Jon & Kate Plus 8 Plunges into Low Ratings, Melancholia and Mid-Life Crisis
Three episodes deep into post-separation Jon & Kate Plus 8, it's clear that the TLC headliner is sinking fast. The Gosselin children still preen for the camera and embark on comped adventures ("Who wants a Kids Crooked House™ playhouse?"), but domestic troubles and media warfare have transformed Jon and Kate into an unrecognizable pair and made their children into pity-objects. Even with TLC's careful accommodation of the family's new schedule (Kate and kids go on vacation while Jon renovates the kitchen at home), each episode's sadness skyrockets while ratings plummet.
After a month-long break and a flurry of tabloid coverage, Jon and Kate Plus 8 returned three weeks ago with less than half of the 9.8 million viewers that tuned in for the season premiere, a drop that could be attributed to people not wanting to hear eight adorable kids complain about "missing Daddy." TLC tries to overshadow these moments with upbeat sequences of the pack burning s'mores or enjoying a good old-fashioned snake museum, but it is impossible to forget that this heart-wrenching period of domestic upheaval will forever be captured on a a multi-disc DVD set.
As the network pieces together footage of the junior Gosselins at at their happy-go-luckiest, the changes in the senior Gosselins are more difficult to ignore. Kate, a formerly obsessive planner and serial delegator ("Build that tent, Jon. Now move the tent across the yard. Jon, that's not where I told you to put the tent.") is left without anyone other than a team of P.A.'s to push around. Each episode highlights Kate's newfound melancholy, as she repeatedly laments that the separation "is not ideal" and she has "lost the ability to plan for the future." Once spunky and energetically derisive, Kate now fills air time defeatedly struggling to build a fire, assembling the tents that once tormented Jon (the irony!), and learning about single parenthood.
Having legally extricated himself from Kate's clutches, Jon is downright chipper. In last night's episode, Jon pleasantly watched over the kitchen renovation, frequently remarking on how smooth the process was going without Kate. He later surprised the twins with his freshly re-pierced ears, bejeweled t-shirt and new 'tude: "I'm 32 years old. I've always liked motorcycles and cars and fast things...this is who I am and this is who I'm going to be."
While TLC shamelessly capitalizes on Jon and Kate's hilariously contrasting experiences adjusting to life post-separation, maybe it's time for the Gosselin children score a court-ordered guardian and burn through some of their hard-earned cash on a camera-free Caribbean island. Kate could document her time away from the children in Kate Gosselin Living Single: Weekends Only while Jon sows more oats in I Swear It's Not a Midlife Crisis.