As the child of divorced parents, it's difficult for me to watch Jon and Kate Plus 8 without feeling the knell of doom in the pit of my stomach for their children. It's glaringly obvious that they are soon to join the millions of kids in this country who grow up in a home without both parents. Add to that their horror when they are old enough to realize how their lives have been exploited for TV ratings and you've got the makings of eight hefty therapy bills in the future.
As you probably know unless you've been on a tropical island for the past few weeks - and that tropical island didn't have any TVs or stores that sold tabloids -- Jon and Kate Plus 8 is a-tumblin' down in the tackiest, most spectacular fashion. Things couldn't be worse personally for them, which means that ratings couldn't be higher, since we love to watch misery unfold when it's not our own, especially during these hard times.
Jon's having an affair! Kate's having an affair! Jon's sister urges viewers not to watch the show! Kate's brother claims the kids are being exploited! The Labor Department of the State of Pennsylvania is investigating possible breach of child labor laws! Jon lied about quitting his job - he was actually fired! Jon's girlfriend's brother is selling their sex bed on Ebay! Kate ignored her kids during a recent vacation, huddling with boyfriend/bodyguard instead! It doesn't end!
I scoped the first three episodes of Season 5, which debuted on May 25 with an hour long episode loosely based on the sextuplets' 5th birthday party. Show tagline: It might be a crazy life but it's OUR life! Although I had never watched it before, I can see why this show is completely addictive. You're clearly watching the final days of a marriage as J & K are interviewed separately on the couch. You can practically watch their relationship disintegrate in real time. And it's not pretty, but it's true rubbernecking -- you can't look away.
Jon doesn't care who believes him, he knows what he knows. "One day my kids are gonna google me and I'm gonna have to explain myself," he pouts. Both parents complain about the paparazzi following their every move and profess to be sick over becoming tabloid fodder. You have to appreciate the irony here. These people invited TV cameras into their home for monetary reasons five years ago. They were nobodys who became somebodys because they're on TV. They allow cameras to film their children's most intimate moments in the bedroom, the bathroom, what have you. And now they're complaining because they're so famous that they're making headlines. Boo hoo! The only Gosselins I feel sorry for are all under the age of nine years old.
OK, so meanwhile, Kate's been on a book tour for her book Multiple Blessings (a new book, Eight Little Faces, came out in April). She's decided she likes the fans after all (they used to creep her out) now that it's clear she's got a cottage industry going and they are the fuel. She's not so happy that she's been away so much that the kids are now calling her by the babysitter's name.
Kate, with no help from Jon and lots of bitching about it, arranges a big 5th birthday party celebration for the sextuplets. She's got big-time martyr syndrome; you won't help me? OK, I'll make it even harder on myself -- I'll make a huge production out of it! Instead of renting a private space she opts for a big open parking lot area and then is pissed off when the photographers appear. She's also annoyed that the kids know how to pronounce the word "paparazzi" which she's forbidden them to say. Much pint-sized hilarity ensues, ending with piñata bursting by the children. Methinks the piñatas should have been in the shape of Jon and Kate themselves.
The premiere ends with a couch interview where both parents profess to be "for my kids." Note they never once say "our kids." Classic.
Episode 2 is even sicker. Jon's away skiing in Park City, Utah with his buddies. Kate starts up again with the 'it's all about my kids' routine ... the TV show, the writing, "it's all a deep desire to provide for my kids." Meanwhile, am I crazy or correct when I say nothing says 'Fuck you' like your husband going skiing on your birthday? The two older girls (aged eight) plan a surprise birthday trip for Kate and the gang, they go to Charm City Cakes (home of the Ace of Cakes show - love those cross promotions!) for a visit. Each child is given a cake to decorate along with plenty of help from the Charm City employees. It's a roomful of screaming kids hopped up on sugar. The sound guys are in agony.
While this is taking place, Jon's decided he wants to 'give back' and help out the folks at the National Ability Center, where kids who are physically challenged get to experience what it's like to ski. How sad is this -- instead of being home with his own children on his wife's birthday, he's out there in Utah with his friends, putting in a few hours of looking-good time with other people's kids. Anyone with half a brain can see where this is going: Divorce Court. Maybe another cross promotion can be arranged if that show is still on the air.
Episode 3 of the new season finds Kate and daughter Maddy going away for a spa trip to San Diego, while Jon is at home with the other seven children trying to keep them occupied by taking a walk in the woods during which one of the 5 year olds, Alexis, falls and cuts her lip. Holy Bad Dad, Batman.
Unless absolutely every channel blacks out on me, I can't see myself giving too much more time to this program. It's too reminiscent of watching my own parents' marriage disintegrate, only without the cameras inside and outside the house. I don't need to relive those days.
At one point during the season premiere, Kate mourned that parents of multiples have triple the divorce rate. How about parents of multiples who allow their lives to be splashed across all forms of media, write books about it, claim to be doing everything for their kids while they're raking in the cash, and act like self-important assholes? Because that's what Mr. and Mrs. Gosselin are. She's a bully, and he's a wuss. And anyone could have told them that reality TV and a good marriage do not mix. Can you say An American Family*?
(*for those who don't get the reference, read Wikipedia's entry on the 1973 TV series An American Family, which chronicled the disintegration of Bill and Pat Loud's marriage while TV cameras recorded every moment of their and their children's lives. Arguably the first "reality show," the directors were documentarians Alan and Susan Raymond and the series aired on public television.)
Jon and Kate Plus 8 airs on TLC, apparently all the hours God sends. Good luck finding something else on that channel, in other words.
Follow Holly Cara Price on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hollycara