In a world where people want to relate to the stars they see on television, reality television has found its calling. Reality television is a genre that cannot be easily defined. A reality show can be funny, it can be terrifying, it can be soothing, and it can also be anticlimactic. Fortunately, the TV gods are always cooking something different up.
Enter Jon and Kate Plus 8, a show about a family with too many kids to count. Well, not too many to count – just a unique family dynamic. Jon and Kate Gosselin started their family with twin daughters and later ended up welcoming a set of sextuplets – that’s right, giving the family a total of eight children. This is the story of their rise to fame and beyond.
How It All Began
Could you imagine running a home that is packed to the brim? No, I’m not talking about a hoarder’s house, but rather a home packed with arguably too many children. The Gosselin family, headed by Jon and Kate Gosselin, was overflowing with children after their first set of multiple children became so much more.
The Gosselins became a family of eight children, ten people total, when they had a set of sextuplets – that’s six children in one womb. They slowly but surely became a family that created chaos on screen that wasn’t too uncommon on reality TV; they made it into their own beast.
Jon and Kate Gosselin were not randomly discovered by TLC, even if that’s what you think happened. Living with eight children was hectic and a major adjustment. The couple relied on volunteers from their community to help keep their busy home afloat, and luckily the community came to their aid.
The family started out with an hour-long special on Discovery Health, centered around life raising eight children and being a family of ten. There are so many details that go into raising a family with that many children, and as Discovery is known for nature documentaries, they ventured into a new kind of nature film.
Thanks, Discovery Health!
Of course, Discovery Health wanted to highlight the miracle of a family stretching themselves thin to take care of their family, even if it was more than they bargained for. Jon and Kate Gosselin were struggling with having a child on their own, so they turned to fertility treatments. This treatment led to the birth of their twins, Mady and Cara.
Kate begged (and Jon emphasized the word “beg”) Jon for just one more child, and they received far more than they bargained for. When the couple appeared on Oprah with all eight of their munchkins in 2008, they opened up about their initial reaction to finding out just how many babies to expect this time around.
The Oprah Show
During their 2008 appearance on Oprah, Kate reflected on the moment she knew she was carrying more than one child. Five and a half weeks into her pregnancy, they were meeting with their doctors. She was already in the hospital because of complications that typically came with having multiple children at a time.
Kate stated that she knew it was, at the very least, another set of twins. As soon as the ultrasound began, they could see more circles on the screen than they could count. The doctors continued to talk about it, but when they kept talking to each other instead of the couple, that’s when Kate knew something was up.
Both Jon and Kate were completely thrown off when they learned they were having sextuplets. At first, Kate mentioned that Jon, who was typically strong for both of them in cases of high pressure, looked like he was going to cry. Jon did not deny these allegations and met them with a smirk.
His next move was to crouch down to the floor. He felt dizzy like he was going to fall. How could anyone react differently to finding out that you do not have one baby, but six? That is a wild realization and must have hit the couple like a ton of bricks.
“How Will We Do This?”
The couple had their immediate concerns: How will we afford to care for that many children? How will we be able to afford to do anything? They were scared and distressed about what they would soon have to be dealing with. They were getting far more than they had bargained for.
That first year was extra difficult, even after the children were born. Jon lost his job, and they had gone from a financially stable couple who had recently bought their Pennsylvania home to share with two, maybe three children, to a family with no income and eight children. Things were rough.
Starting Their Lives Together
Jon and Kate met on a company picnic back in 1997. Within two years, they were married and starting their life together. They joined in holy matrimony in June 1999, when she was 24 years old, and he was 22. They were a young couple when they started putting their family together.
The twins, Mady and Cara, were born on October 8th, 2000. Today, the girls are spritely young college students attending separate universities – New York University and Syracuse University. The girls were excited to have a baby brother or sister, but they really did not expect to get six of them!
The Gosselin’s Early Days
After the family welcomed their new six babies and a camera crew into their home, the world was able to see inside their chaotic household. They learned that the family depended on paper plates and paper towels, going through 1,200 paper plates every other month.
