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Posted at 10:43 AM ET, 05/28/2009

Scuttling Jon and Kate Gosselin's Mom and Pop Business

By Liz Kelly

The Gosselin clan in happier times. (TLC)

I am so sick of Kate and Jon Gosselin, the broody pair who preside over a household of tots on TLC's "Jon & Kate Plus Eight" and have now knocked bona fide celebs off of the tabloid covers with their latest shenanigans.

Love them or hate them, the truth is we are in the uncomfortable position of enabling the Gosselins to spin an overzealous fertility treatment into a lucrative mom and pop business.

The Gosselins are prime examples of self-made celebrities. People who -- like Paris Hilton or Tiffany "New York" Pollard -- become famous not for any particular talent, but for the ability to self-market. Which is why I'm feeling a bit manipulated by the revelations of infidelity that surfaced a couple of weeks back, just in time for Monday's season premiere of the show's fifth season.

What started as vague reports about beleaguered superdad Jon Gosselin stepping out with another woman has turned into a barrage of charges and counter-charges, opportunistic family members cashing in and heaps of free publicity for what was only another cable reality show just a year ago. This morning's latest: Kate's estranged brother shopping his inside intel to the highest bidder.

It's no secret that reality TV is anything but. Shows from "The Hills" to the proliferating "Real Housewives" (coming soon to D.C.) are carefully cast and tightly scripted to allow for the maximum drama. A public weaned on soap operas, sitcoms and hour-long dramas would hardly sit still for a stationary nanny-cam style show chronicling the mundane along with the sensational.

Mom Kate may as well have been created from thin air considering the metamorphosis she's undergone since the show's launch in 2007. From her signature 'do to a TLC-funded plastic surgery junket, she's gone from baby machine to money machine. In fact, she just announced the publication of her third book, "Love Is in the Mix: Making Meals into Memories," this fall.

The only thing real about Jon and Kate Gosselin is an inability to put their family first. Neither parent has a job outside of keeping the family business rolling. And word of a potential split is (it has to be said) more shrewd career move than traumatic family event that will affect not just Jon, Kate and millions of viewers -- but the eight children who facilitated their rise to cable fame.

Even as their marriage self destructs, word comes that TLC may keep the Gosselins around for a sixth divorce-chronicling season. And with 9.8 million viewers tuning in to the season premiere, who can blame TLC execs for keeping the Gosselins on the payroll?

From the E! article:

"The show's ratings have grown consistently, as there has been interest in these real-life issues of this real-life family," TLC said in a statement. "We will continue to air as the interest continues, and the family wants to do it."

There you have it. Trauma = ratings. We're being played in the biggest way. The only question is: Are we okay with that?

By Liz Kelly  | May 28, 2009; 10:43 AM ET
Categories:  Reality Check  
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Any parent who wants to put their kid on a reality show with them should automatically be considered to not be acting in the child's best interest. When the divorce comes, this fact can and should be held against them when determining custody. If both parents thought it was a good idea and other family members are peddling insider stories, they find some kind stranger to take the kids.

These kids don't need to grow up and see their parents' divorce played out on tv for everyone to see.

Posted by: epjd | May 28, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Hm, I don't think the marriage issues are fake. I really think this was an issue of Jon being overwhelmed by the ever present cameras and his overbearing wife. Since neither of them work outside the home, it most become suffocating always being with each other and all the kids. Don't the children go to school? I also feel for Kate (even with the helmet hair) because she is still a woman dealing with a cheating husband. But that frosty "I wish I knew" answer in response to the "what is happening with you guys" question revealed loads. She does seem to be an ice queen yet I don't want to slam her too much. I think she is just dealing the best way she can. Hopefully they'll pull the plug on the show and give their children a normal life. If not, we'll end up with 9 LiLos to follow in the next decade.

Posted by: lafilleverte | May 28, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Er, hit the wrong key. 8 LiLos in the next decade.

Posted by: lafilleverte | May 28, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I don't watch the show and still have no interest in it. The only time I've seen it is when I'm with my sis-in-law who has watched since the beginning. I live my own reality-drama and don't have time for someone else's. I prefer fiction or fantasy, and the alleged scripting and prompting hardly qualifies.

Posted by: hodie | May 28, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

I've got a win-win-win solution for TLC, the Gosslins and the fans.

