I was flipping through the channels the other day when I was in Tennessee for the weekend.
There was the usual smattering of stuff I’d never bother to watch.
I spent a minute or two on a figure skating competition.
I followed that up with about five minutes of a football playoff game from the late 1970s.
I didn’t follow either team, so I moved on.
A few channels up the scale I saw a tidbit about a controversy surrounding the former owner of the Baltimore Colts, Robert Irsay.
That proved a little more interesting. Irsay, after negotiations ended badly with the city for a new stadium, snuck off with the team in the middle of the night and relocated to Indianapolis.
The show I watched, albeit briefly, focused on the marching band, the first one for a pro-football team.
Of course, that show ended, and I was again surfing.
And then I saw it.
The show that has kept me in a low state of shock all weekend and most of this week.
I stopped on The Learning Channel, better known by its abbreviation, TLC.
And there, in all her curly, golden-haired glory, was the infamous Honey Boo Boo.
For those who don’t know, which included me until this past weekend, Honey Boo Boo is the star of a reality show about a Georgia family. The show is titled “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.”
And I was instantly stuck on that channel, sitting on the edge of my seat.
At first I was stunned.
Let me add a comment here. When I was a kid, occasionally we watched Shirley Temple movies. She was an adorable, clean-cut, cherub-faced, curly-haired child who starred in several movies in the 1930s.
Now this channel features a cherub-faced, curly-headed potty mouth who has the manners of a billy goat.
The mother of the show, who often narrates the family’s escapades, allows all the children in the house to use curse words.
And they very frequently do — including the show’s 6-year-old star, Alana Thompson, better known as Honey Boo Boo.
But my reaction moved from stunned right into grossed out. It was a Thanksgiving episode, and it was time for “momma” to cook the turkey. “I ain’t never done this before,” she said, snorting and laughing like a hyena. She peels off the wrapper, and takes a tub of margarine out of the fridge.
Then with both hands, she plunges into the tub and crams the turkey full of the margarine. In the process of hand-bathing the outside of the turkey, momma hauls off and bellows out a couple of good, hearty sneezes — right over the turkey. “At least that part of the turkey will be moist,” she laughed.
Meanwhile I’m sitting on the edge of the recliner, holding onto the bottom part of my jaw so it doesn’t crash on the floor.
Oh, but I was apparently still not shocked enough.
On with the actual Thanksgiving dinner — which momma decided was going to be eaten outdoors. “I don’t want that mess in my kitchen,” she said. Later I saw why she said that.
The daughters were in charge of the table set up. The one teenager brought out a blanket to use as a tablecloth.
She opens it up, and spreads it over the table. “Oh (expletive), there’s dog (expletive) on this,” she said.
And then, instead of taking it from the table, she did the easiest thing possible — she flipped the blanket over. And on came the food.
Besides the delicious-sounding butter- and booger-bathed turkey, there were a number of other side dishes available to eat — or throw.
One dish that made me a bit queasy was the canned cranberry sauce special. “I make it like lasagna,” momma said. She opened the can, sliced it up, and added a couple cups of sugar on top. She said that way the family will get their fruit in.
But then the meal was under way. The lack of manners was easy to overlook, considering the other habits exhibited by this family.
But when they got bored and started a food fight, I knew things had progressively gotten worse.
After talking nearly incessantly about this for the last several days, I have come to a few conclusions — some of them surprising.
On one hand, I wanted to know what is being taught by this show on The Learning Channel.
They were vulgar, dirty, gross and offensive — to me.
But on the other hand, I made a few observations. As is often said on the Comedy Central show “South Park:” “You know, I’ve learned something today.”
And I decided I really did learn a few small lessons that day.
First, the mother in this show is a pretty smart shopper. At one point she heads to the grocery store, and gets about $130 worth of groceries.
She was only out of pocket about $27 — the rest of it she saved by using coupons.
Second, I noticed that for the most part, the family is happy. They joked with each other, laughed together, and seemed to enjoy each other’s company. That’s a far cry from the various trashy guests who make their rounds on the daytime talk shows.
Third, I decided I needed to stop judging and start minding my own business. I mean, I can always change the channel if I get offended by something. Besides, people live differently all across the globe — who am I to make calls on how they are supposed to act?
The bottom line is this: While TLC may have made a poor choice in airing this show, it proves a point I have long held. Parents need to be the ones in charge of the remote control, so they can monitor the things their children have the opportunity to see.
Otherwise we’ll have a host of elementary school children growing into adults who think and act like the infamous Honey Boo Boo.
John L. Ross is a reporter for the Times-Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org