Wednesday, November 19, 2008

An Open Letter to the Families of TLC

Okay, Gosselin family. I was going to give you up. You'd been crowding up my DVR, and remaining largely neglected. Ever since O. decided that he won't nap, I have to really prioritize which shows get watched. I feel a little guilty plopping him down in front of a show just so that I can watch some of my own in the middle of the day.
I've gotten a little tired of the departure from a show about what it's like to live day to day as a family with lost of kids and instead become an "adventure of the week" showcase. I would take all the resorts offering you vacations up on their offers, too, I would. But seeing all of you at an amusement park, posing for a photo shoot, in San Diego, or North Carolina, or hello, HAWAII does not help me get through a long afternoon and evening with two children under the age of four.
I used to be able to turn to you for a little "there, but for the grace of God" sanity. But now Jon's not working, and so there are two of you, plus the babysitters, plus the supervision of a film crew, and it feels a little too easy. I know. Eight kids, not easy no matter what.
But I've been finding myself getting critical of your parenting choices and attitudes. I can't stand to hear Kate say "boys are icky" one more time. Or watch Mady have a breakdown without wanting to call in a therapist. Since you are real people and not characters on a sitcom, that makes me feel uneasy. I understand that when you agree to have your life taped, you knowingly submit yourself to this kind of inspection, but I don't think I want to partake in it, because it's not healthy for anyone.
I still admire your ability to be real and upfront about the challenges of raising children, how you have admitted that it is hard and frustrating, and you let yourself yell at each other and sometimes the kids, even on camera. It would be easy to say that Kate is a bitch, and not acknowledge the way she visibly grows in so many ways right there for the country to see. For example, when she sucked it up and got in the water with those sea turtles, even though it was something she at first said she would not do. While it took a lot of courage to get in the water, I think it took even more to change her mind when she had said she wouldn't. In the end, the possibility of looking foolish while doing something that made her uncomfortable was something she was willing to do so that she could have an experience and expand her world view. In the process, she helped teach her children to do the same.
So, for that reason alone, I'm watching the renewal of the vows episode, even though it seemed like a stunt on the part of the producers, even though I was annoyed at how easily I fell for that manipulative "It's a Beautiful Day" commercial they've been pumping for the last two weeks with you holding hands and walking through the grass.
And now that I am, here is a scene with Joel, and he says "Jenny, you say I'm a big lump when I'm hiding" and she and some of the other kids play along, pretending not to see him under the covers, and he squeals with delight when they pull the covers back. This is O's very favorite game, played out right in front of me on television, exactly how he likes to play it "Mom, you say where's O., and what's this wump in my bed. But not yet, I have to be hiding first."
So, I watch because you are a real family, with kids like mine, except a lot more of them. So, although it makes me uncomfortable to participate at times, I am glad you share yourselves and your lives. Could you get back to more of these moments, though, please??

But Roloffs, we're through for sure. I don't know if it's your editors' fault, or if I've just lost interest, but there does not seem to be enough content for you to maintain a full series. As evidence, I present the episode where Matt did nothing but lie on a couch in Nashville, while Amy had to say the same voiceover "We're in Nashville to give a talk, and Matt is not feeling well" at least a dozen times. And looking at your messy house continues to just make me feel a little crazy.

Duggars, I am not even going to start you. I have nothing to say to you that will not make me feel like a horrible person, starting with the fact that Jinger is not even really a "J" name, and she comes awfully early in the birth order lineup to be resorting to weird spellings.

I think that's all for now.

PS: Dear producers of "Bringing Home Baby" Are you aware how awful it is that you prey on people that have NO idea what they are getting into when they invite you to share this experience with you? Can you please leave the struggling breastfeeding mommies alone so they don't have to try to hide their sore nipples from your cameras? And really, no one WANTS to hear the sound of a squalling newborn crying at three AM, even if they are watching television at 2PM.

PPS: Don't worry, my inappropriate involvement and interest in the lives of reality television stars does not end with your network. I've got plenty to say to those over at Bravo. It's still early in the season of Top Chef though, so the enthusiasm has not yet shifted to annoyance at the editors quite yet.


Bailey said...

Ha! I was obsessed with Bringing Home Baby while waiting for my baby to arrive. I thought it would help prepare me.

The Gosselins were too scary to watch though.

mep said...

Oh, E . . . , this post was wonderful and captured so much of what I feel about the Gosselins and my own, as an avid viewer, complicity in their potentially misguided decision to publicize their children's lives.

I can't imagine what it would be like to have eight children, six of whom are the same age. But, I also can't imagine supporting my family by publicizing my children's lives. What's more, these kids have these amazing experiences (and good for them) but there seems the danger of skewing the kids' sense of reality. Neither parent works. Everywhere they go, they are treated like celebrities. They don't pay for things in stores. People bend over backward to "accommodate" (Kate's fave word on the Hawaii episdoes) them. Some times I feel like the kids are not grateful enough, but they're so young, I don't think they know that their reality is so different from that of others.

I have much more to say, but I'll stop there.

I don't watch the other shows you mentioned, but I do DVR Kids by the Dozen to watch when the DVR cupboard is close to bare. I'm kind of just fascinated by what motivates these big families and keeps them organized.

Kathleen S. said...

I fully agree about the Gosselin family - I have literally injured myself scrambling for the remote in order to change the channel the second that show comes on. It's nothing but the sounds of those kids constantly screaming! And that vow renewal thing is such b.s. No couple with 8 kids wants to renew their vows - I'm just not buying it.

As far as the Roloffs are concerned, I have to admit that I drop everything on Mondays at 8pm to see what those LPs are up to. "Todd, come quick! Matt Roloff has the flu, and is lying around his hotel room!" I'm fascinated every time. Did you know that their friend Mike (guy with glasses who almost got killed by the trebuchet) actually died in June? He had a torn aorta and never made it out of surgery. I was tempted to send a sympathy card.

Anonymous said...

You sum it up well. I have found my enthusiasm for the Gosselins waning over the last few months. I still haven't forgiven them for shutting out Aunt Jodi, and I can't help but wonder why on earth Kate doesn't feel the need to reconcile with her parents. Granted, I don't know all that went on, but every time she brings in the religious speak, I wonder "what about forgiveness? what about making amends?" However, at the end of the day, after all the perks and totally skewed sense of reality in which they are living, I too appreciate how real they seem to be on camera. Kate lets her ugliness come out, and Jon tolerates the belittling, and you do get a sense that this is just how they are. I worry for the kids though. The tapes of these episodes may very well come up in future therapy sessions...hope I am wrong, but I worry for Mady, Joel, and even "I choose to sleep in the basement" Alexis.

Fortunately, I don't watch the other shows as you can see that I allow myself to become far too involved with those I do watch.

Enjoyed the post.

CaraBee said...

I watch those shows from time to time, but I admit I just can't watch them with any kind of regularity because they all just feel so exploitative. I mean, if I were the Gosselins or the Duggars, with all those kids, I guess I would be looking for ways to pay the bills that don't include selling organs on the black market, too, but it just feels icky. The Roloffs intrigued me for a bit for their "how do LP function in a big people world?" factor, but it got old for me pretty fast.

I had to forcibly stop myself from watching BHB when I was pregnant because it freaked me out too much. Things go wrong so often on there!