New TLC Shows, In Ascending Order of Cringe Factor

Once upon a time (by which we mean 1972), TLC, then known as The Appalachian Community Service Network, was a free educational television network focused on informing for free, a collaboration of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and NASA. NASA. And that’s not to say that TLC’s current crop of programming is completely devoid of educational value, but even the serviceable stuff like What Not To Wear seems to be showing up even less and less in reruns and that.

Anyway, the new TLC crop seems to be heading more in the uncomfortable, kind of exploitative and can’t-look-away sort of programming block for which it has become notorious. Here are four of the new freshly ordered shows, in ascending order of how cringe-worthy their premises are. 

Pete Rose: Hits and Mrs.: ESPN’s 30 for 30 recently ran a short documentary about former baseball legend Pete Rose, where the man known as ‘Charlie Hustle’ signed autographed balls for fans in Vegas and reflected on his life and career. It was surprisingly fascinating, and Rose is certainly a captivating personality. TLC’s new show will focus on Rose and his new fiancée, former Playboy model Kiana Kim, as they try to navigate the long-distance relationship thing, not to mention dating with kids from previous relationships. These are actually real situations people face and from which they could learn, not to mention Rose does make good TV, so of all the newcomers, and as Americans, I think we’re all desensitized to the notion of celebrities launching reality shows to get back into the spotlight, so who really cares? This one is probably the least appalling.

Jersey On Ice: Jersey On Ice premiered this week, and includes the three formulaic elements that, in the wake of other successful reality programming, most reality TV networks and producers are seeking: New Jersey, the dynamic between stage mothers and overambitious coaches and some ultra-competitive youth activity. Andrea, Deana and Michele are three Little Falls, N.J.-based figure skating coaches, and they’re all about building winners. That’s with a “W.” That they make with their hands. Not losers, with an “L,” that they place upon their foreheads in the preview clip for the show. If they’re still making those gestures when talking about victory and defeat, you know the rest that follows can’t be good.

Wives With Beehives: TLC hasn’t shied away from spotlighting families with warped ideas about “traditional family values” talking about what “family values” mean—they’ve given plenty of airtime to the Duggar clan, and the ultimate Perfect American Family, the Palins. Wives With Beehives, a one-off series premiering on Dec. 27th that could turn into a show, maybe, follows four women trying to lead the ultimate ’50s housewife life, from the home furnishings and vintage coifs to the attitudes and moral values. Dollie, interviewed in the preview clip below, says she likes the stability of the ’50s and expresses some genuine fears about The Way We Live Now.

The show should paint some interesting portraits and representing another view is all well and good, but after a bitter election with lots of discussion of legitimate people with power trying to go back to the values of the ’50s, there are some larger, more uncomfortable things (and things certainly worth discussing) under the surface. I mean, the ‘50s had cool fashion and music and adorable, Pinterest-worthy décor. And progress is all about respecting choices, and wanting to be a homemaker isn’t something for which anyone should be judged. I just think it’s a weird decade for people to look back on so fondly, considering it was kind of a terrible time to be a woman. Or a non-white person. Or gay. Or generally living outside of a certain ideology, lest you become part of an anti-Communist witch hunt. THE GOLDEN AGE, AMIRITE GUYZ? 

Best Funeral Ever: For real though, putting the “fun” back in “funeral” should never be an actual promotional point (and I’m sure we’re not the only ones to make that joke). Considering TLC has tons of shows relating to weddings, births and all the couponing done in between, it only makes sense they would tackle the afterlife too. Like Wives With Beehives, Best Funeral Ever is a one-off special, this time about the Golden Gate Funeral Home in Dallas, where John Beckwith Jr. and his team help honor the dead with extravagant send-offs, including "a Christmas-themed funeral with reindeer, elves and snow," a boxing ring for a boxer, a disco-themed funeral with leisure-suit wearing dancers, and, for a singer whose most famous work was a BBQ sauce jingle, an affair with live hogs and a sauce fountain with dip-able ribs. 

