From an idealogical perspective, reality TV and its frequently dicey ethics have undergone a public reckoning in recent years. Maybe it’s the clarity of hindsight, maybe it was lockdown forcing people indoors (and inward), but shows like America’s Next Top Model, The Bachelor, and 19 Kids and Counting have been widely reassessed in recent years on social media and elsewhere for the harm they’ve caused, practices they engaged in, and messages they sent. It probably comes as no surprise, then, that TLC’s Jon & Kate Plus 8, which ran from 2007 to 2017, has been added to the pile by one of its participants.
Collin Gosselin, one of the sextuplet children of the titular Jon and Kate Gosselin whose upbringing the show chronicled, said in a recent interview with Entertainment Tonight that he believed Jon & Kate Plus 8 played a role in his family’s undoing. Jon and Kate Gosselin famously announced their separation in 2009, and family relations soured from there. Various kids took sides, and the contentious separation played out in the media for years.
“I think the pressure of being in front of the whole world and every mistake you make is out there, I think that was a big influence of them not being together, and I definitely think they’d still be together,” he said.
In response to interviewer Kevin Frazier’s followup question, “So Jon and Kate Plus 8 basically ruined your family?” Collin said, “I think so. In my opinion.”
But even if hindsight is 20/20, it’s not a corrective lens for the future. In the same interview, Collin, who is now 18, said he’d still be open to doing more reality TV. “I think I’ve become somewhat of a natural at it, so I think it would be cool to do it now that I’ll probably remember the memories of it and I’ll see it a little differently too—versus not remembering it when I was younger,” he explained.
It’s so telling that someone who went through the experience of having his life displayed on television from the time he was a small child—who credits that experience with the dissolution of his family—says he would do a version of it all over again. This may go to show how strong the draw of fame and its facilitators are: At best, this is a narcotic optimism propelling one to believe this time will be different. At worst, it’s a refusal to learn the lessons life is teaching. After all, despite all the scrutiny, the reality TV machine chugs on. This reckoning is hardly a resolution.
Elsewhere in the interview, Collin discussed being institutionalized when he was 12 and spending his 13th and 14th birthdays at the Fairmont Behavioral Health Institute. (Us Weekly reported that his only diagnosis was ADHD.) His father eventually pulled him out of the facility after Collin wrote a pleading letter in crayon. Collin remains estranged from his mother and hasn’t seen any of his siblings other than Hannah, who also lives with Jon and spoke with ET about it earlier this year, in “five or six” years.
When Frazier asked if he has a girlfriend, Collin replied, “No, I don’t. Just rockin’ it out, ya know?”