I did not think American television could produce a show I liked less than "Jon and Kate Plus 8."
Then, I saw the premiere of TLC's "Kate Plus 8" Sunday night, and I am here to say I was wrong.
This new reality TV series with Kate Gosselin and her eight children, minus ex-husband Jon, really is too much to bear. It is essentially a 60-minute commercial.
I am fine with the regular commercials that pop up every 12 minutes or so for companies like Baskin-Robbins and Samsung. They are what they are and are perfectly clear that they are selling products.
It's the ones packaged as programming, like Orlando's Discovery Cove, which served as the setting for most of the show, that I am more concerned about. The hour of the "Kate Plus 8" premiere amounted to one long commercial for the venue. And this from the Silver-Spring-based, Discovery-owned TV operation that used to be known as the The Learning Channel -- more's the pity.
The entire hour was hype, hype, hype, sell, sell, sell.
It started with Kate hyping viewers on how thrilled and happy the kids were to be filming again.
"When I told them, no, we're not filming anymore, that shocked me -- how upset the kids were," Kate told viewers at the start of the hour. "They were really confused."
And then, the production crew was shown returning to the Gosselin home in Pennsylvania. Kate made a big happy deal of the crew's return, so, of course, the kids were jumping for joy.
"Colin, are you glad we're back?" one of the crew members asked.
In a story I did last week with mental health experts and child advocates questioning the use of kids on reality, Dr. Michael Brody, a Silver-Spring-based child psychiatrist, said kids want to please authority in such situations. So with encouragement from mommy and the crew, what do you think the kids are going to say?
So, Kate and the production crew used the kids to try and convince viewers it's a good thing that these little children are back to work, and then TLC, Discovery Cove and their mom, used the kids to sell this vacation spot.
"I honestly don't think I could have felt stressed there if I wanted to," Kate says of the park in the Madison Avenue language that permeates the hour. And when Kate Gosselin says "honestly," everyone knows she's speaking the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, right?
As for Discovery Cove, I am sure lots of people have great vacations there. It looks lovely. It really does.
But I can't stand to see penguins made to walk around in airports to greet visitors -- or dolphins made to spend their lives swimming in pools so that guests like Kate Gosselin can grab their fins and get a free water ride. I understand that folks can disagree on this, and that some might think my position over the top. So be it.
I confess that I did not stick around for the full second hour Sunday, which was titled "Inside Kate's World." I could not care less about Kate or what's "inside" her world anymore. It is too packaged, phony, compromised and debased for me. Life is too short to spend too much time with this kind of television. Besides, I was embarrassed for some of the folks from the world of TV entertainment journalism who agreed to be part of the hype, hype, hype, sell, sell. sell. Not to be holier than thou, but they should look in the mirror Monday morning and ask themselves if this is what they want to do with their careers.
As a critic, I have to spend some time with this new TLC production, of course. The issue of kids on reality TV is an important cultural and moral one that I will stay tuned to.
But I've had about all the Kate and TLC -- and kids being used as commercial fodder -- that I can bear for one week. Sorry.