Viewers also learned about the constant cleaning necessary to make such a huge household run smoothly. Kate ran the dishwasher two to three times a day, had to prepare meals for ten people multiple times a day (plus clean up), and did anywhere from two to five loads of laundry in a single day.
So Many Specials
Their initial hour-long special for Discovery turned into a second hour-long special. Those two years of filming allowed the family to feel comfortable with cameras around, knowing that they would be fine if the cameras continued for just a bit more. This is where TLC entered the picture.
TLC approached the Gosselin family after their first two specials were deemed a success. They wanted to showcase the crazy lifestyle of such a huge family, and the family wanted people to capture the memories that they did not have enough free hands to capture on their own.
The Start of It
With the creation of the TLC show, the whole family was put on display. Following their Discovery specials in 2005 and 2006, their reality show Jon & Kate Plus 8 premiered. Initially, the first two seasons came out on Discovery Health before TLC took over and moved the show to their network.
If the family were having problems before they started sharing the screen, their problems would only get worse as the series progressed. Sure, we watched the family grow and watched some of the cutest moments from children you’d ever see. However, we also watched a marriage crumble on national television.
What Happened to Jon & Kate Plus 8?
The simple answer is that Jon & Kate Plus 8 ceased to exist under that title following the couple’s divorce a few seasons in. The show dropped the name Jon and continued to highlight Kate’s crazy household without him. Nonetheless, we aren’t quite there yet – we still have so much to talk about!
Jon & Kate Plus 8 lasted for a couple of seasons before the couple filed for divorce in 2009. You know that saying, “if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen”? Well, it seems that Jon and Kate couldn’t handle each other, so things got a little too heated… now, they’ve both left the kitchen!
Hawaii, Here We Come!
Though the world was watching their relationship crumble on television, they also watched the couple pack up their crew and fly across the world to the beautiful Hawaiian islands – all to renew their vows. The family gathered on the beautiful island of Maui to reaffirm their love for each other.
Even though the episode was about recommitting to each other and their family, they spent the following year getting ready for another huge step: They would soon be getting a divorce. Within a year of their vow renewal ceremony, the couple filed for divorce and thus marked the beginning of the end of their show.
In an interview with Meredith Vieira, Kate Gosselin shared the intimate details of what was happening to the family and more details on her separation. “You know, I go back very often to our vow renewal in Hawaii. I think very often of it, and at that moment, I meant those vows,” she said.
“And there was no option for us other than to be together. And so much has changed.” On the June 22nd, 2009 episode, the couple announced that they were separating after ten years of marriage. It is widely believed that the couple met their demise when they signed an agreement to appear on the show.
So much of the content we watched on Jon & Kate Plus 8 revolved around the couple and their fights over how to raise their eight kids. Naturally, different people have different styles of parenting the same children. However, this couple had a unique twist – they had cameras following their marital problems.
It only took a couple of years for their entire marriage to blow up as a result of camera crews getting into the deep details of their lives. The couple had a spotlight on them, and they knew that their marital problems would only be amplified if they continued in the public eye.
Jon Stepped Out
No shock here to learn that the Gosselin family nanny came forward and alleged that she and Jon had an affair throughout her time working for the family. This was not the only allegation against Jon, at least at the time. There were other allegations that did not make him look good.
In 2009, Us Weekly let the world know that Jon was allegedly having an affair with a third-grade teacher in his area named Deanna Hummel. People in her life spoke out against the affair, questioning if she was doing herself any favors by getting involved with Jon.
Details of the Affair
Deanna Hummel’s brother Jason spoke to Us Weekly about his thoughts on his sister’s affair. “This isn’t healthy for her. But she is refusing to help herself, so here I am, trying to help her myself. I hope this clears the air,” he stated. Even if that wasn’t totally necessary, that sounds like a brother who cares!
Though Jon admitted to using “poor judgment” (um, DUH), he still denied the allegations. Hey man, if you didn’t do it, then what was there to use poor judgment on? Jon was not a fan of the attention that his martial missteps got him, and all there was left to do was own up to his mistake!
What Happened to Kate Plus 8?
