So long, Kate Gosselin ... and cable programming, too?

Curator's Note

Cable might not be the one anymore. It's provided rescheduled and reconfigured versions of what people already like. It has even, occasionally, helped determine what that might be. But cable can't dislodge itself from the practices of old-fashioned broadcast TV (especially LCD/LOP fare), as it once seemed poised to do—especially during the "Blue Sky" era of the late 1960s-early 70s. Back then it was heralded as a potential "information superhighway" with enlightened, socially beneficial programming. By the second decade of the new millennium, it seems clear that vision won't come to fruition, even though I'd still been hoping for it a decade or so ago when some niche networks rose to prominence.

Reality shows are my convenient bellwether here. While the genre leapt forward for television generally during the last decade, resource-challenged cable is its legitimate progenitor. After all, "reality" can run the gamut for production costs, and cable networks historically have been good at keeping the focus of "reality" within their chosen niches regardless. They have provided entertainment and occasional insight.

Nothing is more real than the human condition in its quirkiest and rawest forms. Done well, it's education made fun—at least for nerdy me. I love History's Pawn Stars and only hope it hangs on for a while longer. Another favorite, Discovery Health's Dr. G: Medical Examiner, moved to a digital tier and then, presumably, obscurity. Same for Lifetime's interesting Fairy Jobmother. History's Ice Road Truckers had a great couple of seasons before devolving into soap opera. I could go on. But I set out to discuss the Gosselins.

(John and) Kate Plus 8 has run on TLC (The Learning Channel) since 2007, recently airing the (supposedly) last episode. Interestingly, TLC was one of the earliest basic cable networks (remarkably early, in fact), and with an educational mission rooted in the ideals of Blue Sky. But it has strayed in a telling way. The Gosselins are a product of TLC's mid-1990s "Life Unscripted" shift: reality TV verging on Barnum-like showmanship. So much for Blue Sky.

When I heard the infamous multiples had been canceled, I went to YouTube. I like being up to speed on the cultural conversation, but a few minutes was all I needed.

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