Out-rating every network program on Monday, "Jon & Kate Plus Eight" on TLC caught the public's imagination due to tabloid tales of inferred infidelity by both Jon and Kate Gosselin. At the same
time, the mainstream press is pressing for answers on whether it is appropriate for the couple to be publicly brooding over their marriage instead of looking after their brood.
Compared with a conventional soap opera such as "Young and the Restless," TLC's young and restless couple is today's generation's soap opera. With the show's 9.8 million viewers, the traditional trade-off of low-cost but low-rated reality has now been upended, particularly with younger female viewers.
Unseemly as it may seem to many, the cultural and commercial combination of "Jon & Kate" may be a once-in-a-lifetime, lightning-in-a-bottle opportunity for TLC. And the very same disheartening, disturbing dynamic that has riveted millions may be the undoing of the show, if Jon and Kate split or the damage to the "Eight" children leads the parents or viewers -- or both -- to quit. But don't expect that to discourage other broadcast and cable networks from trying to replicate the formula by spawning similar series of their own.