Humor by Greg Schwem

Ahhhh, another day is complete. Time to flop down in my easy chair and exercise my mind a bit before going to sleep. What materials should I use tonight? My local newspaper? A magazine specializing in international affairs? A whitepaper written by a prominent scholar and downloaded directly to my iPad?

No, tonight I'm going to make it easy on my eyes, allowing my brain to work harder. Picking up the remote, I scroll through the cable offerings until I arrive at The Learning Channel, also known as TLC. Certainly a TV network with "learning" in the title should provide content that expands my intellect, right? Maybe I'll be treated to a documentary that explores Italian Renaissance paintings and the artists who created them. Or a professionally staged re-enactment of the Battle of Gettysburg and a debate between two Civil War historians discussing what might have happened had the South prevailed.

Instead, horrified, I discover The LEARNING Channel delivers Southern culture courtesy of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo." Suddenly I've lost my desire to learn. All I want to do is shield my eyes from everything I see unfolding in front of me.

This . . . this . . . thing that passes for a television program, seemingly occupies at least a quarter of The LEARNING Channel's schedule. Missed Honey Boo Boo at 8 p.m.? Don't worry, she's on again at 8:30. And 9. And 9:30. A 6-year old from Georgia and her family have rendered DVRs unnecessary.

"Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," which debuted this summer and, on Aug. 30, garnered more viewers than an insignificant little program called "The Republican National Convention," follows the exploits of Alana, aka Honey Boo Boo, and her family, headed by "Mama" June as they perform educational (remember, it's the LEARNING Channel) tasks such as participating in a thrift-store auction and celebrating an anniversary at a cafeteria. During one episode -- the only one I could stomach -- I learned how to spit tobacco courtesy of June's significant other, Sugar Bear, and how to toilet-paper a house. That was more than I could take. I switched off the TV for fear that continued viewing would eventually cause me to become too stupid to balance my checkbook, operate a computer or dress myself correctly.

Still, like a bad car accident, I couldn't avert my eyes. I scrolled to The LEARNING Channel On Demand to find another studious offering entitled "Toddlers & Tiaras," the show where Alana was discovered. I had heard about "T&T" but, like a colonoscopy, kept avoiding actually partaking in it. Until now.

"Toddlers & Tiaras" focuses on parents who enter their kids in beauty pageants and take credit for their success. It is educational if you have always wanted to learn how to apply spray tan to your child using an air compressor, as one father dutifully did with his wife's blessing. All the kids in the pageants are referred to as "Miss" or "Mister" and apparently every contest includes at least one kid named Chloe.

I watched long enough to see 6-year-old Miss Jayla crowned "Ultimate Grand Supreme," which sounds more like a breakfast entree at Denny's. That was enough. I switched off the TV, grabbed a notepad and began my own educational exercise, namely to sketch out programming for a new network called "The Un-Learning Channel." Its sole purpose is to make everybody forget what they just watched on The Learning Channel, sort of like the neuralyzer contraption in the "Men in Black" movies.

The first program? "There Goes Honey Boo Boo." The pilot episode features little Alana being sent off to boarding school and not returning until she is 17. Occasionally the cameras will film her doing schoolwork and receiving instruction on the proper use of toilet paper. An added bonus lets viewers vote on what courses Alana should take each year. Except for English, which is always required. Watch one episode of Miss Boo Boo's current show and you will see why.

Next up? "Toddlers & Their Tiaras Turn The Tables." Each week focuses on former pageant kids who enter their parents in a contest designed to reveal which participant has the lowest self-esteem. A panel of psychiatrists act as judges, running the moms and dads through a series of challenges, highlighted by the "How Do YOU Like Being In a Swimsuit?" competition. The children, incidentally, are nowhere to be found. While the parents compete, they go to a secluded playground and learn how to act like normal kids.

Anybody have any other programming ideas? Feel free to email me suggestions. I promise to answer all of them.

Right after I watch "Strange Sex" on, you guessed it, The Learning Channel.

Humorist Greg Schwem is a stand-up comedian and author of Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad

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