Jon & Kate Plus 8: All in the Family
Until you see the Gosselins enter a building single file -- the 5-year-old sextuplets first, followed by the 8-year-old twins, their sitter, Jon and Kate, a security guard, plus a pair of German shepherd puppies -- the chaos and charisma of this family is impossible to imagine. As Jon says, watching two of his little kids dash down one hallway and race up another, "I spend my whole life counting to eight."
For the past four seasons 2.6 million of us have been counting along with him each week. The Gosselins star in TLC's top-rated reality show, Jon & Kate Plus 8, airing and baring everything on the small screen, from Kate's tummy tuck to the couple's wedding-vow-renewal ceremony in Hawaii. What's the draw? "Our show is the realest reality show there is," says Kate, 34. "You get the good, the bad, and the ugly." Amen to that. Jon & Kate Plus 8 is such an unvarnished view of family life that it makes you laugh one minute and wince the next. You marvel at how adorable those eight kids are but shudder at the thought of putting your own rawest marriage and parenting moments on film.
In person the Gosselin children -- Alexis, Aaden, Collin, Hannah, Leah, Joel, Madelyn, and Cara -- are full of personality but well behaved, politely saying "please" and "thank you" and sitting in their seats to eat lunch even as they vie with one another for their parents' attention. All of them are eager to play with their new puppies, 8-week-olds named Nala, for the lioness in The Lion King, and Shooka, for one of the bodyguards the family hires whenever they're in Hawaii. "Shooka is just like all brothers," says Mady. Leah agrees. "He wants to wrestle all of the time."
Kate speeds around to get lunch organized. In person she's more petite and forthright than she appears on camera. "Pressure is my middle name," she says, taking a sip of Diet Coke while she orders her kids to "sit down," "stand up straight," "wash your hands," "stop tugging on me." Today she refuses to undo the belt on her dress because it might let her relax and eat more. As Jon, 32, says, "She does not look like a woman who's had eight kids."
And that's the point. A paragon of motherly self-control with a trim figure and sculpted blond hair, Kate also seems permanently exasperated with her sweet-natured husband -- a combination that earns her admiration and disdain in equal measure. She is a woman who speaks her mind plainly, whether interviewing babysitters or getting Jon to clean out the garage on Sunday when all he wants to do is inline-skate. The TV show offers an edited view of a family that's grown disproportionately large in a very short amount of time. After all, it was only 12 years ago that Jon caught Kate's eye as he strolled across a hotel lawn. She sprang into action, vowing to friends that "I'm not leaving here today until I meet him." Jon had a girlfriend at the time, Kate says, "but she was gone the next day." The Gosselins were married in a friend's garden, a wedding they paid for by working three jobs each. Until their honeymoon in Disney World, Kate had never been on an airplane.