Introduce Rabbi Schmuley Boteach (The "Shalom in the Home" Rabbi) into the mix. That way, you take the footage you've already shot, have him analyze it, and have Jon and Kate discuss it on the couch. Then, put the family through cute group exercises and give them Important Things to Think About. Sprinkle good natured Jewish humor throughout and you'd not only be saving a marriage, but you'd be making good television as well.

If that doesn't work, I'd send Jon to the Discovery Channel where he can work on a crab boat for four months out of the year.

Posted by: mdreader01 | May 28, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

I've never seen the show, and on principle click to a different channel whenever stories re it pop up on other programs (like my guilty pleasure, "Entertainment Tonight"). That said, I agree with ep that the children's emotional welfare is foremost, and ultimately blame resides with viewers (because the show would quickly disappear absent ratings), the network and the parents. At minimum, if the show has advertisers, could we boycott them till the show is dropped? Money seems to be all that these people understand.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | May 28, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse


I never watch the show, but based on what some friends say, having Kate be an Ice Road Trucker would be more appropriate.

The problem I have with shows like Jon & Kate + 8 is what it leads to:


Posted by: memphis1 | May 28, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

I think I summed up most of my feelings in my Tuesday morning rant.

Watched the show for the first time over the weekend during the marathon and I did watch the premiere. I still hate myself for it, much like Liz hates herself for liking GOOP.

The best way to describe how I feel: Trainwreck phenomenon. It's so gruesome and disgusting, but you just...can't...look...away.

Posted by: eet7e | May 28, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

We're a nation of people who love to gawk at a car wreck. The more twisted metal, the better.

It's all pretty sick, but it really moves into voyeurism of the worst kind when we want to watch a family go to pieces -- one episode at a time -- right in our living rooms.

Like sharks circling an injured, bleeding swimmer.

Posted by: kjohnson3 | May 28, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

I mock 'em, and I don't even get that cable channel they're on. I wouldn't recognize Jon or Kate if either of them bit me.

But I might chanmge the channmel.

Now *that* is ironic.

Posted by: byoolin1 | May 28, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

I have watched the show from the beginning and it's not manufactured. In fact they have talked about how shows are filmed. They are asked what they're doing - taking the children to the dentist; going to a park, etc - then certain shows are recorded.

Also, if people knew anything about the show they would know it began because they use to video a lot - themselves and the twins but when they had the sextuplets they were so busy they weren't able to video as much so when they were asked to do a show they said "okay because at least we'll be able to keep the tapes, but we never thought it would be a weekly show."

So many people are making negative comments but have never watched the show or only watched the season 5 show.

I don't think they do everything right but I do think they are good parent. No one complained about the children being taken advantage of before. The children are very well adjust. What has happened to them as a couple is not so unusual except everyone knows maybe he or she did or didn't cheat.

Posted by: rlj611 | May 28, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

"real-life issues of this real-life family"

That network hasn't begun to see "real-life issues". Suppose they'll foot the bill for 8 children/young adults/grown men and women in therapy for the rest of their lives.

Greed is not good. Greed is gut-wrenching. Chanmge (sic) the channel people.

Posted by: pras40 | May 28, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

I have watched the show from time to time because it sucks me in if I pass it while flipping the channels - and the first time I saw it a few years ago, I got sucked in for a full marathon.

That said, I stopped watching it last year. What started out as something to show people what it was like to have 8 kids by two sets of multiples somehow changed. In some show, they talk about why they did the show and said they knew that people were curious and this was a way of showing people what their life was like. Fair enough. But suddenly, there was product placement, the $1.3 million house (!) in the middle of nowhere in PA, and the ridiculous trips that a real family of 10 could never afford and the fact that the parents were never actually home.

The real kicker for me was watching the Today show on Tuesday. The woman from People who interviewed Kate TWICE said that Kate sees this reality show as her job and the only way she can suppport her family. Really? The random psychologist was totally appalled - her comment was priceless - contract or no contract with TLC, you stop doing the show and do what's right for you and your family privately. I guess I am just surprised that this doesn't seem to have occurred to them. Just becuase you feed your kids organic food doesn't mean that you are a good parent.

And I agree with ep - the kids don't need to have their parents divorced videotaped for them and the world to see. My parents divorced 20 years ago - and I keep all those memories locked nicely away and only my family really has them - not the entire country.

Okay, rant over. I am embarrassed that I cannot turn away from this story since I normally have better self-control!

