The Byford Files

Solving “Toddlers and Tiaras”…

Normally, I try to stay away from topical items here at Raising Elle (Mom, if you wanna stop reading now, I’d advise it). I try to resist scratching that itch…the one that networks try to provoke you into by luring you into public discussions about their deliberately unreal and contrived programming so that the next zombie in TV land will watch and buy more soap and pillows that look like animals. Even The Learning Channel which was originally intended to be, uh, a network dedicated to learning is shamefully the largest culprit in this game of creating programming around sad and desperate humans embracing absolute absurdity. Turn up the controversy, package it with around twelve to fifteen minutes of advertising and you have the formula for astronomical revenue generation. Of course, not every show can win. Apparently, the mindless audiences that pump ratings for these shows are a discerning group that can recognize real from fake real. Shows about exterminators, repo men and aged and boring television stars don’t always make the cut and are destined for the scrap pile. But they’re cheap to produce and easy to kill. And the failures are so numerous that you can’t even keep up and that’s good for the networks. Their mistakes and miscues are easily swept under the rug and forgotten forever. They’re like blogs. Some cat wants to start a blog about his favorite flowers or ceramic collectables (but with a political lean). He or she writes five posts and, when there’s not the fanfare or emails of validation they were expecting, they stop writing and their blog of failure is left out there in the blogosphere to remember forever as that really good idea that ended badly or even the dream that went completely unfulfilled. There’s virtually millions of these hunk of crap blogs out there. RaisingElle is not one of them only on the fact that I update it regularly. It might still be the worst thing ever written, but I keep it semi-current.

But there used to be more accountability in television. Remember “Cop Rock”? If a show failed, someone was losing their job. Some might have even lost their career. Now, you could probably still make a decent haul and not even ever have a successful show. Just Cheetos for the brain. Filler. Noise. I wonder what it feels like to be a television producer that failed in the 80s or early 90s watching television today. They gotta be pounding themselves in the forehead and crying themselves to sleep. Or their the criminals producing this stuff now to get back at the masses that rejected their concept for “Broadway meets the police drama.” The most successful programs are the ones that need little advertising because of the very organic and effective method of marketing called “word of mouth.” And if the Today Show does a segment on your show, for good or bad reasons, you’re golden. Yeah, that’s news. Good job, NBC.

(just made the most watered down coffee ever…going back to the well for a second shot…it’s Monday…you can’t go soft)

One such program that’s been maintaining a bit of traction for the last few seasons is “Toddlers and Tiaras,” a show which follows pageant moms and their Barbie-dolled mascara queen daughters from pageant to pageant. You know, the kind that spell names with “y’s” instead of “o’s” and always say their daughter’s names “with a ‘y'” and leave you to guess where the “y” goes (see photo at the top if you’re having a hard time understanding what I’m talking about). “Toddlers and Tiaras,” like all great reality television show, takes a swipe at the reality of a subculture and popularizes it. Mainstreams it. No one would want to sit around and watch a show called “Just Another Day at the Plant.” Sometimes reality can be too real. “Toddlers and Tiaras” helps the audience experience toddler pageantry without having to use your own poor daughter as the pawn in your game. Voyeurism at it’s very best.

The key focus of the program is the parents, most predominantly, the “pageant mom.”These obsessed, consumed and often obnoxiously gluttonous women sadly use their poor daughters as the wishing well for their failed lives. Like slave drivers or drill sergeants, they crack that whip on the back of their children until they just submit, paint the smile on and execute to a tee. Now, obviously, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. I mean, obviously, there was absolutely no editorial lean there. Again, I’m not trying to stir controversy here.I’m just a dad of a beautiful baby girl who’s trying to provide the best life for my baby too. If she wants to go out there, dress in a bikini and dance like a stripper in front of strangers at some hotel conference room, who am I to stand in her way? Like some dreamcrashing buzzkill? No, I should be the facilitator of all of her dreams. I totally understand.And I also have failures in my past that I’m not very proud of. I think Ellison could very well be my salvation in those mistakes. She could help me realize my own dreams and help me achieve those. She’s like my little dreamcatcher that I can hang from my rear-view mirror. Okay, maybe not. Let’s turn down the sarcasm here. It’s not one of my better writing qualities anyway.I have a solution on how you could basically end the pageant industry. One mom-blogger suggested that you take these women, lock ’em up and beat them. I’m not sure physical violence is the answer here. In some cases, yes. But not here. I think there’s a much safer and humane way in dealing with these women (sure, and the dad’s too). I only think it’s fair and balanced to ask the parents who force their daughters to wrap themselves up like a sequined sausage and gyrate like a go-go dancer while pouting their lips like Marilyn Monroe to ask the parents to have to firstly endure the same thing.So I’m recommending that we not beat these women, but simply ask them to do the same thing. I think that, in order to qualify for a pageant, the night before the pageant, each parent in attendance for the event should be required to participate in a very simple and harmless role reversal where they would be asked to dress in a tiny midriff and form-fitting pantyhose then dance around on the stage for a room full of gazing and judging eyeballs. And, yes, they’d have to be sober. I mean, I’m sure it wouldn’t be too much to ask of a committed mother to simply go one step further in their pursuit of fame and fortune as TV stars to simply do the same thing they’re asking their beautiful daughters to do. I would like to think that I wouldn’t push Ellison into any circumstances that I haven’t first checked for hazards or any safety concerns. Seems like if I’m asking her to go into a cage of crocodiles and demand her to wrestle them with her own hands and feet, I should first be willing to show her how to do it…not just stand on the outside of the cage and yell at her like, “No, not like that. Like this!”So, the let’s add a qualifying round to pageants for toddlers where the parents can show us how dedicated they are to the success of their little ones. And just your participation doesn’t qualify you. You have to be good and convincing. There’s no “sportsmanship awards” for the parents. Only the best three get to move on. Everyone else is assigned a social worker to stick to you like white on rice.

This would solve epidemics like “Toddlers and Tiaras,” force The Learning Channel to actually apply thought to their programming and keep me from having to write crap like this (exposing myself and bracing for the backlash from my lovely mother, Nana, for writing scathing societal commentary instead of posting cute pictures of Ellison…which is, yes, what I should be doing with this space). Here, Mom, this one’s for you. Love you. Enjoy your vacation.Man, that coffee’s on point.














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