With Jon and Kate legally separated and waiting for their divorce to be finalized, Kate continued the show – but dropped her ex-husband’s name. That did not work out well for the former couple, as Jon bit back at his ex-wife and dragged her as much as he was possibly able to.
The couple no longer appeared together on television, and the show was promptly renamed Kate Plus 8. Kate and her eight children remained in their home in Wernersville, Pennsylvania. The couple rotated in and out of the home until Jon was out for good.
Time for Divorce
When Kate filed for divorce in June 2009, less than a year after they renewed their vows, she made it clear that she wasn’t happy becoming a statistic. In a May 2009 episode of the family’s TLC series, Kate got candid and emotional – spitting some information that might be true – but might not be.
“Parents of multiples have triple the divorce rate,” Kate said emotionally on a May 2009 episode of their TLC series. “I was thinking we were going to beat that. I don’t know if I can say that anymore.” I’m not sure if that statistic is accurate, but either way, that’s a tough situation for them to be put in!
Changing the Show’s Name
What Jon Gosselin could not stand was seeing his name dropped from the show. Whether or not he admits to it, it clearly ignited a fire within him that he could not put out without feeling that he had been heard. While their divorce was being finalized, Jon spoke out on Larry King Live.
Jon claimed that he had an “epiphany” and used it as his reasoning to try and pull his children from the TLC show. He suddenly was not OK with having his children on national television every week – probably because he was not happy about the show becoming simply Kate Plus 8.
Jon was not having it – and neither was TLC. The network filed a breach of contract suit against him in October 2009. Jon thought that two could play that game, so he fought back by filing a countersuit against the company for abusing child labor laws in the state of Pennsylvania – or so he claimed.
Jon and the network managed to come to a settlement in February 2010, but this certainly would not be the end of Jon and Kate ringing the network for all it was worth. Part of TLC’s agreement was that both parents would refrain from talking smack about the other publicly – something that Jon and Kate both loved to do.
The Divorce Proceedings
After a long, public battle and divorce, the couple finally made it official. Their divorce was finalized in December 2009, and while they were granted shared physical custody of their eight children, Kate had full legal custody over their clan. Did she want to take down her ex-husband in the process?
Not only did Kate get full legal custody, but she also got their house. She planned to stay in their marital home, by herself, as a single mother of a small army. Kate must have celebrated having such a big bed all to herself, even if it was going to be alone for the first time in a decade.
Jon continued to slam Kate publicly whenever he could. Just months after their divorce was finalized, Jon felt it was necessary to file an emergency petition for primary custody of his children. Why on earth did he feel the need to be so dramatic so soon? The reason is absolute buffoonery…
Jon felt it was totally necessary for him to file a suit against his ex-wife for neglecting her children… because she appeared on Dancing with the Stars! If you watched her performances, that was embarrassing enough for her. Now you’re going to slap this extra suit on her? He referred to her as an “absentee mom” Ouch, Jon!
Moving On Romantically
When the couple initially split, Jon was reportedly linked to a long list of women. Some of those women include Kate Major, who went on to marry Michael Lohan, Lindsay Lohan’s father. Jon was simultaneously linked to Hailey Glassman, who was just a young 20-something at the time.
After his fling with Hailey Glassman fizzled out, Jon was seen cozying up to Morgan Christie, who was 25 years old at the time. They met snowboarding in Utah, and the two traveled together over the holidays. At the time, he kept that more on the down-low because he didn’t want to publicize it too much.
Kate Dated, Too!
Kate Gosselin managed to move on romantically as well, even if it wasn’t quite as quickly as Jon did. For a while, Kate was romantically linked to her bodyguard, Steve Neild. Did she really need a bodyguard, or did she just want to connect herself to someone strong who was hired to protect her?
After she cut romantic ties with her bodyguard, Kate was rumored to be dating millionaire Jeff Prescott. Prescott made his millions after founding Dreamstime, an online stock photo database with a ridiculous number of photos available for use. However, Kate claimed they never dated. He says differently…
Kate’s Ex-Boyfriend Didn’t Like Her Denial
Of course, everything ends up being a case of he said, she said when it comes to, well, anything. A report for Entertainment Tonight back in 2015 revealed that Kate and Jeff Prescott were, indeed, dating and that things were far from casual. Things were heading toward serious!
