Saturday, June 06, 2009

Jon & Kate Plus Satan

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As I wrote last February, my wife and daughter are big fans of the show "John and Kate Plus Eight," which runs Mondays on TLC.

"J&K+8" tells the story of the Gosselins, who, after having twins, decided to try again and ended up with sextuplets. Personally, I'm amazed that this show didn't end up being called "Jon and Kate Weep and Curse Fate." Judging from the "awwws" coming from the family room, however, there's ­apparently a high cuteness quotient.

I don't watch the show regularly myself; I do occasionally drop in on an episode, but my tolerance for cute is not all that great. I'm more a "Two and a Half Men" kinda guy. With that option off the table, let's just say I get a lot of writing done on Monday nights while the womenfolk bond over all the adorableness.

Recently, however, the Gosselins' lives haven't been so adorable. Rumors surfaced that Jon was having an affair with a schoolteacher. Counter-rumors sprang up saying Kate was having her own affair with one of the bodyguards who travels with her on her speaking and book
promotion tours. US Weekly had the story on the cover five weeks straight, and People wasn't far behind.

If nothing else, the scandals were good for ratings. The recent season opener, which was basically one long buildup to the much-ballyhooed "first time Jon and Kate face each other," drew more than 10 million ­viewers, the highest rating in the show's history. What we got was Kate being angry and Jon looking surly and mopey.

Typically arguments over who's to blame here fall out along gender lines. Women are furious that Jon cheated on poor Kate, while men tend to think Kate's treatment of Jon is a bit nagging and bossy and maybe he was just trying to get out of the house. (That's an opinion, by the way, that absolutely infuriates women. Try voicing it sometime to a female "J&K+8" fan. Bring protective gear).

In Kate's defense, while I've been known to refer to her as "that horrible woman," remember that what we're seeing is the edited version of the Gosselins' life that the producers have chosen to show us. And, since their original target audience seems to be composed of women, the narrative they've chosen is, "Kate is a hero and Jon's practically one of the children." Which means Kate's every snap and kvetch at Jon gets left in, as well as every moment of fecklessness on Jon's part.

This plays well to women, because let's face it: Women love shows that make men look bad. Look, I thought "Sex and the City" was pretty funny, but you've got to admit, every guy in that show, even the guy the heroine eventually ended up with, was portrayed as indecisive, shallow, self-absorbed, etc.

Of course, the real story of the Gosselins is probably a lot more complex than what we're shown on TV. I imagine that having the raw footage of his life edited to make him look like a hapless idiot who can't care for his children without being instructed and chivvied about by his long-suffering wife may be a reason for Jon's unhappiness with the situation. But that's a reason we'll never see or hear. The producers won't let us.

To the extent that I blame either Jon or Kate for ­anything, it's for getting themselves and their kids into this thing in the first place. Look, I can see how, when you're panicking over suddenly having eight kids to deal with, someone coming along with a wad of cash saying "let us film your lives, we'll give you a house and a nanny and a chef" is going to look very attractive.

But then, the devil usually does. Make no mistake, when you make a deal with TV to put your life onscreen, you are, and I don't think I'm exaggerating here, dealing with the devil. And now he's come to ­collect on the account. Let's hope the poor kids aren't included on the bill.


Bill Cameron said...

I don't know if TLC still admits its initials once stood for The Learning Channel, but in any case, I've felt for some time it should change to WTF. Because every show they run now is seriously what the fuck. This bunch, those pyschos the The Duggars, plus a whole raft of "Let's Humiliate People Because of What They Wear And/Or Eat" shows. Then there's the "We Commit Acts of Vandalism Against People's Houses, Sometimes While They're Not Even Home!" shows. Gah. That these shows do so well leaves me embarrassed for Americans, though I suspect it's not just us who are entertained by humiliation, abuse, and the freak show.

In the end, though, I feel no sympathy for folks like the Gosselins, though I do feel for their children. I'd go so far as to suggest subjecting your children to this kind of display on television is a form of child abuse. If there was any justice in the world, the show would be "Jon and Kate Do Eight — Years in San Quentin."

Anonymous said...

Speaking of vapid reality stars, I just watched I'M A CELEBRITY GET ME OUT OF HERE!

Who the hell are Heidi and Spencer? They're the only two on that show I HAVEN'T heard of.

Maybe next season, they'll put the kids in foster care and air drop the happy couple on an island of cannibals. It'll be a two-hour special: Jon & Kate Get Ate.