Spike announced that it will jump on the little people bandwagon with what sounds to be a well thought-out, educational docudrama about dwarf wrestling. Is this too far? Inside, an examination at the success and malaise of tiny TV.
At first, little people shows were interesting, compelling television. The American public didn't get much exposure to the life of a little person outside of backwards talking dwarfs in Twin Peaks and Verne Troyer. But with each subsequent series about little people, it becomes less about learning and deteriorates into, "Look, little people doing stuff!" We'll rank each little person show on originality, entertainment, and educational aspect.
The original show about dwarfism. A TLC reality docudrama about the Roloff family. The parents and one of their children have dwarfism, but their other three children are of normal height. The show examines the emotional, physical, and mental struggle of how the Roloff parents cope in a society where they are literally and figuratively overlooked. A unique insight into a world that has never been thoroughly examined before on television. We get to see their struggles concerning how their condition affects their emotional and physical health, as well as their struggle to fit into a world that doesn't accept them.
A special on TLC (where else) tracking the life of little couple Tim and Becky Henson expecting their first baby. They go through all the struggles of a normal couple who is expecting their first child: buying diapers, making sacrifices, going to lamaze class. Only there's one difference: they do it all while being shorter than normal people. This special is the first step in moving farther away from examining the psyche within dwarfism and a little more on the physical hurdles little people must overcome.
Entertainment: 7 (Where are they going to find a crib small enough!?)
Another TLC show that follows around a couple in Texas doing...stuff. They also happen to be little. Regular people showing their friends around Dallas? Boring.
Little people showing their out-of-town guests around Dallas? Compelling television.
Originality: 4 (Three's an overworked trend)
Entertainment: 2 (It's literally just people doing stuff)
TLC got the hint that just having little people doing things that regular people do only on a smaller scale was not the formula for success. So what did they do? They found niche little people that had weird careers. Like chocolatiers! Those cakes better be under four tiers, guys! Teehee! It's all turned into a joke by now, and the trend is all but beaten to death. Well not if Animal Planet has something to say about it!
Animal Planet has something to say about it? They do! And that is in the form of Pit Boss. It would be easy to poke fun at this show, but one thing stands out, and that is that this show could exist if the people in it weren't dwarfs. A dwarf named Shorty (harhar) runs a successful pit-bull rescue program with his friends, who also happen to be little people. Pit Boss possesses some redeeming qualities because it focuses on something other then the people in the show being small. They run an interesting company that tries to provide a service, where dwarfism is the secondary plot line. Not a triumph of television, but at least it provides the viewer with a reason to watch.
Education: 8 (You learn more about pit-bull adoption than dwarfism)
So have we exhausted the novelty of little people shows? Yes, absolutely. We really only needed one show to guide the viewer through the world through the trials and tribulations of how little people live their lives. Each subsequent show just gets more exploitative, and the only way a new series can be interesting is if the subjects themselves are actually doing something interesting. Being a little person isn't intrinsically captivating television. And with Spike's announcement of Half-Pint Brawlers, it's morphed from interesting, to exploitative, to downright offensive. It's time for television to think of a new bloc of people to focus on for our entertainment.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Elephantitis of the...
- The deaf
- The blind
- People who can't taste
- The morbidly obese
- The overly anxious
- Short-term memory loss
That should give TLC enough fodder for the next couple of years.