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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 25, 2009

No happy ending this time around


By Lee Cataluna

You know Jon and Kate are a cultural phenomenon when two old dudes in line at the bank are talking about them.

"Oh, too bad yeah? Them two, divorce."

"Ay, yeah. And they get, what, eight kids?"

"Yeah. Eight. Poor ting da eight."

Now the debates rage over who was at fault Jon, Kate or the viewing audience of their television show. Perhaps it was the cable network, TLC, the "learning" channel, which used to be all about how-to home repairs and fashion tips for frumpy dressers.

It's been said that America loves to build celebrities up and then tear them down, but the sad story of the Gosselin family seems to prove the opposite. People started watching because of its innocence and wonder. The miracle of sextuplets being born healthy and growing into sturdy little toddlers was more than charming to watch, it was life-affirming. In a world of bad news and bankruptcies, the cute Gosselin kids became a refuge, a safe place to spend an hour once a week. It was proof that good things were possible.

Watching the parents cope with all those diapers, all those bottles, that incredible row of cribs gave folks a kind of vicarious pep-talk, a dose of "if they can do it with eight, I can handle my own little family" confidence. Even seeing Kate snap every once in a while was affirmation that nobody is perfect but that's OK.

But then it wasn't OK. And the show wasn't a sweet, gentle haven for weary viewers anymore.

It has been said that the fame, the money, the traveling and the big house messed up their heads.

Perhaps, but then you read a story like Andrew Gomes' piece on Sunday about a family of four living in a 362-square-foot apartment in Waipahu and you think, gee, eight kids in a million-dollar house with baby sitters and bodyguards and first-class plane tickets has to be easier than that.

But no one really knows a relationship from the outside, even if they've tuned in for every weekly episode.

When news of marital discord surfaced, ratings dipped. Monday's divorce announcement spiked viewership again, but the show is now abruptly on hiatus. Does anyone really want to watch them try to navigate through this difficult time? After all, this isn't how viewers thought the story would go. They thought it was a happy story, a story of love conquering all.