Posted by: suzannepdc | May 28, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

"I am so sick of Kate and Jon Gosselin "

Stop writing about them. You are part of the problem. Media 101.

What are the average IQ levels of the loyal viewers of this show? As the economy tanks further and further, the TV will programs will get dumber and dumber.
Media 101.

Posted by: jezebel3 | May 28, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

J+K jumped the shark at Jon's hairplugs and Kate's tummy tuck. Really, if the show was as rlj611 describes it--a chronicling of their kids' lives--there was no need to show the parents transforming themselves.

The 'tuplets are now five. It's done. They got them through the toughest and most interesting time, from a viewer's perspective. I'm moving on.

Besides, that little couple in the new TLC show looks awfully cute. And who knows, maybe "Cake Boss" has mob ties. One can always hope.

Posted by: mdreader01 | May 28, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I've never been able to stomach the show because every time I turn it on someone is screeching at someone else, either Kate is screeching at Jon or the kids or the kids are screeching for whatever reason.

I don't have children & just the few bits I've seen of this show & all the other "gigantic family" shows on the air between TLC & Discovery are great birth control.

We've just moved the freak show from the tents at the circus & carnival to TV & the comforts of our own home.

Both TLC & Discovery (& others too I'm sure) are providing it for us now, from Tree Man, the multiple multiples, Little People & Giant People, tattooed/pierced people, women with giant tumors, kids & adults with all sorts of what most would consider deformities (accidentally or from birth defects & otherwise) from mermaid syndrome on up, women with fetus in fetu, it's all there on our TVs now.

No need to spend your hard earned cash & take a drive to the Dime Museum or the sideshow at the carnival.

Jon & Kate are just another freak show on my TV, like Tiffany "New York" or Paris & her gaggle of celebutard friends.

Posted by: wadejg | May 28, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

I agree with ep that the children's emotional welfare is foremost, and ultimately blame resides with viewers (because the show would quickly disappear absent ratings), the network and the parents. At minimum, if the show has advertisers, could we boycott them till the show is dropped? Money seems to be all that these people understand.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | May 28, 2009 11:30 AM
For the past two years, TLC has not only run J+K, they've featured a heartwarming show called, "Toddlers and Tiaras."

And that's when they're not running Discovery Health reject shows like, "I Gave Birth to a Two-Headed Baby."

Posted by: mdreader01 | May 28, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

I don't have children & just the few bits I've seen of this show & all the other "gigantic family" shows on the air between TLC & Discovery are great birth control.

Posted by: wadejg | May 28, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Tee hee. Birth Control - A screeching kid wearing a loaded diaper.

Posted by: jezebel3 | May 28, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

To answer your question, Liz: No, we are not okay with that. I have never watched a reality show simply because these train wrecks make me sick, and I watch TV or movies for "escapism".

I think the two key words are "overzealous fertility treatment" and "enabling". I would like to see a stop to both. May the Gosselins and Octomom/CCV go back to obscurity and loaded diapers. Stat.

Posted by: Californian11 | May 28, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

mdreader, Do you see "Toddlers and Tiaras" as promoting little-kid beauty pageants, or as a cautionary tale?

Nice irony, byoolin and methinks.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | May 28, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Since I'm basically allergic to small children, I've never watched the show, but I do have a question: is the money the family makes subject to the rules of the Coogan Act? Eight of the 10 "stars" are minor children, after all - are they getting paid for this? Or, because this is "real," is the family exempt from the financial trust rules?

Posted by: northgs | May 28, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

If I had to live with Kate I would plug my ears and not my scalp.

I also wonder about the legality of this show. Are parents allowed to put their children on TV like this? I thought there were laws protecting kids.

Posted by: supersonic1 | May 28, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

northgs, the Coogan Act is a California state law. The show is filmed and the Gosselins live in Pennsylvania, so it doesn't apply. But in California, yes, the Coogan Act's limitations apply to reality shows as well as scripted shows.

Posted by: Wikijen | May 28, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Nosy, I've never watched it. I hate pageants in general and kid pageants even more. I'll watch a good dog show from time to time, however.

While I hope and pray that it comes off as a cautionary tale for others, I wouldn't be surprised if some moms considered it a "how-to" show.

Posted by: mdreader01 | May 28, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Wikijen, I don't think they can get around it just by filming elsewhere. Otherwise, tv shows would just film outside of CA and steal the child actors' money.

