Some thoughts on last night's horrific "Jon & Kate Plus 8" season premiere coming up just as soon as I make a Uniqua pinata...
Once upon a time, "Jon & Kate Plus 8" was a "take one for the team" show in our household, because my wife liked seeing how Kate dealt with the logistics of 8 kids, and because I had subjected her to more than enough "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Dexter" and their ilk over the years.
We hadn't watched in a while, though, and last night I was the one pushing to watch it -- not out of morbid curiosity about all the tabloid stuff, but out of professional curiosity about how the show was going to handle it.
And the answer to that was "not well." But at this point, I'm not sure how the show can handle it, short of shutting down.
For all of Kate's complaining about the paparazzi, and Jon's about their notoriety -- "I did not sign up for public scrutiny of everything," he said, apparently forgetting that he was the star of a television show watched by millions of people a week. "Neither did Kate." -- it's clear that these two made a deal with the devil, and now the bill is coming due. Between the TV show and the side projects Kate does as a result of the TV show, they have more than enough money to handle raising eight kids, but the pressure of being famous, and of Kate's fame taking her away from the family so much, and of whatever resentment Jon might have about that (or about the way she constantly belittles him on camera), is killing their marriage(*). He as much as said he wished he didn't have to do the show anymore in their interview with EW, calling it a necessary evil that allowed them to get "material things."
(*) While I don't feel very sorry for them in their complaints about the pitfalls of stardom -- even as I'm disgusted with the tabloid culture they're complaining about -- I do think they were in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you don't situation. As Kate notes, the divorce rate for parents of multiples is higher than the national average, and who's to say that the financial and logistical pressure of taking care of the kids without the TV money (and free stuff that comes with their celebrity) wouldn't have led them down a similarly ugly path?
Now, if "Jon & Kate Plus 8"had no agenda, it might be equipped to handle this uncomfortable turn of events. "An American Family," the pioneering PBS docu-series from the '70s, wound up chronicling the separation and eventual divorce of its central couple, but that was a genuine documentary -- "Jon & Kate Plus 8" is a brand. TLC needs people to believe in the Gosselins as a functional, albeit bickering, couple for the show's cute, aspirational schtick to work.
And so it felt like the season premiere was intended to be a traditional episode, with Kate handling party-planning headaches while complaining about Jon's absence, only for the tabloid stories to become so overwhelming and pervasive that they had no choice but to address those issues head-on within the show. And while I admire the (seemingly reluctant) candor -- both about the marriage and about the increasing burden of the family's fame -- that stuff overwhelms the show's bread and butter and fundamentally changes what the series is about. Nobody's going to care how Kate gets the kids through a trip to the grocery store when the specter of divorce is hanging over everything, and the idea that they're a relatively normal, albeit oversized, family is gone. We make fun of "The Hills" for refusing to include any material about the cast's celebrity lives -- say, if a feud between LC and Heidi was started by something one of them said at a red carpet event -- but watching last night's "Jon & Kate," I could understand why they do it.
While I checked back in once to see how the show addressed the big issues, I think that's it for me and this show. To bring it back to "An American Family," it's one thing to watch a TV show about a couple whose marriage is falling apart. It's something else entirely to watch a TV show that is likely causing the couple's marriage to fall apart.
Did anybody else watch? What did you think?