bridal competition show, four women attend and rate each other’s weddings—all while desperately convincing themselves that their wedding is the greatest, happiest, most unique celebration that will have every spin class talking for generations and all the other weddings are just ants eating bologna off paper plates.

Four Wedding’s ingeniously crafted rating system attempts to quantify the quality of a wedding by giving each of four categories a score out of 10—Dress, Venue, Food, and Overall Experience. Not sure how Groomsmen Hotness didn’t make it in that final four, but you could always commend high-caliber hotness in the catch-all Overall Experience category. Wait, why are you looking at the groomsmen? You literally just got married yesterday. Pull yourself together, Lisa.

What is this all for, you ask? What’s the precious prize? It’s all for a honeymoon. One honeymoon to rule them all. Meaning that out of the four newlyweds, three will be honeymoon-less. Now, isn’t that just poor budgeting? Here’s an idea for the cat lady board of directors at TLC, whoever expertly crafted the Four Weddings rating system, can they please help these brides manage their finances? You spent $2,000 to get your husband’s baby picture engrained on cake sprinkles, but you never thought to set that money aside for a honeymoon? You planned a wedding, threw that wedding, got told on national television that your wedding was objectively worse then someone else’s wedding, then you just… went home? That’s it?

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the stock image of failure. However, you’d never even suspect how depressed the bride contestants (bride-testants?) are—just because they look so painstakingly cheerful. All of the time. Always. No matter how disastrous a wedding may be, those unrelenting bride guests (bride..ests… breasts? Okay I’m done with this game) will slap McSmiles on their spray-tanned faces so nobody suspects they’re having a bad time. If they have a bad time, then the bride whose wedding is sucking will be sad. If the sucky bride is sad, then she’ll avenge her suckiness but lowballing that other bride’s points. If that bride loses, then her husband will divorce her. Well, maybe not. But it could totally happen. I mean, wouldn’t you be pissed if your fiancĂ©e subjected your ~celebration of love~ to strangers’ rigorous scrutiny, and have it all be for nothing? Right? This show has heavy consequences, y’all.

Karen’s wedding was really… nice. Yeah, really nice. It was in her home. I mean her grandmother’s home. Okay, I really mean her grandmother’s basement… which is really unique! I mean, I’ve never, and I mean never, been to a wedding in a basement before. Had a very homey, family feel to it. And, uh, well, her grandmother died a couple years ago, but the body is still there… I mean, it’s nice that her grandma could make it to the wedding, dead or alive, right? Yeah, that probably, hopefully, meant a lot to Karen. So, yeah, the whole reception space had a very decomposing, rotten ambiance, but that actually contrasted well with the fresh seafood we had for dinner. Really lovely. 9 out of 10 for overall experience.

TLC’s marital mayhem has frequently brought my own wedding desires into question. I revel in watching them, but do I want one for myself? Marriage, yes, so I can automatically have someone to drag to social gatherings and order  Chinese food with quickly after. But do I really want to throw a hundred-thousand-dollar glitter extravaganza to prove it? To TLC’s delight, I truly love weddings. However, to my mother’s denial, I only love them at a distance. That is, unless you’re proposing right now, then yes. I love you. And we’re winning that damn honeymoon.