Oh and just for the record, I am against ANY reality show that uses young children, not just the current one under discussion.

Posted by: epjd | May 28, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I expect that the longer the current drama goes on, the tide of public opinion will turn and when it does, TLC will get some backlash. Then they will drop the Gosselins like a hot potato. And there will be the family with not a clue as to what just happened.

Posted by: JLRGG | May 28, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand how any parent can justify turning their children into virtual zoo exhibits. These children are living out their formative years with a camera crew in their faces 24/7 and with producers telling them to do stuff over again for "re-shooting". They probably manipulate the kids into fighting with each other for heightened ratings. How is that going to affect their psychological and social development? The sad thing is, these jerks justify it by saying "We're providing for our childrens' futures". They may be able to have material things and get college paid for, but does the end really justify the means? The Gosselins are loving every bit of media coverage they are getting but it's coming at a high price and their children are the ones who have the most to lose.

I usually take these reality shows with a grain of salt, but this one REALLY gets under my skin because of how blatantly phony and exploitative it is....more so than the average reality show. I don't take pleasure in watching two adults farm their children out for fame and fortune. It's sad.

Posted by: linz2 | May 28, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Drama sells! I wouldn't be surprised if all of the current drama is exaggerated. Those people in the TV business are no dummies and Jon and Kate have 8 kids to put through college.

Posted by: jpad1 | May 28, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

I agree with suzannepdc...
I watched a few episodes here and sucked into a few marathons. It seems somewhere along the way the show became less about the kids and more about some "comp" trip, buying a house, hair plugs, bleaching teeth, etc.
Now that the kids are older even their antics aren't as cute... take about a decade hiatus and give me the obligatory high school special.

Posted by: farfalle2 | May 28, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

"Child labor laws vary depending on the state and regardless of where your child is working, the laws of your home state apply and these laws are in place to protect the child and the child’s parent. If you’re from California and are working on set in Montana, Californian laws will apply." - CA appears to have the most stringent laws.

As I commented the other day - These parents need to stop taping and take care of this business in private. So, no I am not OK with it.

Posted by: Vienna8425 | May 28, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: loveforall1 | May 28, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

oops, sorry I have an overzealous cat.

But wanted to say the hair plugs joke made me snort coffee.

Posted by: loveforall1 | May 28, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Its been interesting to watch as they moved from a cape cod to a colonial, then from the colonial to the mini-mansion. When I first saw the show I wondered how they could put all 8 kids through college especially with 6 at one time! Tummy tuck, free trips, special seating at events. How bad can it be?

Posted by: bevjims1 | May 28, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

The media attention has to be overwhelming. Despite the "exclusive" cover stories, etc., I do not buy fully the "they brought it on themselves argument." No one could possibly anticipate such intense scrutiny, despite our armchair psychoanalysis that they should've known better. (Who has time to research the Dionne Quintuplets when you're changing six diapers every half-hour?)

We cannot forget the fact that raising that many young kids has to be beyond difficult. Those early days must've been pure SURVIVAL -- so many diapers and needs and wants. I'd go insane. But give these parents some credit -- the kids are clothed and fed and living their lives, no small feat with so many under one roof. Even with the added perks, parenting sextuplets is a massive job.

That said, there's a danger to believing your own hype and that you're somehow better than other people. Graciousness somehow eluded Mrs. Gosselin, as this "open letter" says so well:

After a while, it's hard to give Kate the benefit of the doubt. I think she started out wanting to do well for her family, which the money from a TV show provides. Poor Jon never had a chance because Kate doesn't seem one for two-way dialogue.

Hank Streuver's article is interesting, and I have to admit I loved, "It's like a holiday update letter that never ends, in which the Gosselins are mainly seen consuming resources." But anyone who refers to these kids as a "litter" should be ashamed of themselves. Sure, call Kate a "clown car," if you will; she's an adult. But (as we've discussed here before re: Suri Cruise), leave the kids themselves out of it.

I feel bad for Jon and Kate (to a degree), and I feel bad for the kids (a lot). I remember Kate once saying that the kids are just used to TV cameras and cameramen because to them "they've always been there."

How will they adjust when their own "Truman Show" ceases to be? Who will help carry the other four kids from the distant parking lot to the hotel room when Jon's and Kate's arms are full with the first four? What happens when the cameramen leave, the free clothes stop coming and the endorsements end? What then?

