Amazing human beings have always been a genuine fascination of mine, and clearly TLC Network is on the same wavelength, especially starting tonight. Long ago abandoning their original "The Learning Channel" identity for something decidedly more ratings-friendly, TLC today skirts an interesting line between exploitation and emotion. Probably the first show many of us watched on the network was Trading Spaces, the home decorating switcheroo series (adapted from the British version) that was a smash and ran for eight seasons. TLC (and the now-OWN Discovery Health net)also hit gold with Jon & Kate Plus 8, the multi-season multiple-child reality series that eventually broke apart a marriage but was continued to gather headlines as Kate tried to parlay her childbearing fame into other venues (not particularly successfully, however). Fashionista viewers get a kick out of the two style experts who tear apart the wardrobes of unsuspecting schlubs on What Not to Wear, and those who like cooking combined with histrionics can watch the overwrought shenanigans on shows like Cake Boss.
Ex-Amish people, little people, gypsy people, people who talk to ghosts (the new-ish sensation Long Island Medium), extremely little people (the primordial dwarf brother and sister stars of Big Tiny), child beauty pagent people, bridalwear people (of the Say Yes to the Dress franchise which has spawned a couple of spin-offs), polygamist people, and many other examples of life's rich pageant are having their more than fifteen minutes of fame on TLC. We don't want to forget about the super-fecund Duggar Family of 19 Kids and Counting which -- almost totally thanks to the completely charming, down-to-earth and extremely likeable Michelle Duggar -- is much more watchable than one would ever imagine.
TLC premieres Abby & Brittany, a new reality series starring Abigail and Brittany Hensel, the dicephalic parapagus conjoined twins -- two heads on one body -- who have been mostly quietly living their lives in Minnesota and growing up into lovely 22-year-old young ladies. Quietly, that is, until now. Abby and Brittany are truly extraordinary and amazing, not only simply in terms of how rare their unique medical situation is, but also because they are living in a time when thankfully they have choices they can make, and they have decided to open up their lives for us to learn from and appreciate. These two young women, who surely know what it's like to be considered different, are helping us to see that they aren't really that different after all, and that's the essence of the appeal of Abby & Brittany.
|from April 1996|
Maybe you'll just want to stare at them for a while in their new series. That's just fine, because they are something special. Over the years they've stated repeatedly that they don't like being stared at, but it seems like they must have come to terms with that in order to have their own reality show. Reality shows are all about staring, but there's a great deal of understanding and knowledge that can come from such a base beginning point.
I'm going to heartily recommend getting to know Abby & Brittany. I think we should be honored to be able to look inside their lives, and I assume that TLC is making it well worth it for them. These girls were handed a situation that is unimaginable, and yet, they thrive. "We throw it out there, and let it go," says Abby. Go for it, Abby & Brittany!
For more background information on Abby and Brittany, I'd suggest watching the incredible hour-long documentary from 2006, which you can find here on YouTube.