Kate Gosselin gets the ax: When are 15 minutes too many?

TLC pulls the plug, but what does it mean for the kids?

"Kate Plus 8"

 "Kate Plus 8"

Credit: TLC

Did you know "Kate Plus 8" was still on the air? No? Well, apparently no one else was watching either, and TLC finally pulled the plug on the show after ratings dipped into the neighborhood of 1 million viewers per episode (to put it in perspective, during the Gosselin's messy break-up ratings hit the 10 million mark).

Gosselin, of course, has tried to put a happy face on her loss of income, tweeting, "We've had a great run!" and "We are looking forward with great anticipation to our bright future!" Everybody's happy, right? Well, maybe not the "plus 8." Gosselin also mentions "there were many tears at the breakfast table this morning." That's about all she has to say about the kids, by the way. The little crybabies were unhappy but she's SO excited to "challenge myself again w [sic] future endeavors!"

Hey, I don't begrudge Kate a living. After all, she does have eight tiny mouths to feed (and I'm guessing she also has to toss some cash at her lumpen ex-husband, too). But it's hard not to wonder what impact her six year run on TLC and in the pages of every other issue of Us Weekly and Life & Style (at least for a few years) will have on her kids. More than once, Gosselin has talked about how attached the children had become to the camera crew. That might be cute if you don't think about it too much. 

Sure, "Kate Plus 8" was never "Toddlers and Tiaras." The kids seemed happy enough. No one waxed their eyebrows, Kate wasn't a hoarder or a meth addict and hey, the kids got to go on some pretty great vacations during the show's run. Of the tiny tots on TV, they may need a little less therapy than most.

However, the kids do have some less-than-savory mementos from their day in the spotlight. For starters, there's the endless footage of their mom henpecking their dad, the two of them barreling headfirst toward divorce just one year after renewing their wedding vows (on TV, of course). Let's hope Kate hasn't created a scrapbook of all of her bikini shots in the tabloids (which usually ran alongside rumors that she was banging her bodyguard). There's also the simple fact that these kids are really the guinea pigs for how reality TV impacts the very young. I suspect most of us are waiting for a train wreck or eight (that's certainly a theme on Twitter).

How does living with a camera crew (who ultimately abandons you when the network pulls the plug) affect children too young to fully grasp what's happening? We just don't know, not yet. But we do know that child stars, who usually have a little more privacy than these kids, don't have the best track records as adults -- for every Jodie Foster there seems to be a crate of Leif Garretts clogging up rehabs across the country. One theme that seems to echo through so many interviews these child stars-turned-adult-wrecks has to do with how it feels for the white-hot spotlight to suddenly, inexplicably be turned off. Apparently, it doesn't feel so good, often leaving an aching void in its wake.

Yes, the Gosselin brood has had opportunities they never would have experienced otherwise - a trip to Alaska, rides in a NASCAR pace car -- but what happens when those opportunities dry up? And, though TLC promises that there will be more Gosselin family specials in the future, what happens when the kids hit an awkward stage? Kate Gosselin has, in some ways, been fiercely protective of her brood. But let's hope TLC doesn't suggest a break-out special for a handful of "cute" ones when Kate's only hope to pay the mortgage is to agree. 

I'm not sorry to see "Kate Plus 8" lumber into the sunset. These kids may miss the camera crew, they may miss the exciting TV-sponsored trips, but I'm fairly sure they need a break. It's a little disturbing when Jon Gosselin, the man who singlehandedly defined Ed Hardy as the brand of choice for douchebags, is the voice of reason.

"I hope they can have more private family moments," he told Radar Online."I hope that this will bring more privacy to my children and that they can get the proper attention they need for any personal issues they might have in the future." Here, here. 

Liane-bonin-starr-sm
Liane Bonin Starr is an author, screenwriter and former writer for EW.com. Her byline has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Variety and a lot of other places. Her last book was called "a scandalously catty, guilty pleasure" by Jane magazine. Expect the same from Starr Raving.
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