It’s hard to believe that TLC stands for the “The Learning Channel”, considering the channel’s current focus on reality television. The channel was originally called the Appalachian Community Service Network and was distributed by NASA via their satellites. It was then bought by its current owner, Discovery Communications, which used the channel to run child-friendly content. The channel was then stuck in limbo after the launch of Discovery Kids.
Suffering from an identity crisis of sorts, the channel turned to more mass appeal shows, particularly focused on home improvement. TLC then started focusing on personal reality shows around 2008. The channel then rebranded itself and began running family-themed reality shows. Examples such as Counting On and Little People, Big World were huge hits for the network.
This led to add similar shows to its slate, including Toddlers and Tiaras and its well known spin-off, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Recently, shows like The Healer and I Am Jazz have begun airing on the network. It’s disappointing to see the kind of shows that TLC is airing today, considering how some of them are blatantly fake shows that are posing as unscripted reality television.
Here are the 8 Shows On TLC That Are Clearly Fake (And 8 That Are Sort Of Real)
16. Fake — Sister Wives
TLC’s Sister Wives is no doubt one of the most infamous shows currently airing on the network. The realty show, which details the life of a polygamist family, the Browns, has been raising eyebrows since it premiered back in 2010. The series revolves around Kody Brown; his wives Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn; their 18 children; and the ups and downs they face as an open polygamist family.
Since its debut, the show has garnered a strong fan following eager to keep up with the lives of Kody and his four wives. While TLC would have you believe that the reality show is completely unscripted, it becomes pretty clear to the viewer that something feels off about the show.
During its initial seasons, the Browns had to flee Utah after their lifestyle resulted in them being persecuted. The family decided to leave their home and settle in Las Vegas. However, according to Kristyn Decker, the aunt of Christine Brown, the plan to move to Las Vegas was carefully planned. There’s also the fact that the wives reportedly can’t stand each other in real life, which only seems to make Sister Wives more fictional.
15. Sort of Real — I Am Jazz
I Am Jazz centers on Jazz Jennings, who was diagnosed at the age of four with gender dysphoria. This makes her one of the youngest publicly documented as being transgender and Jazz is sharing her story with the world.
The series, which was inspired by the documentary I Am Jazz: A Family in Transition, revolves around Jazz’s life as a transgender adolescent. Jennings’ family includes her parents, three siblings, and grandparents. The series has garnered great reviews for its depiction of the transgender teenage girl.
Critics and online bloggers alike have praised the reality series for handling her story with sensitivity and care. The series doesn’t look or feel like the average reality show, mostly because it chooses to not dramatize the events it depicts.
14. Fake — Counting On
Fans of reality shows are no doubt familiar with the Duggar family. The Duggars were first introduced in 17 Kids And Counting, which focused on Jim and Michelle Duggar and their 17 children. They eventually had two more children in later seasons, bringing the grand total up to 19.
One of TLC’s biggest hits, the series also resulted in the spin-off, Counting On, after the Josh Duggar allegations came to light. This show follows the family in the aftermath of the scandal. However, with so much drama going on behind the scenes, is it possible that Counting On is nothing more than a scripted series? The answer to that seems to be a resounding yes.
13. Sort of Real —My 600-lb Life
TLC’s My 600-lb Life is a reality series that sheds light on the plight of people who are struggling with obesity. The series follows a year in their life as they attempt to reduce their weight through diet and exercise, or medical procedures like gastric bypass surgery and Sleeve gastrectomy.
The TLC series has been a hit with fans since it first premiered in 2012 as a five-part miniseries. My 600-lb Life appears less scripted than other TLC shows, as it doesn’t try to profit from the lives of the people it’s ostensibly helping.
The surgeries performed on the show are all real and one of the patients involved in the series actually died due to an illness stemming from his surgery. All in all, My 600-lb Life is much more real than other shows on TLC.
