Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Jon, Kate, 8 plus me
I prepared last evening for a show that six weeks ago I didn’t know even existed on a network I never watch like it was the Super Bowl.
I cooked up a big meal. I prepared the snacks. I loaded the frig with beer.
It was time for The Learning Channel’s season premier of “Jon & Kate Plus 8!”
Reality shows register about a 15 percent approval rating from me. I love “Survivor,” tolerate “American Idol,” and won’t watch “Dancing With the Stars” the latest Trump nonsense, forlorn bachelor shows or any of the weepers about more sizable homes or less sizable homely contestants.
Most of it’s too low brow for even a guy like me, someone who, when it comes to TV viewing, has brows that rarely elevate above the belt.
But in the past six weeks “J.K.+8” is that rare show that can raise low brow fare to something that seems Shakespearean.
For me, it all started when I wandered through the living room and saw Valerie and our 8-year-old rapt before the big screen as a squad of runny-nosed toddlers demolished a department store while the parents tried in vain to rein in the squalling herd.
I didn’t care about that. I watch professional sports whenever I can’t make it to the ballgames, but I don’t need to import feckless parenting into my own living room. It’s on even when the power’s out.
What caught my eye was the cut away of the parents being interviewed about the chaos. The woman kept interviewing herself -- “Was it out of control? Yes. Did I feel Jon could have done more? Well, see for yourself . . .” -- and casting baleful glances at the husband.
The husband just stared off camera at some unseen producer. He looked like a prisoner who knew speaking up would lead to months of harsh treatment once the camera shut off. I felt an heroic impulse to round up my buddies from the bar and plan some kind of half-assed rescue mission to save an imperiled brother.
I was hooked. “That’s the most unhappy man on the face of the planet,” I said.
Val told me the show detailed the life of this eastern Pennsylvania couple that had twins and then apparently angered the fertility gods who bestowed upon them sextuplets five years ago.
Some would consider six on top of two a blessing, some a curse. But I know what someone in the Gosselin house -- and I think I know who -- considered it.
It was an opportunity. They conscripted their innocents into a promotional vehicle that would turn every aspect of their lives into reality TV.
I could tell from about 90 seconds of viewing that Jon absolutely hated what his life had become, and I don’t mean the parenting part. He hates that someone -- and I think I know who -- decided to embrace a perverted fame that eventually singes everything it touches.
Pointing a hi-def camera at anything distorts everything.
So I wasn’t surprised when I read a short note in the celebrity corner of the newspaper that said Jon was suspected of cheating with a some smalltown school teacher. That led to accusations that the prim and evangelizing Kate had been getting a little too close to a burly man described as a “bodyguard,” and that guy must take his job way too seriously.
Last night delivered all the bitter wreckage. The two barely spoke to one another throughout the entire riveting hour.
She said she’s always thinking of the kids, even when she’s away for weeks at a time promoting the new season, doing book signings and appearing on shows with guys like Larry King. She said she’s worked too hard to lose things like the free trips to Hawaii for flashy renewals of their wedding vows.
He said he enjoys being a Dad.
She said she doesn’t want to disappoint the multitude of fans who’ve come to consider her and her brood part of their own family.
He said he wishes he could make it all go away.
Both deny the allegations of infidelity. Both admit the future of the franchise is in jeopardy.
I’ve always said every bad marriage is a monster created by two Dr. Frankensteins. But I think the Gosselin marriage that is disintegrating before our eyes every Monday at 9 a.m. with encores throughout the week has just one person to blame.
And I think I know who.