Jon & Kate: Was TV To Blame?

16 Aug

The news is out: TLC are finally – finally – pulling the plug on Kate Plus 8. The last show will air about a month from now, at the end of the eighth season.

Not a moment too soon.

In the beginning, I had some interest in Jon & Kate Plus 8. I was not an avid fan who had to rush home in time for every episode. But if it happened to be on I’d watch it. Seeing this couple manage all of those kids made me feel alternately better and worse about the struggles I had juggling my two boys.

By the time the first season was over, though, my interest had waned. While I admired Kate’s superhuman organizational skills and Jon’s tolerance levels, it struck me – and probably most of the TV-watching world – just how mean they were to each other. This meanness seemed to escalate with each season, culminating in Kate barely saying a nice word to Jon and Jon running off to have an affair.

When Jon and Kate announced their separation, Kate was subjected to a lot of criticism over the fact that she decided to continue with the show. Phrases like “exploitation of the children” were bandied about a lot, and general consensus was that the pair of them should focus on the children during this difficult time, and not on the show.

While I agree with all of the above, I think the rot started a lot earlier. I don’t know what Jon and Kate were like together in the days before the show, but you have to assume that they were deeply committed to one another. You don’t go through the physical and emotional roller-coaster of fertility treatments with a partner you don’t see yourself going the distance with.

There’s really no way of telling whether the show itself was the cause of the problems between them, but it’s not a far-fetched notion. The dynamic of any relationship could be changed by the presence of cameras and producers who tell you to re-enact arguments to make them more dramatic and over-the-top.

Regardless of where things went wrong for Jon and Kate, I cannot help thinking that perhaps they should have put a stop to the show as soon as the problems began. If their energies had been dedicated to their relationship instead of the TV cameras, maybe things would have been better for them and their kids. Maybe they would have been able to save their marriage. Or at the very least, maybe they would have been able to part with fewer malicious words passed between them.

And of course, the question on the public’s mind is this: What about the children? How have they been impacted by the very public way in which their parents separated?

What will it be like for them when, one day, they look back at old tapes of the show and relive their family disintegrating in the public eye?

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rittysdigiez/2983274366. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)

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