In the world of reality television big families equal huge ratings. Do those ratings short change the youngest money makers on the screen? A few are saying that the Gosselin parents are guilty of that.
Back before the days of reality TV big families were an easy way for a TV show to get ratings. The Brady Bunch, Eight is Enough and 7th Heaven all focused on large families and were all hit TV shows. It showed producers that America likes their families super-sized.
The most popular show on TLC is Jon & Kate Plus 8 with 1.6 million viewers. On May 10, 2004 within 6 minutes their family of four increased to a family of 12. Within weeks the family was getting the swag that only celebs are used to.
The first swag gift? A remodeled home by Home Delivery.
After a one-hour special in September 2005 the family got their own series in April 2007. The ratings skyrocketed as viewers tuned in to see a ‘normal’ family coping with so many kids.
Today the Gosselins are everywhere; Oprah, Good Morning America, In Touch Weekly and People. The public can’t get enough of the bickering parents and cute little tykes.
The family gets tons of free stuff that comes with a hidden price. Nielsen ranks the series eighth out of 149 cable shows for product placement.
The New York Times reports:
“Every day is painfully the same, yet vastly different,” Ms. Gosselin says in the show’s interview segment. Ms. Gosselin is a confident and remarkably open former nurse who seems not terribly bothered by the vitriol expressed toward her in the blogosphere, where she is frequently vilified as a publicity-hungry control freak.
The success for Jon & Kate is in part because they are normal unlike the Duggars of “17 & Counting.” The Duggars come off as too good to be true while the Gosselin crew seems hard core average. Mom Kate can be a nag, dad Jon can be thoughtless and the kids can be brats.
Those brats are a gold mine. They have enabled Mom and Dad to get out of town more often for speaking engagements. Talking is one way to make more bucks in a huge way. At three thousand a pop and first class travel those trips are more like a vacation.
Now comes the backlash. Some are questioning though if the lure of free swag and bigger houses has changed the family.
One of those who is coming forward with negative words is “Aunt Jodi.” Jodi is married to Kate’s brother Kevin and was a frequent guest on the show. Aunt Jodi babysat the kids a lot. When she disappeared from the air questions were raised. Last June, Jodie’s sister Julie set the record straight on her blog that TLC had finally decided to compensate Jodi for appearing on the show, at which point, she says, Kate lost it, insisting that only she and Jon be paid. The TLC camp are saying that this is not accurate.
Another is Jon’s former boss. The couple on the show say that Jon was fired because the company didn’t want to insure him. David Rothermel says not so fast. Rothermel is a friend of Jon’s parents and that former boss. He claims before the babies had popped out of mommy Jon was on the phone wheeling and dealing on the company dime. The state unemployment agency ruled that Jon improperly did a side job while he was on company time.
Of the naysayers Kate Gosselin says on the family’s blog:
Quite honestly, we don’t pay attention. First of all, we don’t have time to worry about what people are saying and second of all, we know that our show is benefiting so many people that we need to continue. Any flack we receive is just typical stuff that anyone on TV on a regular basis receives. Furthermore, although this is the absolute hardest job (aside from raising 8 kids, that is) that Jon and I have ever had, it is also the most amazing blessing that we can be home with our children while working and when asked, all 8 of our children agree…for now, we need to continue on…and so we will!
There are ethical questions on the amount of time the children spend in front of cameras and their lack of privacy.
There’s no doubt that the family has greatly benefited from being on television. They recently moved into a huge house and have had more vacations than most Americans. Mommy had a tummy tuck and daddy has new hair. Basically the kids are supporting the family’s rich lifestyle.
Canada’s own Dionne quints had this advice for the parents of multiples in the late 1990’s as The Vancouver Sun reports:
“Multiple births should not be confused with entertainment, nor should they be an opportunity to sell products,” they wrote. “We were displayed as a curiosity three times a day for millions of tourists. . . We sincerely hope a lesson will be learned from examining how our lives were forever altered by our childhood experience. If this letter changes the course of events for these newborns, then perhaps our lives will have served a higher purpose.”
In the end the future will finish this story. Will the ten Gosselin children make it through the television maze unscathed?
Will they look back at their childhood remembering all the special times they were granted or wish they could have been alone in a room?
As the Philadelphia Magazine reports:
“As their friend, as somebody who loves the kids, I was always the one saying [to Jon and Kate], ‘Okay, be careful.’ Because they’re not just a commodity, they’re people,” says one of the kids’ former babysitters. “And someday will come and … you know? Nothing comes free. Everything, everything, has a price. And because I love them, I don’t want them to pay a price that’s too dear.”