TLC’s Honey, We’re Killing the Kids – and Boring the Audience: When Bad Habits and Bad TV Collide

Given the benefit of the doubt, Honey, We’re Killing the Kids has a good intent: to get families off the obesity track and into healthy living. But as entertainment goes, TLC’s Honey, We’re Killing The Kids may kill its audience with boredom before too long. Featuring a terse, un-personable expert, repetitive scenarios, and lots and lots of filler, Honey, We’re Killing The Kids is one of the least enjoyable “make over” programs on TV right now.

Honey, We’re Killing The Kids,
which seems to air at least every other hour on TLC, does tackle a very pressing American problem: kids who eat junk, don’t exercise, and are, accordingly, not headed towards healthy futures. This is a great issue to build a show around and it’s nice to have some learning on The Learning Channel not involving home repair or gardens. And no one can doubt the validity of the advice offered, as the host of Honey, We’re Killing The Kids is Lisa Hark, director of the Nutrition Education and Prevention Program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. The intentions and the information are fine. It’s the presentation that’s lacking.

First, the show, like many family fix-it shows (SuperNanny, Nanny 911, Biggest Loser) is incredibly redundant. All the Honey,We’re Killing The Kids families suffer from the exact same issues: the kids eat a lot of junk, they spend all their time in sedentary activities, and the parents don’t know to make them do differently, or, in a slight variation, don’t have the guts to say “no” to their kids.

Every set of solutions Lisa provides is basically the same: get rid of the junk and cook healthy meals; get the kids into some class that requires exercise; spend more time as a family; get a bedtime routine. This is interesting once. Maybe twice. But after the third time, we get it already. And since the program only covers a few weeks, it’s not like we want to hang on for the big “reveal” because the kids and parents don’t really change at all.

Oh, well, except, yes, the “age progressions” change. Agre progressions? Honey, We’re Killing The Kids begins every episode with a brief intro to the family followed by Hark showing the parents what their unhealthy kids will look like in thirty years. This is done with technology that ages the kids’ photos according to their current health and chemical makeup.

Or something. The parents, distraught by the hideous photos of their kids as fat, despondent older people, then agrees to the multi-week re-doctrination by Hark. At the end of the show, we see new photos indicating how the new path the family is taking will lead the kids to better health as adults.

While, again, this gimmick may be interesting once, it’s not interesting more than once. This is partially because we always know the Honey, We’re Killing The Kids kids are going to fare poorly if they keep to their current ways. I mean, they’re being killed, for crying out loud. And we know they’re going to end up better off after the show. This is also because the images are so rigged.

The kids aren’t just fat in their 40s, they’re also, dressed poorly, their hair is horrible, and they’re always frowning. Hey, I’m 100% saying Americans need to get in shape, but, it seems a big leap to say obsese people are always poor, slovenly, and miserable. I mean, these kids look about two feet from Shrek. What would be much more interesting – and useful- would be if we heard what the kids cholesterol, weight, BMI index, and chances of heart disease and diabetes are projected to be in thirty years – not that they’re going to get ugly and become sad.

But that’s the edge that runs throughout this Honey, We’re Killing The Kids. Hark, probably sick of seeing so many fat kids become sick, has the bedside manner of that lady from Weakest Link (remember her?). If you’re expecting tough-but-kind Jo from SuperNanny or the hyper-motivated trainers from Biggest Loser, you won’t find them on Honey, We’re Killing The Kids. Hark is terse, matter-of-fact, and jugemental in a way I can’t imagine helps. The parents do need a huge kick in the pants (and not surprisingly, some of them, like their kids, are wearing pretty huge pantsâÂ?¦).

But this show is all about the tough love. And the psychological compontent seems to come last. Sure, Hark is big on getting parents more involved, having the beleagured mom get help in the kitchen, that kind of thing. But it seems the main motivators she- or the show- uses are fear and shame. I mean, check out the name of the show. Like I said, maybe they’re all just really sick of the epidemic and tired of being nice.

But Honey We’re Killing The Kids is bad TV mainly just because of the slowness and the redundancy. It’s boring. Little changes between episodes. There’s tons of filler where we see clips of boring things or get repeated narration. It’s just not entertaining television. Maybe that’s the point: TLC is trying to get us to turn of our TVs and exercise.

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