Sunday night saw the premiere of Jill and Jessa: Counting On, a three-part series meant to serve as the triumphant return of the Duggars to TLC. Following the revelation that eldest brother Josh Duggar molested several underage girls, some of whom were his sisters (and cheated on his wife, Anna), the network had canceled the family’s original show, 19 Kids and Counting. But if the first episode is any indication, this series will not do much either to redeem or entertain.
The hour began with a riveting segment about Derick Dillard’s mouth surgery, and then transitioned into the ostensible main topics of the show: Jill and Derick’s mission trip to “Central America” (why do they not say what country?) and Jessa’s unremarkable pregnancy. The episode consisted mostly of interviews with Jessa, Jill, their husbands, and other Duggars about “the last four months” (since the news about Josh came out) intercut with hefty B-roll of Jill and Derrick saying Spanish words like mantequilla and chiquito because, I don’t know if you remember, they are going to Central America on a mission. Jessa also did some pregnant-person things like thinking hot chocolate smells like a cow barn.
One attempt at humanizing the deeply boring husbands came in the form of a scene in which Derrick teaches Ben Seewald, Jessa’s husband, how to be a father.
“It’s really cool being a dad,” Derick says, “because it’s just like a regular person but in small form.”
One activity which the baby loves a lot, Derrick explains, is to be repeatedly thrown in the air.
“Not right after feeding,” Derrick says of the throwing game, “and not with a low ceiling... but it’s mutually-beneficial because then you get your workout in, and it’s good because you get good reps, because they’re not like 100 pounds yet.”
“I better try that,” Ben says, “I better practice.”
The interviews about Josh’s indiscretions, are few, far between, and superficial.
“Has the last few months, kind of, tempered the joy of being pregnant?” a producer asks Jessa while she curls her hair quietly, for ages.
“Of course not,” she says smiling, not looking at the camera. “Not much to say about that.”
“The last four months have been really difficult, I’d say, and just different,” says Jana much later in the episode. “Things thrown into our path and it’s just like, ‘Whoa, where did that come from, what’s that about,’ and just a lot of shocking, I think, news, and yeah. Just a lot of stuff to work through.”
“It’s probably been the hardest ever, that we ever had to go through, but we’re gettin’ through it,” Joy-Anna echoes.
In the last minute of the episode, Anna arrives to film her own interview. But we’ll have to wait a week to see it.
Watch a trailer below, whose editing significantly over-represents the drama contained within the show.
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Image via TLC.