TLC has finally cancelled Counting On, the reality show following the Duggar family. It’s the show that took over from 19 Kids and Counting, the reality show following the Duggar family. The only difference: the absence of Josh Duggar, who the family admitted had molested other kids, including his sisters, when he was a teenager.
As I started to write about this and look through the archives of what I’d written about the show and family, I grew angrier and angrier. TLC’s executives’ decisions regarding this show are horrifying, and if they revealed they were attempting to become the most amoral, unethical cable network in existence, I would not be surprised.
First, in 2015, the same day as the Duggars admission, TLC aired a marathon of 19 Kids and Counting. Only the next day did they pull the show off the schedule. But they didn’t cancel it.
Even after Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar offered a revolting defense of their son’s molestation of their daughters, TLC did nothing. At the time, I wrote, “It has now become morally reprehensible and ethically irresponsible to continue to distribute and profit from the show. This is a family led by two people who clearly demonstrated that their priority is their own self-preservation. TLC does not need to help them with that. But TLC may care more about the estimated $25 million in ad revenue they generated this year.”
Six weeks later, with no new news or public developments, TLC finally did cancel 19 Kids and Counting. But even when the network announced that, it was talking publicly about a spin-off. That spin-off started as a special, which became a full series a year later: Counting On, which TLC says is about “the next generation of Duggars as they celebrate some of life’s milestone moments, including the realities of growing up and raising their own families.” It’s since aired 11 seasons and a bunch of specials, and as Variety said, “focused on the families of Duggar sisters Jessa Seewald, Jinger Vuolo and Joy-Anna Forsyth, as well as their parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar.”
Later, when one of the Duggars went on a transphobic rant attacking another TLC star, Jazz Jennings, TLC did nothing except issue a pathetically weak statement that seemed to come from the CBS school of statements.
And that’s not to discuss any of the actual content of the episodes, or all of the tabloid stories about the family outside of the TV show.
TLC finally cancels the Duggar family’s show
So why is TLC finally acting now? In a new statement, TLC didn’t use the word “cancellation,” a word that would imply some kind of decisiveness. Instead, they’re just not going to do anything in the future:
“TLC will not be producing additional seasons of Counting On. TLC feels it is important to give the Duggar family the opportunity to address their situation privately.”
That situation? Josh Duggar’s arrest in late April, and his impending trial, which was set to begin next week, but has been rescheduled for November. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Arkansas released a statement headlined “Arkansas Man Arrested for Receipt and Possession of Child Pornography” that said:
According to court documents, Joshua James Duggar, 33, allegedly used the internet to download child sexual abuse material. Duggar allegedly possessed this material, some of which depicts the sexual abuse of children under the age of 12, all in May 2019.
Duggar is charged by indictment with receiving and possessing child pornography. If convicted he faces up to 20 years of imprisonment and fines up to $250,000.00 on each count. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
TLC has mentioned none of this on social media, and all 11 seasons of Counting On are still streaming on Discovery+ as of Wednesday afternoon. In other words, TLC is continuing to profit off the family. But that’s pretty consistent for a company, Discovery Communications, that says it’s committed to fighting climate change but also streams and airs a show funded by the oil industry.