Open Mic

Jon & Kate: Buckman's Take

Adam Buckman Posted June 23, 2009 at 10:20 AM

Tags: Jon & Kate Plus 8

I have warned many people over the years: If you see a group of reality-show producers approaching you, run away.

If they’re coming up your sidewalk preparing to ring your doorbell, draw the curtains, turn out the lights and remain perfectly still. If you’re lucky, they’ll have no alternative but to go away, leaving you and your life and your loved ones in peace.

Yes, I can imagine there are great temptations involved in considering whether to commit yourself to a reality TV show, such as Jon and Kate Gosselin did three years ago, in 2006 (their TLC series, “Jon & Kate Plus 8,” premiered a year later, in May 2007). They looked around at their brood of eight and concluded that, basically, doing this TV show is the only way they were ever going to be able to pay for all these kids to have a decent life.

Did the show ruin their marriage? It appears that the show is at least partly to blame, though sharp-eyed viewers have detected friction between these two from even the show’s earliest episodes.

But the show changed them. They moved on up to a bigger house, he pierced both of his ears, she developed a taste for expensive hair styling.

There’s a price for living your life so publicly. These Gosselins seem to have come out of the experience different than they were before, back when they were private citizens who nobody else knew or cared about. Jon said on Monday night’s show that he didn’t know who he was before and now he does. Well, whatever that means, he doesn’t think he’s compatible with Kate anymore and they’re done, a terrible thing to happen to eight small children.

TLC, of course, wound up with a gold mine. Suddenly, this little TV show was the talk of the tabloid press for two months and the couple in the eye of the storm was agreeing to announce their soap-operatic separation right there on their TV show. The people who run TLC are human, of course, so I doubt they’re privately rubbing their hands together with glee over the ruination of the Gosselin’s marriage. Still, TV people live and die by ratings, and there’s a part of every TV exec, even at TLC, that can’t help but be excited by the potential audience that even the tragedy of a real-life broken marriage can attract.

After all, that is the purpose of a TV show — to attract the most viewers it can for the sake of making money from sponsors.

I’ve been wondering also this week how these six teens on Bravo’s new reality series, “NYC Prep,” were persuaded to star in this show. I’ve been wondering whether they were each told how great they would come across on the show, that they would become celebrities in their schools and in their tony neighborhoods, that there is no downside whatsoever to appearing on a television show.

Well, in their case, there’s a big downside: They all come across as spoiled, vacuous idiots whose behavior is appalling. They’re not stars or celebrities; they’re freaks in a sideshow — which is exactly what the producers and Bravo want them to be. For these kids, the only thing that can come of this is extreme embarrassment. They should have said no.

Few participants in the nine-year history of reality television — all of it — have ever come across favorably. The thing that happens is this: Producers prey on the one weakness they can always count on, which is ignorance.

Most people are too clueless about the true nature of television to have the good sense to just say no when television comes a-calling

Want more Buckman? Check out his blog on all things television, TVHowl.