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Bill Radke: Tonight, America will experience one of those creepy combinations only reality TV can give us: personal anguish and lucrative ratings. You’ve probably heard of the TLC show “Jon & Kate Plus 8.” It follows a Pennsylvania couple and their eight little children. Its season premiere last month set ratings records, thanks to tabloid drama surrounding the couple. But as Marketplace’s Jeremy Hobson reports, not all publicity is good publicity.
Jeremy Hobson: The tabloids have been focusing on infidelity by both John and Kate. The rumors now are that they’ll be announcing a divorce on the show tonight. TLC is even promoting it:
Jon and Kate Promo: Recently, we’ve made some life-changing decisions. Decisions that will affect every member of our family.
And decisions that have sent the show’s audience spiraling downward, from almost 10 million for the premier to just 3 million last week.
Robert Thompson is a professor of television and pop culture at Syracuse University. He says the problem was trying to turn a cute show into a trainwreck show.
Robert Thompson: And the trainwreck elements of the new John and Kate may not be enough to actually make it the hit it was when it was a not-trainwreck kind of show.
He says that’s because families who tuned in for cute are turned off by the drama, and the drama-seekers don’t want to watch a family show. Needless to say, Thompson says, it’s likely they’ll all be watching tonight.
In New York, I’m Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.
Radke: Also watching this show is the Pennsylvania Labor Department. It’s investigating whether the Jon and Kate production is complying with state child labor laws. TLC says it “fully complies” with state laws and regulations.
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