TLC has always gone balls out when it comes to scheduling baity, some might say pandering, programming to woo viewers over to the network. But now it seems to be taking things to a new level.
The network, formerly The Learning Channel (LOL), will air a special, The Man With the 132 Lb. Scrotum, on August 19. While I left work and rushed home in a cab to set my TiVo for this gem of a program, it was with a nagging feeling that I was feeding the monster.
Wesley Warren Jr., a 49-year-old from Las Vegas, suffers from the rare condition scrotal lymphedema, making “simple tasks like walking, preparing meals, and even going to the restroom” difficult, according to the TLC release. (Eesh … remember that one episode of South Park?) Warren’s condition sounds fascinating and horrifying, but making a TV special about extremely large balls does seem a bit exploitative, especially considering the specials and series TLC has aired in the past.
How does The Man With the 132 Lb. Scrotum rank among some of the lowest?
‘Best Funeral Ever’
The series was about funeral home in Dallas known for staging odd and ridiculous funerals (referred to by the home’s owners as “home-going celebrations”). One episode, for example, centered on a Christmas-themed “celebration,” complete with elves and reindeer. Another had a state-fair theme. All had grieving relatives.
‘Big Hair Alaska’
The only reason this series, about a hair salon in Wasilla, Alaska, even existed is because it is where Sarah Palin used to go to get her hair done. If that’s enough of a hook for a TV series to get greenlighted (Palin, it should be said, was not a main character on the series), we’re in trouble. You betcha.
When Big Sexy, which chronicled five plus-size women in the fashion industry, premiered in 2011, outraged viewers penned essays about “Reasons Not to Watch TLC’s New Show.” Wrote Sarah McEleney at Yahoo, Big Sexy “had the potential to really change the reality-TV formula, but sadly it only feeds into the idea that ‘fat is bad.’”
‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo’
At first, America cringed at the Georgia bumpkins who feast on “sketti”—spaghetti with ketchup instead of sauce—and entertain themselves by playing games with names like “cup-a-fart.” While the series may have begun by exploiting their colloquialisms and down-home way of living for laughs, it’s turned into a portrait of a family who genuinely love each other—and don’t need Chanel bags and a crew of Housewives to have fun.
‘I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant’
This is probably the most ridiculed of TLC’s programming. The series restages (typically, with cringe-inducing acting and dialogue) real-life stories of women (typically, with easy-to-mock twangy accents and unsophisticated ways of explaining things) whose first indication they were expecting a child was when it was being birthed from their bodies (typically, in a bathroom). Mazel tov.
‘I Eat 33,000 Calories a Day’
People may joke that eating 33,000 calories a day sounds like a dream—especially those of us who count every piece of celery we put into our bodies. But I Eat 33,000 Calories a Day quickly reveals that the habit is not gleeful gluttony but a pathological and debilitating disorder. Rather than be instructional or cautionary, the show turns its subjects into feasting zoo objects for audiences to gawk at.
‘My 600-lb Life’
See I Eat 33,000 Calories a Day.
‘The Man Who Lost His Face’
Ostensibly the precursor to The Man With the 132 Lb. Scrotum, The Man Who Lost His Face told the story of a José Mestre, who had been made blind, unable to eat, and nearly incapable of breathing by a 12-pound tumor that invaded his face. Mestre’s struggle to live a life with any semblance of normality is chronicled by the show, which turns a tragic condition into a “WTF? Let’s watch!” TV documentary title.
These couples are all virgins, and some haven’t even kissed. Let’s learn about them and what led to that moral, deeply informed decision, right? Just kidding—ha ha, they’re awkward virgins; let’s all laugh instead! A major missed opportunity from the network to offer a glimpse at a complex social subject.