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | May 28, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

epjd, putting aside the ethical questions at issue here, I don't think there's any way you can force the application of a California state law to actions that take place in another state. It's been a while since I took civ pro, but I'm pretty sure the minimum contacts standard would require greater contacts than just a tv show being aired in a state in order to confer jurisdiction. Besides, the Coogan Act doesn't have anything to do with the shows or movies themselves, but with what's done with the money a child actor earns. The requirements are there to protect children from their parents and guardians, not from the entertainment industry itself.

Child labor laws are an entirely different matter, and are state-specific, so there's no way that, say, California's VERY strict labor laws would apply to actions in Pennsylvania. New York's laws are pretty strict, too, but the rest of the states are a kind of hodge podge.

Posted by: Wikijen | May 28, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

One more piece of evidence that real life is just an extension of The Simpsons...Jon and Kate are nothing more than the episode where Apu and his wife had 6 kids and ended up having them preform as a circus act in exchange for money.

Posted by: welangIII | May 28, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Child labor laws are an entirely different matter, and are state-specific, so there's no way that, say, California's VERY strict labor laws would apply to actions in Pennsylvania. New York's laws are pretty strict, too, but the rest of the states are a kind of hodge podge.

Posted by: Wikijen | May 28, 2009 3:09 PM

But no state allows toddlers to work, so either there's a specific law covering performance - and Pennsylvania's law would have to be lax - or they're in violation of the state labor laws. Any entertainment or labor lawyers out there care to chime in futher?

I would still dearly love to know where the money is going on this one...

Posted by: northgs | May 28, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

The minimum contacts is not the airing of the show but the location of the studio. If the studio that backs the production of the show is CA based, they are subject to CA law.

Someone in the chat (was it you?) mentioned Kid Nation and the filming in New Mexico to avoid child labor laws. The Federal Department of Labor got involved. So, if you have a cross-jurisdiction issue, you have to deal with Federal Child Labor law which is really strict.

But, this is about the Coogan Act, protecting the little angels' income. There would have to be an equivalent in other states of kids on broadway would be getting ripped right and left. I am quite sure there is a federal law (don't have time to look it up) dealing with protecting of children's income. Ohterwise, as I said, film production and others would just go to states where there were no requirements, pay the kids there and the poor things would be broke at 18.

Posted by: epjd | May 28, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

"The only question is: Are we okay with that?"
Many of the comments here suggest people refuse to believe they're being played - so apparently the answer is 'yes'

Still I think mdreader is onto something... though the show merger is a little off. Let's just give directorial power to Ashton Kutcher and see what he does to them...

Posted by: quintiliusvarus | May 28, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Liz - great article and I loved the "bonefide" celebrity portion....I would not know these morons if they bit me of the a--but I have heard from respected colleagues that she is the most wretched/hated woman in America and he is in search of his testicles in her god awful hair and the poor kids have more problems than years of therapy will ever resolve however I do know there is a simple solution that will send these morons packing and back under their rocks STOP WATCHING TLC, BOYCOTT TLC and poof - these fools are history REMOVE TLC FROM YOUR CABLE LINEUP - DONE AND DONE TO DUMB AND DUMBER

Posted by: godblessourtroops | May 28, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

It's good to know that the only marriages and families that experience problems are the ones that are shown on reality TV.

Give me a break. Fifty percent of marriages end in divorce and I would venture that fifty percent of the marriages that survive hit a rough patch where one of the parties considers divorce, but they find they're way through it. The only difference here is that everyone else gets to be self-righteous about it.

There's nothing wrong with the 2 people making as much money as they can, while they can given the financial burdens they have to bear with their large brood. And we all live one life - do you really want to think that you spent your children's tender years in an office behind a desk instead of being with them if you had the choice.

If every person who claims that they are tired of the Gosselins would give me a nickel, I could retire today. People like the author are making the Gosselins wealthy and I hope they take full advantage of it.

Posted by: loved1 | May 28, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

love you Liz, but must agree with the posters who say you must stop talking about these folks, so they'll go away. :)

Posted by: Sam888 | May 28, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Liz, I have to add my two cents regarding lumping the Gosselins together with "famous for nothing" folks like Paris Hilton. TLC and Discovery Health made many shows documenting the lives of families with multiples(I should know, I watched 'em all) -- Jon and Kate rose above all the others because they "gave good interview." Contrast that with the other moms and dads who were either really boring or horribly sleep deprived. Being able to smile and string a couple of sentences together may not be a mega-talent, but it passes for one on cable TV.

