TLC has had some pretty great shows in its history of reality TV programming. Fan favorites like Say Yes to the Dress and Sister Wives offer unique looks into careers and lifestyles most people knew nothing about. While you may remember some of the most popular mainstream shows, like Jon & Kate Plus Eight, Cake Boss, and Little People, Big World, there’s a whole market of TLC shows you’ve probably flipped past late at night that you definitely forgot about.
TLC stands for The Learning Channel… and while most TLC shows are educational and interesting, some are just downright bizarre. From crazy couponers to women who didn’t know they were pregnant, TLC is the place to be to find some of the craziest, most unpredictable shows that have been aired on television. Luckily for you, all of these shows are available to stream on TLC’s website, too. So once you’ve brushed up on your reality show knowledge, you can binge some of the most bizarre shows to have ever been aired on TLC!
16. Brother Husbands
First there was Sister Wives, and then there was Brother Husbands. TLC is home to plenty of shows about polyamorous and polygamous relationships, and Brother Husbands was no different. This series followed Amanda Liston and her husband, Chad Ferris. They had two sons together and lived a monogamous lifestyle… until Chad’s best friend, Jeremy Johnston, proclaimed his love for Amanda (and she proclaimed it right back). Jeremy joined their family (without becoming legally married to Amanda), and the series followed the three parents as they navigated life as a polyamorous couple. Honestly, this show was kind of a mess from beginning to end, between Amanda sleeping in between her husbands every three days to keep her men happy to trying to decide whether or not to do a paternity test to find out who was the father of the triplets they had since welcoming Jeremy into the family (they were just saying that Jeremy was the father to make him feel like he wasn’t left out). Sadly, TLC canceled the show after just one episode, but Chad later shared with Ashley’s Reality Roundup that he and Amanda had since divorced (though Jeremy was still with her) and he had come out as bisexual. Given the drama that follows this family, we wouldn’t be opposed to a Brother Husbands reunion special.
15. Extreme Cheapskates
There’s a difference between being frugal and being a cheapskate, and the people on Extreme Cheapskates crossed that line like you wouldn’t believe. Over the show’s three seasons, it documented the lives of people who took pinching pennies to a level far beyond just skipping your morning Starbucks latte. One person dried and reused their paper towels, another man only flushed his toilet once a week to save money on his water bill, and one woman stopped buying toilet paper (she found other things to use, like soap and water… and her hands *gag*). This show definitely wasn’t for the faint of heart, and you can stream old episodes on TLC’s website… if you dare.
14. Dr. Pimple Popper
Remember those pimple popping videos that took Facebook by storm? People couldn’t get enough of them, whether they loved the videos because they got a strange satisfaction from seeing a massive zit basically exploding or they just watched out of sheer shock and disgust. Well, in January 2018, Dr. Sandra Lee, one of the most renowned dermatologists (and pimple poppers) in the country, got her own special on TLC: Dr. Pimple Popper. Dr. Lee found instant fame when her popping Instagram and YouTube videos went viral, so, of course , TLC had to give her a special. In the first episode, cameras followed Dr. Lee as she poked, prodded, and popped multiple life-altering cysts and zits. If you were one that loved watching the short pimple videos, you’ll love this series. While there haven’t been any subsequent episodes, TLC is looking to cast more patients with massive zits that need to be popped so… there’s that!
13. Best Funeral Ever
Funerals don’t have to be sad, and the team at The Golden Gate Funeral home featured on Best Funeral Ever was dedicated to making sure their customers’ loved ones were laid to rest in fun, out-of-the-box celebrations. Based in Dallas, this unique funeral home let cameras into their daily operations to show viewers just how fun death can actually be – they planned a funeral that was accompanied by a bowling match, one funeral was set up like a BBQ celebration, and one funeral for a former Olympian featured a 100-yard dash that the casket “ran” to receive a gold medal at the end. If watching other people’s funerals doesn’t weird you out, you may actually enjoy this show.
