Reality TV pop quiz: Which of these is an actual TLC show – "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant" or "Super Quick Weddings?"
The inspiration for the question comes from a recent TLC spoof promo touting such non-existent (at least so far) shows like, "Little People, Tricky Fridge," "12 Wives, 12 Problems" and "Hasty Home Surgery."
The video, posted on Funny or Die, works because the network – which somewhere along the line morphed from cable's answer to PBS to the round-the-clock Reality TV version of "The Jerry Springer Show" – has become a parody of itself.
It's a multi-ring circus of large families, little people, polygamists, hoarders and bakers (full disclosure: we do love the "Cake Boss”). What can you say about a network whose biggest stars range from Kate Gosselin to Sarah Palin to the woman hooked on eating detergent on the hard-to-watch "My Strange Addiction?"
TLC, at times, seems like one big cry for help – or at least for comedy.
That's why we're tickled by the Funny or Die spoof and a new viral video from Tom Hanks, lampooning TLC's "Toddler & Tiaras."
In the short, which premiered this week on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and is approaching 1 million YouTube hits, Hanks plays himself as the kind of scary kiddie-pageant parent that populates the often frightening "Toddlers & Tiaras."
Hanks exhorts his 6-year-old "daughter" Sophie (rhymes with "trophy") to dance with "sexy feet" as she trains for the “Miss Ultimate Sexy Baby Nevada” pageant. He plops a fright wig on her and gushes that she looks "just like a Bratz doll!" He squirts her with water anytime she makes a misstep or tries to eat, as if training a dog.
"I know what it's like to be a kid," he notes. "I played one in 'Big.'"
The video has some fun cameos, including one that plays into the surprise ending. Speaking of (possible) surprise endings, "I Didn't Know I was Pregnant" is a real TLC show while "Super Quick Weddings" is a joke from the Funny or Die video, whose tagline is: "TLC – The Learning Channel, for some reason..."
Mull over that lesson as you check out the parody videos below:
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.