And spot on, Liz, the Gosselins *have* eclipsed the "real celebrities" out there. I had to chuckle when I saw Kate Gosselin's giant photo on the cover of People, with poor tabloid has-been Brad Pitt knocked over to the side. Don't worry Brad, you're only a couple kids behind Jon and Kate.

Posted by: jb1151 | May 28, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't be too hard on Jon and Kate for being "self-made celebrities." 99% of Hollywood celebrities (and DC politicians, for that matter) are "people who become famous not for any particular talent, but for the ability to self-market."

Posted by: obamamama31 | May 28, 2009 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Those two deserve each other.

Posted by: Marimom | May 28, 2009 8:32 PM | Report abuse

i'm proud to say i've never watched this show nor will i ever watch it. ever. and yet, through constant yammering in print and on television, i know who these people are. time for a brainectomy, please.

Posted by: frieda406 | May 29, 2009 1:27 AM | Report abuse

As much as its killing us, my friends & I have made a pact to stop watching. The show was cute when it first started - altho Kate's behavior towards others has always left a bit to be desired. The way she spoke to Jon was always cringe-worthy.And let's not forget the time she screeched at poor Aunt Jody -- who was babysitting for FREE once a week -- for giving the kids each a piece of gum?! Of course Aunt Jody was another casualty when Kate balked at TLC offering to pay her for her appearances!

Slowly, the presence of any friends in the show dropped away replaced by the free tummy tucks, trips to Disney (see Kate's meltdown when the kids were eating ice cream at their own private audience w/Cinderella?), free ski trips, free toys etc. Her attitude that she is somehow owed all this b/c of her family has become too evident.

This is a couple that had lighting installed in their house to make it easier for the camera crews! I understand that 8 kids is a lot -- but they made the decision to use fertility treatment. Maybe there should be some type of mandatory counseling before people proceed with these treatments?

It certainly seems like it's time to put the show to rest for the sake of the family. Kate is an RN - I'm sure she can find work that wouldn't be so disruptive to the family - from all accounts she is on the road literally all week every week.

Anyway, for the sake of all involved just give it up!!

Posted by: jerseygirl5 | May 29, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

The minimum contacts is not the airing of the show but the location of the studio. If the studio that backs the production of the show is CA based, they are subject to CA law.

I missed the chat yesterday and only saw when I read the transcript that some of this was addressed. epjd, I'm not aware of any federal law dealing with protecting child actors' income, but I'd be really interested to see it if it exists. The Fair Labor Standards Act covers child employment and sets 14 as the minimum age, but child actors and performers are specifically exempted from it. The issue is almost entirely state-law driven. As I said yesterday, California's requirements are really strict and New York's are fairly strict, because those two states are where most productions/shows have taken place up to now. That's why Kid Nation could go to New Mexico and get away with waaaaaay more than they could elsewhere. I'd imagine as it comes up more, more legislatures will begin addressing the issue.

Of course, this all presumes that the Gosselins' kids would be considered actors or performers, and I don't know that's the case. Does anyone know whether courts have addressed "reality" tv versus scripted tv for purposes of considering participants actors? Based on the messy union issues and decisions that have come up, I'm guessing they are not considered actors. My semi-educated guess is that if it isn't technically a scripted show, the kids aren't performers and so don't have to get paid. All proceeds for the show would then go to the parents, meaning the Coogan Act or anything related to it doesn't apply, no matter what state you're in.

Posted by: Wikijen | May 29, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Wikijen - I'd bet there is nothing protecting reality TV kids. Although with Jon and Kate now being investigated maybe some protections will start emerging.

Posted by: Vienna8425 | May 29, 2009 6:14 PM | Report abuse

I don't know if a court has addressed the issue of whether or not children would be considered actors in reality shows, but the California Department of Labor has. A Minor Consideration has reprinted their letter here:

The production company that films the show is non-union, so the Gosselins are not required to be members of the SAG or AFTRA (the two principal actor's unions). Without being privy to the family's contracts, I would be very surprised to learn that the children were each contracted separately to film the show; my guess is that the family is paid as a unit. As has been correctly observed, the Coogan Law does not apply in Pennsylvania, so the distribution and use of the money earned by the Gosselin family would be entirely under the parent's discretion.

Posted by: catjnel | June 3, 2009 7:12 AM | Report abuse

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