12. I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant
For most expectant mothers, the nine months of a pregnancy are spent planning and decorating their nursery, stocking up on diapers and clothes, throwing gender reveal parties and baby showers, and brainstorming names for their future little one – but that’s not the case for the mothers featured on I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant. This show documented the shocking (and almost unbelievable) stories of women who didn’t know they were pregnant until they went into labor (or, in some cases, literally delivered a child out of nowhere). How, you ask? For each story shared, the doctors featured on the show explained how this phenomenon is even possible: some women can mistake pregnancy symptoms for other illnesses, not everyone carries children the same way (meaning not everyone experiences typical side effects like morning sickness, movement in the stomach, or stomach growth), and some women had false pregnancy tests or just assumed they couldn’t get pregnant. Either way, this show was one that left you with your mouth wide open in disbelief.
11. Sex Sent Me to the ER
File this one under “Don’t watch while your parents are around.” You can probably guess what happened to the couples featured on Sex Sent Me to the ER. What was meant to be a fun or adventurous night, unfortunately, resulted in one (or both) partners being sent to the ER for a variety of bizarre reasons. Not only did the show featured over-the-top dramatic reenactments that were unbelievably cringe-worthy, it also featured the couples themselves giving background to how their mishaps even happened. Some of the best stories? One couple used pop rocks down there to heighten the sensation. A man thrust so hard he accidentally sent his partner’s head through a sheetrock wall. One couple slipped while getting it on in the shower, leading to one of them bleeding and one of them being knocked unconscious. While these stories were entertaining simply because of how outlandish they were, it serves as a reminder that some fantasies should be left unexplored.
10. Mall Cops: Mall of America
If you loved the movie Paul Blart: Mall Cop, you’d love Mall Cops: Mall of America. What exactly do mall cops do, you may wonder? Set in the Mall of America (the second largest mall in the country), the show dove into the duties of the cops who patrol it. From reuniting lost kids to their families, tracking down and arresting shoplifters, getting rid of drunk customers, and responding to medical calls, a day in the life of a mall cop is pretty much exactly what you would expect. But this show was actually so popular that TLC ordered 12 more episodes after the success of the first hour-long special. While the mall cops in this show don’t use the famed Segway scooter as much as Paul Blart did, you’ll still love to see the exciting drama that comes with being a real-life mall cop.
9. My Five Wives
Yet another show about a polygamist family, My Five Wives was different from the more popular show Sister Wives in sheer numbers: while Kody Brown has four wives and 18 children on Sister Wives, Brady Williams had five wives and 25 children on My Five Wives (that’s more kids than the Duggar family had on 19 Kids & Counting). The show centered around the Williams family and their life in an undisclosed town in Utah – they refused to share their location for fear of being arrested for their controversial lifestyle. Not only did the show revolve around the family trying to avoid run-ins with law enforcement, it also gave a deeper look into the polygamist lifestyle while showing the struggles that come with balancing such a big family, with the 25 children all at different stages of life. The show was ultimately canceled after two seasons, but fans of polygamy TV still have a few other options to watch from that are still on air.
8. Sarah Palin’s Alaska
Whoever thought Sarah Palin deserved a reality show should probably be fired, but the short-lived series still provided quality entertainment. Viewers got an exclusive peek at the former Alaska governor and Vice Presidential candidate on Sarah Palin’s Alaska, and it was nothing short of dramatic, confusing, and downright weird. (Spoiler alert: she can’t actually see Russia from her house despite the iconic Saturday Night Live one-liner people still love to use). In the show’s first and only season, cameras followed Sarah as she observed nature, fished for salmon, and hunted for caribou meat to stock up for the winter. Viewers also got a special treat when the show crossed over with Kate Plus Eight (Sarah took Kate Gosselin for a bear safety class complete with rifle shooting practice), making all of our TLC dreams come true. While many thought the show was an attempt for Sarah to revive her political career, it still averaged over three million viewers every week – because, let’s be real, who doesn’t want to watch Sarah Palin roughing it in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness?
7. Honey, We’re Killing the Kids
No sane parent would actively try to kill their kid – but the parents targeted on Honey, We’re Killing the Kids were unknowingly poisoning their kids with their unhealthy lifestyles. Dr. Lisa Hark, a family nutrition expert, would confront families with particularly toxic lifestyles and explain how their food choices and lack of exercise would eventually hurt their kids. Thanks to a particularly strange simulation technology device, experts were able to predict what the families’ young children would look like in the future if they continued to live and eat they way they currently did, and the results were jarring. Not only did the simulation show weight gain, it also showed a drastic (and downright scary) change in appearance. While Dr. Hark and her experiments were a little extreme, the show will definitely make you think twice about living a healthier lifestyle.