Prescott had a lot to say about her denial of their relationship’s existence. They were rumored to have talked about moving in together! “She can say she didn’t date me, but how do you qualify that if I was supposed to be on her show as her boyfriend?”
The Learning Channel
First of all, it’s news to me to hear that TLC has any educational value. I really only associate the network with cheesy reality shows, but the acronym previously stood for The Learning Channel. As an effort to rebrand their company, TLC embraced the “tender loving care” phrase and worked it into their tagline.
In Summer 2014, the network that housed Jon & Kate Plus 8 launched a multi-million-dollar campaign with a new tagline, “Everyone needs a little TLC.” They were absolutely right to change the branding to fit the lighthearted feel of the programming on this network!
TLC’s Diverse Programming
Every program on this network just screams reality television. Dr. Pimple Popper, Little People, Big World, Breaking Amish: The list goes on and on. TLC keeps pumping out ideas for new shows that are deemed “reality shows,” though it might not be a reality for anyone other than the people at the center of the show.
Jon & Kate Plus 8 was not the first of its kind on TLC, and it is certainly not the last, either. The Duggar family joined the ranks of crazy households on television in 2008, not long after the Gosselin family graced our televisions with their home antics. They were the center of another wild reality show – 19 Kids and Counting.
19 Kids and Counting
This show started as 17 Kids and Counting, but as the name goes to show, they kept counting. It changed to 18 before landing on 19 kids and counting. First of all, that is A LOT of childbirth. Second, it seems like TLC unquestionably loves to create shows that highlight hectic family dynamics.
19 Kids and Counting highlighted the trials, and tribulations of life in the Duggar household. Much like the Kardashians starting names with the letter K, the Duggars named all their children with J names. They are a devoutly Baptist family, which makes sense with all the procreation!
Even the Duggar Family Has Scandals
Sure, even the Duggar family would end up dealing with their fair share of heartache on national television. Michelle Duggar gave birth 17 times over a period of 21 and a half years, plus the next couple of children… no wonder why TLC wanted to capitalize on it!
The family was involved in their state legislature in Arkansas, and even though their scandals were not quite political, they were met with some of the typical scandals you would expect to see with politicians. Later on, one of their oldest sons was accused of molestation and assault on set.
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo
Another one of TLC’s “masterpiece” reality shows is Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. This show revolves around the family life of Alana Thompson, also known as Honey Boo Boo. She was a contestant in a child beauty pageant and caught the attention of producers who wanted to highlight her life beyond the stage.
TLC previously had a show, Toddlers & Tiaras, that was not received well. Like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, these shows received a ton of criticism not only over having toddlers flaunting their goods but also because of the costumes they wore. TLC was brought to court over the nature of these shows. They were bringing in court-appointed psychologists.
Kate Plus Date
In 2019, TLC premiered another spinoff for Kate Gosselin. Now that she was a single woman, she might want to have someone to help her keep her house in check with so many children running amuck. Her ex-husband managed to move on; why not let Kate do the same?
Kate wasn’t navigating the dating world alone. The show enlisted the help of matchmakers Rachel DeAlto and Adam LoDolce to help guide her in a world that was so different than her life of being a full-time mom. The show follows as Kate learns the ins and outs of dating while she is set up with ten eligible men.
Any Luck, Kate?
Kate Plus Date is centered around Kate’s attempt at finding love by getting set up with ten eligible men and engaging in a series of activities with them. Their dates would have two different activities – one that was fun and another that helped the two get to know each other on a deeper level.
It seems that Kate has not quite found “the next one” through the show. Here and there, she would give her stamp of approval to a man who appeared on the show, but no long-term successes seem apparent just yet. Don’t worry, Kate. Your time will come again someday… maybe!
Kate Went on Dancing With the Stars
I’ll save you the cringing that you will obviously do if you watch this performance. She came onto the show and danced the paso doble (or something similar to it) along to a live performance of a cover version of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi.” She sported a long red dress and long black gloves.