The cringe-worthiness in this case comes not in people wanting to celebrate their loved ones with a BBQ sauce fountain (thanks for the idea, TLC!); and any enterprise that takes great care in honoring the deceased in a manner they would have enjoyed is great. But it’s not going to not be super uncomfortable seeing cameras pointed at a grieving family and friends at what is usually a very intimate and vulnerable time (not to mention there are probably some cultural elements to said funerals extrapolated for TLC’s audience to gawk at, but it’s not like TLC has never done that before).

The special will air on December 26th, so after a day of joy and celebration with your loved ones, you can watch this and think about their eventual mortality!

Lonely Spacecraft Continues Endless Journey Into Nothingness

You ever stop and think about the saddest thing in the solar system? No, not the time Suzanne dumped you right before the Eighth Grade Spring Formal. I’m talking about the space probe Voyager 1, the most far-flung piece of human-made junk in history, which has been hurtling away from us in utter isolation for 35 years. Anyway, it won’t be dragging its melancholy butt through our solar system much longer.

Voyager 1, you see, “has now entered a new and mysterious region of the heliosphere nicknamed the ‘magnetic highway.’” I think the word “mysterious” here likely refers to the many alien ghost sightings in that area and its general haunted-house-like vibe. Either that or it’s a way for scientists to tacitly admit they have no goddamn clue what goes on there. Soon, however, our friendless drifter of a spacecraft will.

After that, it’s interstellar space. A realm where "high-energy particles" will bounce off Voyager 1’s instruments. What will our aged little appliance think of that? Does it know how it came to be in exile from its distant home—how it is destined for the slow eons of immortal inertia, a meaningless vector into the void? These are just a few of the questions that should help you sleep tonight.

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.

Curiosity Rover Finds Evidence Of Litterbugs On Mars

Last week, the mobile Mars Science Laboratory known—perhaps in a manner that tempts terrible fate—as Curiosity beheld a strange object: a piece of garbage that, though it seemed metallic at first glance, turned out to be a piece of plastic. In fact, as diligent NASA scientists eventually figured out, the scrap came from Curiosity itself. WHATEVER HAPPENED TO LEAVE NO TRACE, YOU GUYS?

Here’s the sequence of events, according to ExtremeTech:

[T]he object was in fact a half-inch piece of plastic and most likely a bit of debris from Curiosity’s EDL (entry, descent, landing) on Mars. The plastic most likely fell off the sky crane and onto the top of Curiosity during landing, and then later fell to the floor.

One Internet commenter asks: “… so Mars has a floor now?” Yes, and it’s being inundated with all kinds of space trash, which I’m betting is not altogether biodegradable. For shame! Later, when Curiosity is out of juice and left to gather dust, some alien will probably see it cluttering an otherwise beautiful plain and then shed a single, dramatic tear.

Even worse, Curiosity next moved on to assessing some mysterious bright mineral particles, which will likely turn out to be priceless and have us humans striking out to the red planet in a gold-rush scenario, wiping out native Martians in the process. Good old history: you can always count on it coming full circle.

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.

Mars Curiosity Rover to Broadcast will.i.am Single

While they predicted the end of world in 2012, we don’t think the Mayans could have known that the solar system would also come to its untimely end so soon—and thanks to such seriously bad tunes.

Today NASA dropped the news that the Mars Curiosity rover will rock the solar system with the premiere of Black Eyed Peas front man will.i.am’s latest single “Reach for the Stars” tomorrow afternoon. Be prepared for a total cosmic meltdown and intergalactic gagging to ensue.

Your Daily Guide to Trending Topics

Every day there are some topics that are trending. Since many of them don’t make sense, we provide easy contextualization. Also, this way, you won’t actually have to know anything about anything.

