TLC debuts kid-filmed, adult-edited My Life as a Child tonight

Tonight at 7 p.m. ET, TLC debuts a reality series that was actually filmed by its subjects: kids. My Life as a Child follows kids ages seven to 11, and TLC says “[e]ach episode inter-cuts the stories of three to four children from different backgrounds.” All together, the six episodes follow 20 kids’ lives.

I watched the first episode, and while the show doesn’t have the same narrative draw as other series because each kid just a third of an episode, it is compelling. Giving kids cameras seems like a recipe for Blair Witch-style nausea, but the concept produces great footage that probably wouldn’t have come from traditional filming. The kids do their confessional-style conversations with the cameras on a flat surface, and at other times, the cameras are handed off to parents or others nearby, which allows the kids to be the center of a steady frame.

The kids in the premiere are remarkably self-aware, articulate, and introspective. Seven-year-old Joshua says things such as, “What makes me me? Who am I? That’s sort of a complicated question.” He also casually says devastating things, such as when he talks about “not [having] to be worried that somebody’s murdering somebody outside, and the way the murdered might come in the window or something and get you. It’s not a home to me; it’s a death trap.”

The first episode also follows seven-year-old Marc, but is a child prodigy and concert pianist (although he’s reluctant to describe himself as a “genius”), and Cole, who’s 8 and has cerebral palsy and describes his dad as his “best pal” right before he wipes his dripping nose on his dad’s shirt and then laughs. Marc’s speech sometimes sounds suspiciously choppy and coached, but all the kids are clearly exceptionally smart.

Or perhaps all kids their ages are this intelligent; I just don’t give them credit for being that way. Either way, like the best reality television, the show lets us into lives that we might not otherwise understand or know.

My Life as a Child [TLC]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.