Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009

Jon and Kate Gosselin

The original premise of TLC's extreme-parenting reality show Jon & Kate Plus 8 was, How can they survive having eight kids? It eventually became, How can they survive each other? As dueling charges of infidelity and strife hit the tabloids, the Gosselins became a full-fledged celeb-scandal couple, dividing Americans into Team Jon (she's so controlling!), Team Kate (he's so sleazy!) and Team Neither (they're so exploitative!). They also represented a growing culture of overnight reality stars, which turned sour in the stories of the Balloon Boy hoax and the White House gate crashers. The strife, and the eventual divorce filing, led to one ratings record after another, until — with Jon and TLC at war over permission to film the kids — the show called it quits. (Kate now plans a separate TLC show next year.) Leaving behind the question, How can any marriage survive reality-TV cameras?

— James Poniewozik