Formerly known as “The Learning Channel,” TLC has long since resigned any educational pretenses and now focuses entirely on sensational reality TV. Borderline exploiting its stars and offering a highly-dramatized look into the lives of some of the country’s most unusual people, the network is now famous for a litany of weird controversies and eyebrow-raising decisions. That’s not to say that TLC has no redeeming qualities, but the network's ills were all but laid bare during the Josh Duggar controversy of 2015, and the station has yet to recover in the eyes of some viewers.
Yet, that hardly scratches the surface of all the strange rules and odd practices the network upholds. Working with TLC is strenuous enough, but it really does take a special sort of person to actually host one of their shows. From the ludicrous antics of the Alana Thompson — formerly known as Honey Boo Boo— to the eye-rolling insanity of Kate Gosselin or Jim Bob Duggar, it’s safe to say that TLC only takes the most unique individuals. While it may seem like these people act autonomously and independent of the network, that usually isn’t the case. TLC has a major role in the lives of its subjects, and many have complained that the network has gone much too far in dictating what its stars can and cannot do. Here are the 20 Rules TLC Stars Are Forced To Follow.
20 Stars Need to Watch What They Say Both On And Off Set
Many TLC programs masquerade as documentaries while offering a little more than the average reality show. While the network would like to advance the idea that what they do is for the betterment of its viewership, most of the content that makes it to the airwaves is so highly scripted and edited that it may as well have come from the script of a sitcom.
Unfortunately, unlike a scripted show, TLC stars don’t have to luxury of stepping away from their character once the cameras have stopped rolling. As long as their shows are airing, they are forced to act as bastions of the network. This means that they always have to think very carefully about what they say both on and off set.
19 TLC Can Monitor the Spending Habits of Its Stars
Though this isn’t always the case, TLC is often very interested in the financial liability of its subjects, especially when their money may be involved. For instance, the network has funded plenty of familial expenditures for the Duggar family, but they very often mandate when and how the money is spent.
The pious Arkansas family is often seen on elaborate, fabulous vacations, and most of these are funded by the network. These shouldn’t be thought of as charitable donations, of course, as the producers are only doing it in the hopes that the trip will generate some interesting content for the show.
18 TLC Stars Need to Give Up Their Private Lives
While most well-known movie stars and musicians have become accustomed to the fact that privacy is often sacrificed for fame, that principle is taken to the nth degree when it comes to TLC stars. The lives of a majority of these people are being documented by the network on a near-constant basis, and they need to accept that some of their most private matters may at some point make it to the public consciousness.
While TLC often strays away from airing potentially dark or controversial content, the trials and tribulations of most of their stars eventually come to light at some point. It may not be explicitly outlined in their contracts, but TLC stars need to be okay with letting the public in on their private dealings.
17 Proper Social Media Etiquette Is a Must
At this point, most people should be aware that, once something has been published on the Internet, it’s there forever. Though average people may be able to get away with deleting certain posts and pictures before they are archived elsewhere, that isn’t the case of even the most irrelevant of minor celebrities.
TLC stars need to be extremely cautious in regard to social media as the tiniest slip-up could become the next tabloid headline. Jill Duggar found herself extradited from her family’s famous Counting On program following a series of controversial posts connected to her husband Derek, and this proves that TLC stars are always on thin ice.
16 TLC Stars Need to Stick to the Script
As previously mentioned, many aspects of a majority of shows aired on TLC have been heavily edited or scripted in some way. Most of the interactions and situations presented on the show are far from genuine, and TLC stars need to be okay with either re-enacting or highly dramatizing aspects of their lives.
While the personalities of some celebs are conducive to this type of living, it can be difficult for some to keep up with the facade. Some elements of certain programs are outright scripted in the same way as any other television production, and stars have to be able to sell and maintain the lie for the sake of their shows.
15 They Need to Give Up Their Favorite Music
While there’s nothing wrong with the average person listening to the radio on their way to work, such a thing isn’t possible for TLC stars. The network won’t pay for the rights to a star’s favorite songs — especially if they are particularly costly — and, as a result, show subjects aren’t allowed to listen to or sing any sort of copyrighted material when the cameras are rolling.
This is particularly prevalent in the lives of the Duggars as they have often mentioned their musical traditions. Everyone in the family plays at least one instrument, but viewers are rarely shown this as most of the material they play can’t be aired for legal reasons.
