I have a show suggestion for TLC: Naked women reading books aloud.
Think about it. To judge by the amount of attention given to this newspaper's online story with the pithy headline "Naked Girls Reading?" it's a sure bet. Besides, TLC is officially The Learning Channel. Listening to books being read aloud is a learning experience. Not that I have personal experience. It's just conjecture, based on being a man of the world and all.
TLC has, however long since abandoned serious commitment to the "Learning" part of its mandate and instead offers insight into such matters as Jon and Kate Gosselin raising eight kids, behaving badly and splitting up. Also Police Women of Memphis, Strange Sex, What Not to Wear (Whatever happened to that, by the way?) and, recently, shows about cakes.
The other night, the show DC Cupcakes began airing on TLC. It's about comely sisters and business partners Sophie LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis who operate Georgetown Cupcake, a small "cupcakery" that is a big hit. They sell more than 5,000 cupcakes a day.
DC Cupcakes had almost two million viewers. On cable. On a Friday night in summer. According to The Washington Post, that's more viewers than all the shows airing on the CW network, combined. Consider the recipe for DC Cupcakes - Sophie and Katherine are good-looking, gave up their high-powered jobs, cashed out their life savings and use their grandmother's recipes for the cupcakes. They also giggle a lot.
Now let's try to learn from this. Cupcakes. Comely women. Grandma. Sisterly dynamics. Somewhere, somebody is writing a movie script with these same ingredients. And with reason. We can actually learn a lot about popular taste from TLC. It has had enormous success with shows about kids, parenting, clothes and food. Especially cakes. While Jon & Kate Plus 8 was a big hit and Toddlers & Tiaras has many fans, I'm sure, the cupcake thing outdoes them all.
Obviously, there aren't enough cakes on TV. When's the last time everything stopped on one of those CSI shows and everybody enjoyed a nice cupcake? Larry King could probably get an extension on CNN if he agreed to have a plate of cupcakes to share with his guests and then discuss said cupcakes.
Seriously now, we do actually get, not so much an insight but a reminder here of what matters to TV viewers, especially American viewers. A show that offers indulgence by proxy is a certain hit. A lot of people, aware of weight and obesity issues, enjoy just looking at cakes being made, sold and consumed by others. In the same way that there is a perverse interest in those hot dog-eating contests. By the way, I am informed that the hot dog-eating thing is officially governed by a group called Major League Eating. You know, it being a sport of sorts, like Major League Baseball.
On second thought, I rescind that idea about naked women reading books aloud. I'd suggest a show in which people read books aloud but stop to eat cupcakes at regular intervals. Quite clearly, the cupcake thing is way sexier than the naked thing.
Finally, in the matter of DC Cupcakes: Katherine's favourite flavour is a toss-up between Peanut Butter Fudge and Salted Caramel and Sophie's favourite flavour is Chocolate Hazelnut. That's information you will be glad you have at your disposal when the show becomes even more popular.
It's a cupcake world. Deal with it. TLC is ahead of the curve here. Expect copycat cupcake shows this fall.
The Office (NBC, 9 p.m.) is a repeat, of course, but one you need to see, if you're just a casual viewer. The office crew travel to Niagara Falls to celebrate Jim and Pam's wedding. That's Niagara Falls, N.Y., not the Ontario one. Which is a pity. Anyway, Michael, Dwight and Andy try to hook up with wedding guests. It is one of the more surreal but truly funny episodes.
Manson: The Notorious Crime and Trial (A&E, 10 p.m.) is yet another rehash of the Manson murders and subsequent trial. This time it is ubiquitous A&E guy Bill Kurtis who goes over the story. He was a young reporter at the time and fixated on the case. He talks with prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi and, apparently, "examines the attempt to silence a key witness, the sudden disappearance of one defendant's attorney, and the Manson Family's obsession with drugs, sex, and violence."
Check local listings.