The Master
Sure, we knew our readers would be interested in The Master, the first Paul Thomas Anderson film in five years. So when the first peek hit the web yesterday, we were all over it. Now it’s the second most searched term on Google. Most of the stories that Google searchers are finding are about the trailer, the lack of Philip Seymour Hoffman, whether or not it’s based on the life of L. Ron Hubbard. Take one wrong Google turn, however, and you can easily learn about some non movie-related things, including celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels’ crusade against The Master Cleanse and a golf tournament.

SpaceX Launch
It’s not just NASA going into space anymore. This morning, a privately owned cargo rocket was launched on a mission to deliver about 1,000 pounds of goods to the International Space Station. That’s really only about week’s space groceries, but the idea is to see if in fact people other than government-employed geniuses can make space travel work. If all goes well, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, will win a $1.6 billion dollar contract to run 12 missions into space. No word on whether any of them will carry Lance Bass.

Bond Girl Marlohe
Berenice Marlohe, the new Bond girl who’s apparently the toast of the Cannes Film Festival, is the most trendingest item on Yahoo! this morning, which probably means that a bunch of misspelled versions of her name combined count toward that honor. Because, honestly. Marlohe plays Severine in the film, titled Skyfall, and showed off her sinister side at a screening of the film, where she told reporters that her co-star, Daniel Craig is "like a clown."

Arsenio Hall
Yes, that Arsenio Hall. The former late-night talk show host is at the top of the trends list thanks to his big win on Sunday night’s episode of The Celebrity Apprentice. Hall beat out American Idol alum Clay Aiken, showing us all that the term celebrity is certainly subjective. Anyway, if Arsenio really wants to do things right, he will use his resuscitated fame to put together a Coming To America reunion.

#IStandWithObama
Folks on Twitter are awfully hyped to talk about President Obama this morning. The hashtag #IStandWithObama is seriously trending, with users sharing their views on what the President is doing right. To be fair, other topics include #YouKnowTheSunIsShiningWhen and “Rise & Grind,” so we can’t put too much stock in the idea of great thought at 140 characters.

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Your Daily Guide to Trending Topics

Every day there are some topics that are trending. Since many of them don’t make sense, we provide easy contextualization. Also, this way, you won’t actually have to know anything about anything.

Deb Fischer

Normally TV-obsessed Google has a nose for news this morning, with Nebraska’s unexpected candidate for Senate topping the list of most-searched words. Deb Fischer, who shot from next to nowhere to defeat trounced Nebraska’s Attorney General and State Treasurer in their primary, despite spending next to nothing (or at least the political version), and will go on to face former Senator Bob Kerrey, supposedly widely disliked in Nebraska after leaving for a decade on the East Coast, in the election. Nebraska, who knew!

Solar Eclipse

Something else taking up brain space for Google readers—who, in fairness, are also still reading about America’s Got Talent—is the solar eclipse coming to most of the U.S.A. May 20. The East Coast won’t have a chance to see the sun slip behind the moon and give it what for, but the rest of the country should have no problem checking out the first such eclipse of the century. Real science geeks can tune into NASA’s website, among the first to come up in a “solar eclipse” search, for nerdier details.

Rachel Uchitel

Yahoo! is nowhere near as brainy as Google today. The most-searched term at the ‘hoo! is “Rachel Uchitel,” the former Tiger Woods ladypal—you might remember her making millions to keep her lip buttoned about their hijinks—who popped out a kid Tuesday night. “Contractions are starting to kick in,” she tweeted yesterday before dropping a seven-pound little girl. No worries, golf stars: The dad is Uchitel’s husband, Matt Hahn.

Zodiac Killer

Lyndon Lafferty, a former California Highway Patrol Officer, has published a book that allegedly identifies the Zodiac Killer, the infamous serial killer who plagued the San Francisco area in the 1960s. While the book doesn’t name the killer by name, Lafferty asserts that the man who killed at least five people is now a 91-year-old California resident who was motivated by alcoholism and a rage over his wife’s infidelities to kill. And while it might sound flimsy to the casual Internet searcher (or the police, who have closed the case), when Lafferty showed his suspect’s image to the sister of one of the Zodiac’s victims, she reportedly said, “It’s him."