12. Fake — Long Island Medium
TLC’s series about medium Theresa Caputo has been a network hit since the show began in 2011. The series revolves around Caputo and her ability to communicate with the dead. While the series has its share of critics, the show has been running for eight seasons, with Caputo’s paranormal abilities continuing to impress fans.
However the show, and Caputo herself, have been blamed for toying with people’s personal feelings. There have been multiple skeptics who claim that Caputo simply uses a variety of well-known cons to exploit her client’s desire to interact with their loved ones who have passed away.
Retired stage magician James Randi has been vocal about his dislike for Caputo, stating that shows like hers are harmful to the participants. The medium also seems to get a lot of details wrong when interacting with crowds.
11. Sort of Real — Who Do You Think You Are?
Who Do You Think You Are? is an American genealogy documentary series based on the British series of the same name. The show originally aired on NBC, but moved to TLC following its cancellation from the former.
The show, produced by Friends’ Lisa Kudrow, features a different celebrity in each episode. They then learn about his/her ancestry and travel to different parts of the world to learn more about his/her familial roots. The series is currently in its 10th season and has featured everyone from Susan Sarandon and Gwyneth Paltrow to J.K Rowling and Bryan Cranston.
The series has been nominated multiple times for Primetime Emmy Awards, including one in 2017 for Outstanding Structured Reality Series. Who Do You Think You Are?’s partnership with for-profit genealogy company Ancestory.com helps the show find the forgotten relatives of all the celebrities.
10. Fake — Little People Big World
Little People, Big World is a reality show based on the Roloff family. The Roloff’s are comprised of parents Matt and Amy, and their kids Zach, Molly, Jeremy, and Jacob. The show focuses on Matt, Amy, and Zach, who all suffer from dwarfism and how it affects not only their own lives, but the entire family.
The series has been praised by critics and fans for its portrayal of little people. It has been a continued hit for the network, with the season eight finale breaking viewership records for TLC.
However, according to Jacob Roloff, who has since distanced himself from the show, very little about the program is real. He claims that scenes are staged quite frequently and that his parents are playing characters of themselves.
9. Sort of Real — Evil Things
If you’re a fan of real life scary stories and paranormal events, then TLC’s Evil Things may be right up your alley. The series depicts the stories of people who have survived paranormal encounters and lived to tell the tale.
Each episode features two accounts of people who claim that they’ve dealt with supernatural forces, ranging from possession to curses. Whether or not you want to believe in the validity of the narrator will ultimately be up to viewer, but TLC gets full marks for making a show that’s scary, dark, and realistic.
Unfortunately, if you like your ghost shows to have a stellar script and great acting then Evil Things may not be for you. However, the series does accomplish its aim of telling frightening stories about some truly evil and spooky things.
8. Fake — Breaking Amish
Breaking Amish revolves around five young Anabaptist adults, four being Amish and one being Mennonite, who move to New York City. Their resulting experience of a different life and how they navigate their way through work, romance, and friendship is the main focus of the show.
Each cast member then has to decide whether to return to their communities or to stay in New York. The series is one of TLC’s most prolific shows and has gone on to spawn several spin-offs, including Breaking Amish: Los Angeles and Breaking Amish: Brooklyn.
7. Sort of Real — Long Lost Family
Long Lost Family is one of the more recent additions to TLC. While the first season only had eight episodes, the second season had an additional eleven episodes ordered. The series is based on the British series of the same name and allows families to reconnect after being separated.
Hosted by Chris Jacobs and Lisa Joyner, the show explores the events that led to the estrangement of their family and, if possible, reunites them. Similarly to Who Do You Think You Are? the series is linked with Ancestery.com, which helps trace the family tree of the person in question.
6. Fake — Extreme Couponing
At first glance, TLC’s Extreme Couponing sounds like the kind of show that could never be fake. It’s a reality series about shoppers who use coupons to save money. However, according to The Balance, a lot of the show is scripted.
