Don’t mess with reality TV and expect to emerge unscathed. Seriously. I don’t care if you think you can dance. Or sing. Or cook. Or renovate. Don’t assume you can dabble in fame and harness it for your own purposes. Because if you try? It might just turn around and bite you sharply in the arse.
In an instant you could end up on the cover of magazines and newspapers with your personal life dissected, your privacy shredded and paparazzi camped outside your house. You’ll be discussed at barbeques, in offices and endlessly, mercilessly on the Internet. The intense pressure may well cause your relationship to break down or your mind to crack up. Or both.
This doesn’t happen to everyone on reality TV but going in, you have no way of knowing if it will happen to you. It’s Faustian bargain meets Russian roulette. Susan Boyle can vouch for that. So can Jon and Kate Gosselin. Way before Octo-mum….
…..there were Jon and Kate. They had lots of babies too. First twins then sextuplets, all in three years, all via fertility treatment. When their sextuplets were born in 2004 the family elicited not a squeak of controversy or even notoriety apart from benign local media coverage in their home state of Pennsylvania.
Soon after, the Gosselins appeared in a special called ‘Surviving Sextuplets and Twins’ for US cable channel Discovery Health. They thought it would be a nice way to document their family. Like a home-movie but with better lighting. Perhaps they also hoped the exposure would shake down some opportunities. A bit of cash. Some free nappies. You can hardly begrudge them that.
Quickly, the network wanted more. A deal was done for a modest fly-on-the wall series and season one of Jon & Kate Plus 8 began in 2007 with eight episodes.
It was a harmless little show, one of several in the network’s ‘super sized family’ genre (their other notable genre was reality shows about ‘little people’). For a while I was glued. Pregnant at the time and wondering how I’d cope with another baby, I found it strangely soothing to watch people cope with dozens of them. When gastro ripped through Jon & Kate’s house and there were vomiting kiddies dotted on the floor for miles? That episode should have been called “Perspective”.
Evidently, others found it equally compelling because for season four, production had jumped to 40 episodes which is a massive amount of filming. Can you imagine how many times producers had to say, “Oh wait, we missed the bit where you fell off your tricycle. Can you just do that again, sweetie?”