Photo Credit: TLC
TLC launches its fourth "little people" reality series, Little Chocolatiers (Tuesdays, 10 p.m. ET) tonight, focusing on the joys and challenges of a little couple, Steve and Katie Hatch, who run a hand-dipped chocolate shop in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Their chocolate creations are so inventive (and obviously delicious) that their popular business is constantly fielding orders for either huge quantities or uniquely shaped displays; for example, some college students order a giant chocolate desk for a beloved professor. Like other dessert-based reality shows (Food Network's Ace of Cakes and TLC's Cake Boss), the candy makers accept various culinary challenges, usually on a tight deadline. The difference with these pros, of course, is that Steve is 3'9" and Katie is 4'2".
Little Chocolatiers arrives on the heels of 2006's Little People Big World (now in its fifth season), 2009's The Little Couple (which has been renewed for a third season) and Our Little Life! (about a little couple raising an average-sized baby). The network ordered this fourth "little people" series, after a one-hour special about the Hatches drew 1.3 million viewers in December. Clearly, TLC is tapping a strong audience interest in little people.
But in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, TLC executive Nancy Daniels understandably wanted to tweak that perception. "I think our network is all about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances," said Daniels. "And with Steve and Katie, the audience responded. Maybe they tuned in because they were little people, but they stayed because of their world, and the artistry of their chocolate shop."
Fair enough. Dwarfism isn't the only common thread among these shows; the subjects are also engaging and relatable. "We didn't want to be just another 'little person' show on TLC," Steve Hatch told the Salt Lake Tribune. "Bottom line is that little people are just like anyone else." For the Hatches, appearing on a reality show is an opportunity to spread that knowledge, while gaining publicity for their business.
That more or less explains why people agree to be film for these shows. But it's still fair to wonder, Why are viewers tuning in? Would Chocolatiers attract as many viewers if they were chocolate makers in the 5' to 6' height range? Maybe, maybe not. "Little people" shows may serve to educate viewers about dwarfism, but they still spring from a gimmick, don't they?
Katie Hatch, reluctantly, seems to have accepted that. "The curiosity of people that come to our shop, I think, does have to do with the fact that we are chocolatiers and little people -- and what do you think of? You think of the Oompa Loompas," she says, sighing. "So we've had people check us out for being little."
Like TLC itself, she and her husband don't worry themselves about why people are curious about them. The Hatches simply use that curiosity to their advantage. "What ends up happening is, these customers, they came out of a joke or for whatever reason," says Steve Hatch. "But we have damn good chocolate, and they keep coming back." And in these economic times, it's nice to have a gimmick that translates into a delicious, savvy source of income.