#womencantresist

Behind “I Hate My Face,” a trending topic for compliment seekers and body dysmorphics, this hashtag is Twitter’s favorite morning topic. Surprisingly, however, not all women on the social network are in agreement about what they want and are unable to resist. Is this not something they all agreed upon beforehand?!

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Merry Christmas! Love, The Internet

Christmas is only two days away: if you haven’t finished your shopping, have fun at the mall. However, if you’re still out of ideas for gifts for your near and dear, we have a few all-purpose ideas from the Svpply Amazon gift guide. Thankfully, some are even still available for next-day shipping at (somewhat) reasonable rates. After the jump, check out our picks for the best gifts to disguise the fact you bought them the day before Christmas—we promise we won’t tell.

1. Agate Coasters, $25. Guests will be too distracted by these stunning coasters to notice that your coffee table is from IKEA. 2. Bananagrams, $14.95. Sort of a free-form Scrabble, Bananagrams is portable and a race against your opponents (we all know Scrabble can sometimes be a snoozer). 3. NASA Moon Globe, $52.99. We’re familiar with the vintage maps and atlases trend, but I dare you to find someone else with a globe of the moon. 4. Danesco Manual Coffee Grinder, $47.99. Trust us, no one is simply a “casual” coffee drinker anymore.

Russia Invests $2 Billion to Clean Up Space Waste

Whether you’re environmentally conscious or not, you should at least be aware that there’s a corner of the Pacific Ocean that’s basically a floating dumpster. It’s called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—or Pacific Trash Vortex—and it’s said to be as large as Texas. In the patch, you’ll find a delightful concentration of plastics, chemical sludge, litter, debris, trash, and other shit trapped by the swirling currents of the North Pacific Gyre. Pretty disgusting. What’s worse is that the same thing apparently exists in outer space. “Space waste” is everything from defunct satellites to motor fuel slag and paint flakes, just floating around in Earth’s orbit. If any of our spaceships run into large chunks of space waste, the collision could cost millions of dollars and/or lives. Oh, and it turns out that whole celestial situation might cause a mysterious ball of lightning some day. Thankfully, Russia has decided to step up and take charge of our galactic waste.

Russia’s space corporation, Energia, recently said they plan invest $2 billion to build a space pod that will knock the junk out of orbit, away from Earth. It turns out this cosmonaut pod could help reopen orbits that are currently inaccessible to future spacecraft due to the amount of shredded metal and empty hulls of dead satellites floating around. I have to applaud Russia for manning up, here. And because it looks like they can easily toss around a cool $2 billion to clean up our galaxy, maybe they should consider investing in making their food taste good.

NASA Finds Use for Old Headshots

Accept it: it’s unlikely you’ll ever be able to afford private space travel, even if Branson finally gets his next project past the stratosphere. Luckily, in lieu of actual space travel, NASA is offering anyone over 13 the opportunity to send a picture of their face into space aboard one of the two remaining space shuttle missions. Why the age limit? Who besides the time capsule-burying set will want to do this? Details after the jump!

It’s called the Face in Space program. Catchy, right? After you get over the rhyming, you can go to NASA’s Face in Space website and upload a picture of yourself to be taken into space. (Well, more likely a small file of a picture of you to be taken into space.) After your likeness’s space flight, you can print out a “commemorative certificate signed by the Mission Commander.”

I’ve got to assume the pictures are traveling on a hard drive of some sort, which takes a bit of the thrill out of it. What if the space shuttle astronauts encounter some other form of higher intelligence? They wouldn’t be able to give the alien creatures these candid pics, and, even if they did, the aliens would probably have some compatibility issues.

But, we digress. The Space Shuttle Discovery launches in September and the Endeavour in November. Face in Space participants can choose which shuttle to put their face on. Best Face Forward!