14 Relationships Have to be Closely Monitored
TLC stars have proven time and time again that they aren’t the best decision makers when it comes to romance, and plenty of ex-celebs have had their roles in their respective programs axed because of who they chose to date. Anna Duggar, wife of Josh Duggar, and 19 Kids and Counting star, saw her dealings with TLC swiftly ended when her husband’s dirty laundry became a public phenomenon.
The most infamous of all must have been June Shannon (better known as Mama June) and her less-than-respectable boyfriend. Shannon found her entire program nixed after her boyfriend’s past came to light, and the show was canceled back in August of 2014.
13 Child Actors and Actresses Are Usually Unpaid
Though average viewers probably believe that the network has money coming out of its ears, TLC is remarkably stingy when it comes to paying those who appear on its programs. Ben Seewald, husband of Counting On feature celebrity Jessa Seewald, née Duggar, kicked up a minor controversy when he stated that he hadn’t received compensation for some of his appearances on the show.
Worse still, Derick Dillard has insisted that he and his wife Jill were considered to be unpaid volunteers by the network. But, the most egregious offense seems to be TLC’s refusal to pay most of its child actors, and many have later come forward and insisted that they didn’t receive payment for roles that may have netted adult actors millions.
12 The Network Says Yes to the Dress
Though this isn’t always the case, a former Say Yes to the Dress star has stated that TLC had a major role in the dress she ended up wearing at her wedding. While the program appears to allow participants to pick from an entire warehouse of bridal gowns, one star said that the show’s producers only allowed her to choose one of four dresses that they had pre-selected. This was done to speed up the filming process as the show’s recording sessions are infamously lengthy.
However, this also damages the “perfect wedding” illusion the show puts forward. There was further controversy when the same woman claimed that the network aired her episode before her wedding, despite her wishes to only air the episode after she had said her vows.
11 TLC Forces the Tiaras on the Toddlers
Though TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras was fairly well-liked among network viewers, the station opted to dump the show back in 2016 as a result of mounting controversy. As it turns out, this controversy was well justified, and the show wasn’t nearly as genuine as it appeared.
While many of the shows portrayed the toddlers' parents as sycophants who wanted to live vicariously through their young children, the truth was that TLC mandated most of these beauty pageant appearances. What’s more, some had already voiced their concerns over the show’s younger participants going uncompensated, and the program’s termination was probably for the betterment of all involved.
10 TLC Stars Have to Fake Fixations
Debuted in 2010, TLC’s My Strange Addiction offered some of the most hair-raising, galvanizing content in network history. From a subject who seemingly couldn’t stop eating spare coins, to a women who claimed to have eaten an entire mattress in her lifetime, the program often crossed into outright ridiculous territory.
As some may have guessed, many of these addictions weren’t quite as genuine as they may have seemed when first aired. While extreme germaphobes and others with legitimate disorders could certainly be found on the program, plenty of weird illnesses were highly embellished to make for more entertaining programming. Please don’t attempt to eat an entire mattress, it’s not something worth bragging about.
9 90 Day Fiancé is Too Scripted
Though just about every program ever featured on TLC has been artificially dramatized to some degree, the antics of 90 Day Fiancé are about as scripted as things can be. While a vast majority of the couples are genuine and their situations are as they claim, lots of scenes and interactions are outright written word-for-word to help better convey a story or make the drama more easily digestible for viewers.
The show is littered with bizarre scenes in which the actors struggle to act like they aren’t reading from a script or doing their best to pretend that a camera crew isn’t constantly peering over their shoulders. Unfortunately, these pre-arranged segments often come off as less believable than the eye-rolling staged segments in HGTV’s House Hunters.
8 90 Day Fiancé Stars Hardly Make Any Money
While a majority of TLC stars are handsomely compensated for their roles by the network (provided that they aren’t children or labeled as volunteers), couples featured on 90 Day Fiancé need to deal with the fact that they won’t make much money from their TV appearances.
While some more notable couples have made money on the back of their fifteen minutes of fame stemming from the show, simply appearing on 90 Day Fiancé is hardly worth it from a financial point of view. Some actors have reported making as little as one thousand dollars per episode, which clearly doesn't reflect the income in celebrity careers. The truth is that most, if not all, of these people are in it for the publicity.
