Jon & Kate Plus 8’s Kate: “we’re certainly not going to hide our imperfections”

If there’s been a sleeper hit reality show this year, it’s Jon & Kate Plus 8, the TLC docudrama about two parents (Jon and Kate Gosselin) and their twins, and their sextuplets, all of whom were the product of fertility treatments. The series debuted on TLC in January of this year, but that was actually the show’s third season, as the previous two aired on Discovery Health. Two half-hour episodes airs Mondays at 9, and repeat often, and the show is averaging around 2.5 million viewers.

While I’d heard of the show, I wasn’t aware of the passion it inspires until I was prompted to check it out when my friend Dina of WDBR in Springfield, Ill., mentioned it. Always helpful for a reality show’s ratings and buzz is controversy, and there’s been a lot of that recently.

In a Sunday Washington Post story, Kate said, “I’m not always proud of what you see on the show, nor is Jon, [but] we’re certainly not going to hide our imperfections. … The goal is to show the world that this job is hard — a lot harder than Jon and I ever imagined.”

The show’s executive producer, Wendy Douglas, told the paper that Jon and Kate “don’t yell and scream at each other, but many people appreciate it because it’s so real. And it’s a testament to Jon and Kate that they allow us to shoot all of it.” The Washington Post notes that “a film crew is in their house three to four days per week,” and that they “are paid for their participation, but she and TLC officials declined to disclose the fee. Similarly, some perks, such as her tummy tuck and Jon’s hair transplant, have been provided free of charge

So what criticism is Kate responding to? There’s a lot. First, there’s a blog by former cast member Aunt Jodi’s sister (Jodi is Kate’s brother’s wife, I think) that was started because of a lot of drama that’s hard to follow. Most recently, the blog deconstructed a response to a tabloid story that was apparently posted on Jon and Kate’s actual web site. See how the show is kind of like The Hills for breeders?

As Pop Vultures noted, “the show [causes] powerful emotional reactions with most people. People either love it or hate it. They comment on the way Jon and Kate treat each other, on the things the children say, on every little nuance of each episode. This is not a show that people take lightly.”

A lot of those comments are about Jon and Kate’s behavior toward one another. Mom Logic wrote recently that “Kate’s behavior has been questionable at times, verbally berating her husband and apparently physically slapping him. But he’s not laying down and just taking it either. He gives it back to her and they are often seen having immature bickering exchanges.” TLC gathered some of those moments and edited it together with an interview that features them fighting about their fighting, although it’s all kind of tame.

Also, they have eight damn kids, so it’s surprising to me they speak to each other at all instead of just cursing each other’s genitalia.

Jon & Kate Plus Eight [TLC]
For This Brood, It’s Chaos Times 8 [Washington Post]
Truth Breeds Hatred
Eight (+ Two) is Enough [Pop Vultures]
Reality TV Mom: Abusive? [Mom Logic]

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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.