Once the darlings of documentary-based reality television, the fact that Pennsylvania’s labor department is now investigating the Gosselins to check compliance with the state’s labor laws shows just what a storm of controversy their unique situation has become. It’s not that controversy in the world of Jon & Kate is new; for years Jon’s family have expressed their concerns over the show’s affect on children, Kate’s legendary control issues and how she has systematically turned her family into a business and her children’s lives into a performance.

But with the allegations in the off season of first Jon’s infidelity with a longtime family friend, and then Kate’s alleged infidelity with one of her security staff, for the first time the controversy has seemingly moved beyond their control and the pressure is certainly beginning to show. There is absolutely no question that both Jon and Kate are doting parents who obviously adore their children, but it has long been suspected that perhaps things were not so rosy with each other. Watching the show it quickly becomes clear that Kate really doesn’t like any sense of unregulated disorder, and that Jon doesn’t really like, well, to be frank, Kate. Rather than a series about an idyllic American family, Jon and Kate Plus 8 might well finish up as the most drawn-out and public marital breakdown in TV history.

Obviously the pressure of raising eight children must be immense and it’s not hard to see why they took the route they did in accepting network sponsorship; it’s hard enough to put one child through college these days, eight at the same time is unthinkable. But in the end it was their choice and they made it. As the show shifted in season three from ten episodes to more than thirty, Jon quit his job. When season four expanded the show even further, it’s clear they made the decision to live off of the show full time. So at seventy-five thousand per episode, plus childcare, a nutrition chef and all the company sponsored outings and vacations they can handle, it is difficult to feel too much sympathy for them.

With reports already circulating that Kate has offered Jon an out whereby he can see other people providing he fulfills his obligations to the show, the billing of this season five premiere as the “first time Jon and Kate face each other” is obviously nonsense. But that’s “reality” TV for you and obviously the producers intend to milk this for all it's worth, offering the “where to now?” narrative as the arc for the season. They’ve even bought them a new couch to be interviewed on, with the brown cozy two-seater replaced by a larger cream loveseat. Just large enough incidentally to provide a convenient, icy visual divide as they each cling to their respective armrests.

But first of course we have to be teased with the possibility of a big blowup and much of the episode is comprised of separate interviews where they are invited to address the allegations (read: throw a fit) and ponder how this unfortunate situation came to be (read: hopefully blame each other). Good for them that in the end neither of them does either, although clearly for different reasons.

Kate obviously now views her life as the show and the show as her life, and her angry but controlled reaction is a defense of her livelihood. Again her issues regarding control come through as she states her anger comes from the fact that “this isn’t what I had envisioned for us.” Well, personally I’d envisioned marrying Kate Winslet and retiring age 30 to a private island and that didn’t work out either. What are you going to do? She also clearly realizes that while no one wants to hang their dirty laundry in public, the second the show isn’t good TV anymore it’s all over.

By contrast Jon just so clearly doesn’t want to play the game anymore. Arriving to the kid’s fifth birthday separately from Kate (in a nice white sports car no less), he gleefully hugs his kids and gets stuck in with the business of making their day happy while barely acknowledging the cameras. Quiet and more than a little irritated he deflects all awkward questions and subtle prompts to erupt with the simple answer that “it’s between me and Kate.”

But, in all honesty, he’ll likely not have to grit his teeth for much longer. Maddy and Cara are now old enough to be able to play up to the camera a little. Crucially the smaller six are now all talking and as soon as viewers get a taste of that on a regular basis, Jon will be about as sought after in the public eye as Tara Reid. Hopefully then he can drive his white sports car on the days he’s not working (which are currently all of them) in peace.

Starring: Jon and Kate Gosselin and family

Network: TLC

Airtime: Mondays, 9:00pm

1 Comments

  • Jaimie
    Jaimie on

    Keep praying and I agree with you and Jon about keeping al this out of show as much as you can.

    Jaimie

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