7 My 600-lb Life Stars Have to Fake It Until They Make It
My 600-lb Life is currently one of TLC’s most popular programs and features the struggles of individuals attempting to regain control of their lives. These situations are usually treated with an appropriate amount of gravitas and the network very seldom portrays the narrative as anything other than serious and rather dire.
That said, audiences are always hoping for a happy ending, and, in some cases, My 600-lb Life stars have been forced to feign loss to make the segment’s finale more appealing for viewers. Not all stars portrayed as having lost what they actually did, and there are plenty of hardships and complications associated with it that the show simply doesn’t cover.
6 Stars Are Forced to Undergo Thorough Background Checks
Though it wouldn’t seem like it given all of the controversies surrounding the network and its stars, most actors featured on the network have undergone extensive background checks to vindicate them of any potential criminal history.
90 Day Fiancé star Paul Staehle has claimed that he underwent a rigorous background check before he appeared on the show. As viewers will know, Staehle has something of a criminal record, and the network was likely eager to take the appropriate precautions before agreeing to work with him. Still, it’s amazing that, despite these checks, the network still hasn’t been able to curtail the litany of controversies surrounding it over the past couple of years.
5 Stars Don’t Control When Their Episodes Air
Though it was mentioned already, it is worth reiterating that TLC Stars have very little control over the network's coverage over them and when these episodes air. A Las Vegas bride named Alexandra Godino was thrust into the limelight when desperate producers tapped her to star in an episode of Say Yes to the Dress because the episode’s intended star had to cancel.
Godino agreed, though she stated that she didn’t want the episode to air until the wedding day so she could keep the gown’s reveal hidden. The network aired her episode early, and Godino tried to sue in an attempt to pull the episode before it debuted. Unfortunately, it was unsuccessful, and it goes to show how merciless TLC can sometimes be.
4 TLC Stars Have to Keep Quiet About Their Pasts
Tons of TLC stars have been brought on board despite their potentially nefarious pasts and the network seems to be eager to include anyone with the potential to draw a television audience. That mentality has hurt them in the past, and the station is now pretty cagey when it comes to certain star’s past lives.
TLC strongly discourages its featured actors from divulging anything particularly colorful about their lives and often denounces or refuses to comment on any potentially incriminating statements. Just about every show from Gypsy Sisters to Cake Boss has been mired in some sort of controversy stemming from an unsavory criminal history, and TLC isn’t eager to make their star’s past known.
3 90 Day Fiancé Stars Need to Keep Their Marriage Together
Producers of 90 Day Fiancé have boasted that, of all the couples they have covered, there have only ever been three divorces. That number doesn’t seem anywhere close to accurate given the amount of emotional volatility on display in just about every episode, but the network essentially forces couples to stay together for the sake of the show.
Of course, this rule is mostly initiated by the United States government, as national law states that couples have to have been married for two years to maintain a green card, but it is certainly true that the network has incentivized keeping marriages together in the past. After all, there can’t be an episode without a couple.
2 TLC Can’t Always Make Relationships Work
Though TLC often more or less forces certain couples to stay together for a period of time, they can’t play matchmaker, and they certainly can’t magically make a totally dysfunctional couple work over a three month period. Both the network and the United States government mandate that the couple must marry within a period of 90 days, and should they fail, the foreign individual must move back to their home country.
Though they would certainly like to keep unfortunate pairings together for the sake of provocative content, they can’t defy U.S. law. In the event of complications, there is very little TLC can do to make things right, and it usually means that the couple’s 90 Day Fiancé story has come to an end.
1 TLC Chooses How Its Stars Are Portrayed
Perhaps the most difficult thing for TLC stars to deal with is the network’s total control of their television portrayal. Given that most of the shows featured on TLC are edited and scripted to such a degree that it hardly recognizes real life, it is unfortunate to think that producers have the power to make a person out to be something entirely other than themselves.
Plenty of ex-TLC personalities have voiced complains over how they were portrayed, and it is important to consider that what ends up making it to TV could be a very poor example of what a person is like in reality. While certain figures may seem easy to judge or dislike, this information is always highly dramatized and filtered to fit the narrative TLC wants to present.
Have you heard of any other rules that TLC makes its stars follow? Sound off in the comments below!