In reality, it is next to impossible to shop the same way that is portrayed on the show. In order to make the show work, some store policies are changed to benefit the coupon holder. Additionally, there are coupons that are acquired through unethical means, such as photocopying them.
This goes against the whole concept of the show, which presents Extreme Couponing as something that can be done by anyone. A supermarket in Arizona had to resort to Facebook to clarify that the coupon policy depicted in the show wasn’t real. The show also had its shoppers buying items with expired coupons, which really suggests thatExtreme Couponing is just another fake TLC show.
5. Sort of Real — Cake Boss
Cake Boss, TLC’s reality show about Carlo’s Bake Shop, has been serving fans delicious drama ever since it began in April 2009. The show follows Bartolo Valastro, Jr. (Buddy) and his family as they run a successful bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey.
The show, like most reality series, isn’t completely authentic. Elements including their lines, scenarios, and customers are added to make for some truly enjoyable TV. There’s also the fact that Buddy and his family are already commissioned to do work before it is revealed on the show.
The producers basically cook up a scenario for the cake boss, which leaves us glued to the edge of our seats, wondering if Buddy will finish the work on time. That being said, most of the stuff that occurs in Cake Boss does happen in real life and the cakes they make are 100% real.
4. Fake — 90 Day Fiancé
TLC’s 90 Day Fiancé is a series about couples who meet abroad and decide whether or not to get engaged. The couple then has the titular 90 days to decide whether or not they will stay in the United States and get married or leave and end the relationship.
While TLC claims the show is real in all aspects, some new information confirms that the show does contain staged scenes. In season 5, the show depicted a scene between the couple of David and Annie, in which David’s friend Chris asked a pregnant Annie for a massage.
Lucky for us, Chris revealed to the world that the showrunners and the director had fed them the lines. This means that 90 Day Fiancé may have staged other scenes and perhaps even entire relationships.
3. Sort of Real — Say Yes To The Dress
Every bride wants the perfect dress for her wedding and the TLC series Say Yes to the Dress makes that dream a reality. The series has been quite successful and has resulted in multiple spin-offs, including Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta, and Say Yes to the Dress: Bridesmaids.
While the brides to be come from all over America to shop at Kleinfeld Bridal, the experience of being on the show isn’t as amazing as one would expect. For instance, the staff at Kleinfeld doesn’t cater to the customer’s every whim, nor are the advisers of any real help.
2. Fake — Toddlers and Tiaras
A show based on the lives of child beauty pageant contestants and their families sounds harmless enough, right? Ever since Toddlers and Tiaras started, the series has been embroiled in one controversy after another. From abuse allegations to dressing provocatively, Toddlers and Tiara has never been as innocent as it seemed.
However, according to New York Post, the series isn’t that troublesome by accident. In fact, much of the drama is manufactured, including the many feuds between the contestants — in reality get along quite well.
The show seems to look for families that already seem to have issues and then use them to create more drama on-screen. The show has had multiple spin-offs, including Eden’s World, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and Cheer Perfection. These shows have helped fans realize just how scripted the world of Toddlers and Tiaras really is.
1. Sort of Real— The Healer
The Healer is easily one of the most amazing shows to air on TLC. The show revolves around Charlie Goldsmith, an Aussie with a gift for healing people. Goldsmith claims that he can heal people through “energy healing” and has demonstrated his powers multiple times throughout the show, often to remarkable results.
What’s truly fascinating about Goldsmith is that he’s taken part in two scientific studies, the first of which took place in 2015, and he had a remarkable success rate. The second study is still ongoing and another double-blind study is planned for 2018.
As unbelievable as Goldsmith’s powers seem, they appear to have some scientific backing. Dr. Ramsey Joudeh of NYU’s Lutheran Hospital has also claimed that Goldsmith has minimized the pain of many of his patients.
Should any other reality shows on TLC have been included? Let us know in the comments!
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