6. Extreme Cougar Wives
Age is just a number, but there’s no denying that couples with massive age gaps are a little unsettling. Enter, Extreme Cougar Wives. By definition, a “cougar” is a woman who dates younger men – but in TLC fashion, the show profiled “extreme” cougars. While it only lasted for three episodes, it focused on three women and their younger partners: Stephanie, 65, and Octavio, 28, Jude, 51, and Kevin, 21, and Hattie, 76, and Andrew, 25 (though Hattie also was seen with a few other men on the show). Viewers probably didn’t stick around because no one really wants to listen to an older woman talk about her intimate relationship with her boyfriend who’s so young he could be her grandson. But at the end of the day, the women were happy, and that’s all you can hope for in life, right?
5. My Strange Addiction
If you’re squeamish, My Strange Addiction probably isn’t the show for you. You wouldn’t believe half of what the people featured on this show were addicted to. From sniffing baby powder to eating nail polish and smelling gasoline, you probably can’t make it through an episode of this show without questioning literally everything. Some of the featured addictions, like a boy who was obsessed with inflatable animals and a girl who took her pillow everywhere, were harmless (but still undoubtedly bizarre). On the other hand, some just seemed straight up life-threatening. While there were claims these were definitely over-dramatized for television, others were quick to note that these behaviors are signs of compulsive behaviors that should be treated. Either way, if you’ve ever seen an episode of My Strange Addiction, it probably still haunts you to this day.
4. Extreme Couponing
When was the last time you used a physical coupon? In this day and age, probably never – but that’s not the case for those featured on Extreme Couponing. The frugal spenders shown on this series took couponing to the next level – each shopper had piles of coupons saved up for their next grocery trip and they religiously watched store prices to go down to make sure they would shop at just the right time. Some people even went dumpster diving to get their hands on as many coupons as possible. And when it came time to shop, they filled carts upon carts to the brim with more food and supplies than one would ever need. When it was time to check out, their total would skyrocket to hundreds, even thousands of dollars, only to be brought down to a couple dollars or cents by the end. Some even had to be paid by the store! While extreme couponing seems more like a full-time job than a hobby, this show may inspire you to save the coupons on the bottom of your CVS receipt next time.
3. Breaking Amish
Amish and Mennonite communities are notoriously religious, conservative, and strict. Most Amish families live without modern technology, and both religions are known for their simplistic ways of life. The controversial series Breaking Amish followed five adults, four Amish and one Mennonite, who make the shocking decision to leave their homes and travel to New York City for a new life. This show was problematic for a number of reasons: not only was it leaked that the cast had already left their communities for the show, it was very unlikely in general that most typical Amish and Mennonite families would even allow cameras into their home to film their lives for a reality television series. Whether or not this was was 100% believable is beside the point: a series that portrayed Amish families leaving their rural towns for a big, bustling city is enough in itself.
2. I Catfished My Kid
One of the dangers of the Internet today is “catfishing”: the act of being lured into a relationship by someone online who is pretending to be a different person. MTV’s show Catfish (a spin-off of a movie of the same name) was a massive hit as it followed the stories of people who were catfished. Inspired by the MTV hit, I Catfished My Kid followed the host Elliot Morgan as he worked with two sets of parents to purposely catfish their own children in an effort to show them just how dangerous online relationships can be. While it did serve as a lesson in online safety, one can’t help but think it would have been just effective to show them the MTV show… or… just tell them that forming relationships with strangers online could be dangerous. But either way, it made for good TV!
1. Toddlers & Tiaras
The mother of all bizarre TLC shows is, without a doubt, Toddlers & Tiaras. For nine seasons, the show went behind the scenes of child beauty pageants all across America to show just how shocking (and sometimes disturbing) they are. Parents would spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on coaching, dance lessons, spray tans, makeup, fake teeth, costumes, headshots, and competition fees just to place their children up against others to see who’s is most deserving of the Ultimate Grand Supreme Trophy. While the competition was fierce, the drama behind the scenes was even worse. From mom drama to temper tantrums and fights between parents and their children, it was almost shocking to see just how seriously people take beauty pageants – but it was so bad, it was good. If you can stand watching bratty children and even brattier parents battle it out to see who can come out on top, you’ll fall in love with this guilty pleasure show.