Her dance partner sported a vest that read “Press” on the back of the outfit. He pretended to be paparazzi, waiting for her, as she began her dance, double-fisting two tabloid magazines, with covers stating, “KATE STRIKES BACK!” That wasn’t the most cringey moment of her appearance on this show, though.
The Dancefloor Was No Place for Kate
While dancing the jive to a cover of Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing,” Kate hid what her audience already knew; her dance partner nearly quit on her before their performance because she was too difficult to work with. She didn’t want to cooperate and got tired while practicing – she complained a ton.
Perhaps I am too harsh of a critic, but I, for one, was not a fan of any of her performances. She and her partner, Tony Dovolani, who is a very skilled dancer himself, dragged their feet through their other performances like the Viennese Waltz. Maybe Kate should stop chasing fame and take a step back from reality performances that make her look terrible!
The Cringey TODAY Show Interview
Kate Gosselin and her older twins, Mady and Cara, went onto the TODAY show with their mother and completed the most uncomfortable interview ever. Kate brought her daughters on to the talk show to “set the record straight” about her daughter’s experiences with their family and on the show.
Though the interview was for the girls to speak out for themselves, Kate took over and spoke the entire time. She answered everything for them, rambled and rambled, and yelled at them on national television for being quiet. “This is the most tongue-tied I’ve ever seen them.” That wasn’t all…
“You’ve Said It All, Mom….”
In their TODAY show interview, Kate put her daughters in front of the world and then embarrassed them on national television. “Go ahead, tell them everything you said in the magazine.” When she tried to prompt her daughters to speak even more, they answered simply – “no, you’ve said it all….”
Savannah Guthrie tried engaging with the girls, who frequently went silent. They would open with, “um…” and just not continue. She told her daughter Mady to “use [your] words.” Her daughters remained silent and did not engage at all. It was one of the most uncomfortable moments on the TODAY show.
Things got turbulent when the couple fought publicly over custody of their daughter Hannah. While at an orthodontist appointment in August 2017, Jon and Kate got into a loud argument that ended with their daughter being taken away in an ambulance. Hannah wanted to move in with Jon, and Kate was not having it.
“The call came in at 1:10 this afternoon for a verbal domestic argument… over the custody of one of their 13-year-old daughters,” a spokesperson for the Wyomissing Police Department told Entertainment Tonight. “No one was arrested, and the daughter did go home with the father after she expressed that was her desire to do.” We’re glad that Hannah is now in a home where she feels comfortable!
In true Kate fashion, when one of her sextuplets was having some behavioral issues, she decided it was in her son’s best interest to check him into an institution for children with special needs – an in-patient program that he would be committed to for some months. As a result, Jon defended his son.
Jon filed for full custody of his son Collin, who openly talked about feeling abandoned and caged in this institution. Collin was traumatized and not interested in having any kind of relationship with his mother anymore. He was done with her the moment she checked him into a center.
Kate Didn’t Show Up
In December 2018, Us Weekly confirmed that Kate and her lawyer failed to show up for the custody hearing for her son, Collin. A source reported that she and her lawyer asked for the hearing to be postponed, but her request was denied. She failed to show up for a child that didn’t fit her “perfect” image.
Now, Collin is living his best life with his sister Hannah and his father. Collin no longer has a relationship with his biological mom, and on Mother’s Day 2020, he posted an Instagram tribute to his father’s girlfriend, Colleen Conrad. He wanted to thank her for everything that she had done for him when his own mom failed to show up for him.
Collin’s Tribute to Colleen
“Turns out today is Mother’s Day, today we pay love forward to our mothers, but I don’t think mother can describe all the things Colleen has done for me,” he wrote on Instagram. “Yes, a mother clothes her children and cooks for them, but it’s the best feeling when your mother or mother figure is one of your best friends and always has your back, the one who always shares that laugh of the humor only you guys get.”
Collin referred to Colleen as his “guiding light,” throwing shade on his biological mother. “Thank you doesn’t say enough, I love you so much, and you’ve done so much for me that claims you my strong, happy, loving, and awesome mother figure; you’re irreplaceable,” he wrote. “Thank you so much, Colleen. I love you so much!!!”