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We’ve reached the unlikely point where Jon Gosselin actually uttered something that makes sense: “Reality TV is not a career.”
He was responding to his ex-wife Kate’s whining about the cancellation of the TLC show, which, in two incarnations, made a profitable spectacle of their eight children for some 150 episodes.
We won’t be shedding any tears when the credits run on the final installment of “Kate Plus 8” Monday. But we worry about the reality check facing eight youngsters who have spent much of their existence in front of cameras, no doubt giving them a distorted view of life.
The show that began nearly 4½ years ago as the initially benign “Jon & Kate Plus 8” became a Reality TV phenomenon – for all the wrong reasons. The ratings skyrocketed as the Gosselin marriage crumbled before us two years ago.
We witnessed a seemingly ordinary couple--save for their large brood--morph into bickering pseudo-celebrities at a time when fame increasingly isn’t a function of talent as much as it is being willingly odd and outrageous fodder for a larger televised, tweetable freak show.
The Gosselin saga also raises questions about whether Reality TV attracts such personalities or creates them – or both.
Jon Gosselin, his newfound wisdom aside, became a gossip column regular as he cavorted during the couple’s breakup, and tried to keep the show from going on without him. He’s toned down his public antics in recent months, but it’s worth noting his comments last week, to an outfit called RumorFix, gained him a sliver of the limelight he’s largely lost to his ex-wife.
Kate Gosselin, of course, waltzed onto “Dancing With The Stars,” served as a guest host on “The View” and even brought her kids to “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” in a TLC cross-promotion that said less about stunt casting than the bizarre state of celebrity.
The former nurse, who may be out of gimmicks, told People she’s “freaking out” about how she’s going to support the children. Perhaps she also should be freaking out about how the kids, ages 7 and 10, are going to make the psychological adjustment to real life.
We’ll hope against hope the former spouses will finally shield their children from the spotlight – and give them as normal an upbringing as possible so that a decade from now the kids don’t wind up renting a camera-filled house on the Jersey Shore.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.