TLC and Kate make Jon look better by trying to make him look bad

Monday night’s penultimate Jon & Kate Plus Eight was composed of “never before seen footage,” and it was titled “Broken Dreams, Broken Promises, Broken Episodes.” From the opening moments, when Kate made dinner for a charity and said it should be signed “love from Jon and Kate plus eight–minus Jon,” it was clear that it should have been titled “Kate and TLC beat up on Jon.”

Even non-Jon focused segments, like Kate at a book signing or event, seemed designed to show how amazingly popular yet still grounded Kate is, unlike that deadbeat Jon. Of course, TLC doesn’t have new footage or Jon to interview, but refuses to just end the madness until every last drop of blood/money is squeezed out, so this kind of episode is the result.

In the opening scene, the family got passports at AAA, and Kate told one kid Jon’s photo “looks like a mug shot,” and their kid said, “yes it does.” Jon then criticizes Kate for confusing Korea and South Korea, and thus discloses to everyone where they are going on their secret trip. Kate gets mad in her typical way, but because she’s the only one doing interviews, gets to take the high road: “I don’t think I handled that too well,” she says.

The episode was punctuated by odd, over-written narration that Kate did a poor job of reciting, and most of that seemed designed to contextualize negativity as Jon’s fault. After the passport segment, she added that they never went because Jon didn’t want them to go and that was sad because she really wanted the kids to learn where their ancestors were from but couldn’t because it was all Jon’s fault.

There were moments like that all through the episode, from unsupported lines like, “Jon typically doesn’t do projects with the kids,” to the way Kate gave Jon credit for getting an electronic fence for the dogs, but then added “maybe we should have used a collar for other people.” She then blames Jon for the dogs’ behavior getting “worse.”

This is dangerous territory, because there’s nothing like trying to make someone look unsympathetic to make us sympathize with the person being beaten up. And it’s not like Jon deserves our sympathy, despite his attempts at self-deprecation.

This clip from the episode is a perfect example: Kate complains about Jon being on the phone all the time as TLC gives us footage of Jon ignoring one of his kids while he uses his phone. It’s definitely great footage, and pretty damning. Kate quickly realizes that this accusation could be used against her, and counters her hypocrisy by insisting it’s different for her because “I’m not on the phone unless I have to be,” and says it’s only for work. Yes, the business of exploiting your family for fame.

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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.