cheap embroidered polos How the Gosselins Blazed a Reality TV Trail and Imploded Along the Way
“You guys saw me at my worst first, and then I just kind of reversed in front of your eyes. The reality TV star may have been talking about her physical appearance at the time, but she has said that she doesn’t recognize anything about the person she was 10 years ago, when just to create a better life for their eight children and then husband Jon Gosselinsigned on to do a whole series revolving around their family for TLC.
A smaller audience had met the Gosselins on Home Delivery and their two Surviving Sextuplets specials, but when Jon Kate Plus 8 premiered on April 10, 2007, a star was born.
The star, that is, being a not brand new but still largely untapped genre of reality TV even preceded Keeping Up With the Kardashians by six months first was owned by TLC but would soon spill all over basic cable: “ordinary” families just doing their thing.
Episode one of Jon Kate Plus 8 featured Jon and Kate, at the time having been married for eight years after first meeting at a picnic in 1997, taking their kids to a pumpkin patch, the most innocuous of family outings. Usually the more outwardly likable of the two parents, thanks in part to the editing and in part to Kate’s severity, and sometimes playing the uncredited role of Child No. 9.
The show was a huge hit for, first Discovery Health, which aired the show’s first two seasons in 2007, and then TLC, which took over in January 2008.
The fourth season finale on March 23, 2009, was the most watched episode of the series yet, attracting 4.6 million viewers and beating NBC, CBS, Fox and The CW among women ages 18 to 34. And as reports noted at the time, Jon Kate Plus 8’s big number helped out the new show in the next time slot for 12, about a New Jersey couple with two sets of twins and sextuplets.
In fact, buoyed by the success of both the Gosselins and Little People, Big World, TLC’s branding tagline had become “Life surprises,” and the network became the home of 17 Kids and Counting (before 18 and 19 arrived), The Little Couple, Toddlers Tiaras, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, My 600 Lb Life and Sister Wives.
In February 2009, a report claimed that Jon Kate had once called “my balance, my strength, my stability” been partying with college students, first at a bar and then at a house party, a few hours away from their new $1.3 million Pennsylvania home, and not only tried to kiss a few girls, but was overheard telling one of them he was getting divorced. In March, the New York Post quoted a source saying that Jon and Kate were working on their marriage and had taken some alone time after shooting on season four wrapped.
Not long after the season four finale aired in March, the May 2009 issue of Ladies Home Journal came out (in April), featuring an interview with Jon that was reportedly given on the day the co ed report popped up.
“This struggle has definitely put some tension in our marriage,” he told the magazine, per Reality TV World. “But I never cheated on Kate. Kate and I are together.”
He also admitted, however, that life had taken an unforeseen turn, what with having eight kids and being on TV. “I always thought I’d be, like, 54 years old and marry a 19 year old or something,” he said. (Like, for real, he was quoted as saying that.)
Kate told the magazine that, even though fame had its drawbacks, she “wouldn’t return to those days” before their sextuplets were born. “It’s a lot of work. It’s the best thing and it’s the hardest thing I think that’s ever happened, just our show in general,” Kate said in the episode. “I personally have the ideal job. I love what I’m doing at this time. But it has gone through phases for all of us. Jon feels frustrated.”
“It is hard being on this side of the camera, and not just sitting here, that’s the easy part, but just going out in the world and trying to live your life,” Jon added. “People see your life as episodes and you see it as a date on the calendar. We don’t have privacy at all. I can’t be Jon, I have to be ‘Jon and Kate Plus 8,’ which is a real hard thing for me. I still haven’t come to grips with it.”
It doesn’t take a lot of hindsight to sense that this interview was foreshadowing a marital disaster of epic proportions.
While Kate Gosselin was on a book tour promoting Eight Little Faces, Us Weekly reported on May 5 the story that would make the cover of its latest issue: Jon Gosselin had been having an affair for three months with a grade school teacher named Deanna Hummel.
Prior to the tawdry revelation, the National Enquirer had reported that Gosselin was seen kissing a woman who wasn’t his wife outside a local hotel. He had also been photographed with an as yet unidentified Hummel leaving a bar in Reading, Pa., on April 18, his wedding ring nowhere in site. When Us called him on it, the father of eight told the mag, “Yes, I have female friends that is all she is. I’m not going to end my friendships just because I’m on TV.
“However, being out with them late at night, showed poor judgement on my part. What makes me sick, is that my careless behavior has put my family in this uncomfortable position. My family is the most important thing in my life and it kills me that these allegations have hurt them.”
But Us ID’d Hummel and, though both she and Jon denied that they were having an affair, her brother (and roommate) Jason Hummel told a sordid story to the magazine about being able to overhear the two getting it on (though he did say his sister was a “nice girl” and Jon was the jerk).
“My brother is making this all up. I can’t even stomach the lies he’s saying about me,” Deanna told People at the time.
A few days later, Kate Gosselin went ahead with a scheduled Today appearance to promote her book, telling Meredith Vieira, “We just need to weather this storm, just like all the other storms that we’ve been through.” There was no clarification as to whether she meant previous storms of the same nature as this one, or just storms in general. Then still a relative fame newbie, Kate did express surprise at how virulent the coverage was.
“It is so public,” she remarked. “It’s one of the things we did not envision when we started our show. It’s one of the things that comes with it tabloid stuff. To be very honest, I’m very hesitant to believe any of it. It comes with the territory. We’re dealing with it just like everybody else does.”
But, she added, “Tabloids pay thousands of dollars for stories. The juicier the story, the more the payment. When you pick up those sort of magazines, is it believable? Ask yourself. People are being paid to talk.”
“I don’t know that we’re in the same place anymore, that we want the same thing,” Kate also told People at the time. “I’ve been struggling with the question of ‘Who is this person?’ for a while. I remember where I was the first time I heard [Deanna’s] name. It’s one of those things where you can try to make it go away, but there’s blaring, red flashing lights.”
Days later, Kate was back on the horn with People, denying a report that she had an affair with her family’s married bodyguard, Steve Neild. “The next story coming out from the animals that stalk us is about our security person and his family,” she said. “Already the allegations they’re making about me are disgusting, unthinkable, unfathomable, and I am horrified.”
And it only got worse. Jon Kate Plus 8’s sixth season premiered on May 25, hitting a new ratings high (the hungry masses are only human, right?) and Us continued to report salacious new details about Jon and Deanna’s purported relationship.
Even the decision to divorce after 10 years of marriage extraordinarily sad development, considering eight children were involved nothing to stop the interest in the show. In fact, their June 22 episode, their last show before a brief hiatus which they revealed they were separating and though living together had in fact been leading largely separate lives for two years more than 10 million viewers. “I don’t really want to be alone,” Kate said in the episode confessional. “I don’t want to do this alone.”
Jon asked for the divorce, Kate told People. “I curled up in a ball and I sobbed. I couldn’t breathe; I was hyperventilating. I was scaring people who were calling to check on me because I couldn’t even talk.”
Kate, however, was the first to file for divorce, doing so on Monday, June 22, 2009, in Montgomery County, Pa., before the separation episode aired that night. In a statement, she said Jon’s unspecified “activities” over the weekend left her with “no choice but to file legal procedures in order to protect myself and our children.”