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Does "Life" have to be live?

TLC has touted its This Is Life Live as an epic, “never-before-done” television event.  It might be touching.  Or if the first night was anything to go by, it could be another “a modern freak show.”

TLC began in 1972 as an educational forum created by the government’s Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and NASA.  It focused on in-depth explorations of science and nature.  After privatization in 1980 and a change of ownership in the 90’s, The Learning Channel transitioned to more media-friendly “education.”

But when 24-hours of fashion make-overs and home renos got stale, the owners shifted to everyday eccentrics.  Multiple births and multiple wives, little people and giants, obsessives and Honey Boo Boos, not to mention startlingly overweight individuals became TLC’s bread and butter.  And the channel rebranded itself, losing “The Learning Channel” moniker and instead, claiming that “Everyone needs a little TLC.”

So with its focus on exploring the many facets of humanity, TLC has produced a four-night event that’s part documentary, part live show.  This Is Life Live will deliver life-altering moments live as they occur.  It’s hosted by best-selling author and preacher, DeVon Franklin – a move TLC obviously made to give the show more “tender, loving care” and seem less like an episode of Maury Povich.

The stories include a young man, who lost a leg and his mobility in a motorcycle accident, surprising his parents by walking on his wedding day.  In another, a woman meets the sister she just recently discovered.

The shows include a lot of pre-produced video explaining the backstory and there’s a lot of build-up.  However, those live magical moments only last a few seconds.  After that, it’s a bit disappointing.

That tearful meeting of two sisters was certainly powerful.  But the continuous hugging and sobbing became uncomfortable to watch.  And hearing them babble incoherently to each other about all the same things they’d been saying to the camera for the last hour was … boring.

Which is especially unfortunate as viewers were then invited to comment and ask questions online.  And these people, who are at their most vulnerable, deserve more than the potentially tactless online commentary that’s guaranteed to follow.

Then there’s the deaf mother who hopes to hear her child say “I love you” for the first time.  A family facing the man who took the lives of their loved ones.  These could be beautiful and riveting moments.

But what if they aren’t?  What if the child who had her hopes raised is left heart-broken?  What if a meeting goes terribly wrong after the cameras are turned off?  What if that groom had fallen while taking those steps to his bride live on television?

Are these things we really need to see live?  There’s a lot of emotion and expectation involved.  Perhaps they should be experienced and processed with the benefit of time and perspective before they’re broadcast to the world.

After all, in these moments, such fragile souls certainly deserve a little more TLC.