Remember when the L in “The Learning Channel” used to stand for . . . oh, I don’t know, learning?
Now the network has devolved into a medley of voyeurism, including its newest scopophiliac offering. The new series called Mormon Half Love is supposed to debut tonight (though when I checked the TLC lineup to confirm its airing at 10 p.m., I saw instead a planned marathon of episodes of My 600-pound Life).
The series focuses on the dating life of a Utah woman who was born without legs:
Meet Melinda, who was born with caudal regression syndrome, meaning she has a shortened spine, and non-functioning legs. Brand new series, ‘Mormon Half Love’, follows her remarkable life. An office worker for the Ministry of Defence by day, she loves outdoor activities such as surfing in her spare time. Melinda is about to start a part-time degree in criminal justice, and runs a teenage girls group at her Mormon church. Always cheerful and lively, Melinda wins admirers with her determination to try anything. But despite her many qualities, Melinda has still not found love. Previous relationships didn’t work out, but her dream is to marry and start a family. Now, conscious that she is 40 years old she just needs help to find her perfect man. Join Melinda in her busy life in Cedar Valley, Utah, and explore the experience of living with a physical disability, and looking for a partner.
This is the second time just this year that TLC has shined its spotlight on the Mormon people. But unlike the show My Husband’s Not Gay, which met with ferocious protests before it even aired, Mormon Half Love has not attracted a whiff of a complaint so far. Maybe that’s because the promo videos show it fitting neatly into two of America’s unfortunate reality TV tropes: the quest for an eligible bachelor and the “makeover” show.
The whole thing just makes me sad. On the one hand, good for Melinda, who seems to embody the optimistic can-do spirit that is the best of the Mormon religion. Nothing has held this woman back. On the other hand, have the rest of us not yet graduated from the seventh grade, that we are so interested in watching her be romantically rejected?