All too often in divorce cases, couples use their children as pawns to get back at one another.
Jon Gosselin has taken this shameless tactic one step further, in sleazy gambit fit for the slimy reality TV age: he’s using his own eight children to fight a cable network.
Gosselin, who seemingly spends more time stepping out than helping raise his prodigious brood, moved to stop TLC’s “Jon & Kate Plus 8” reality show, threatening legal action after he was booted from title billing this week. His first reaction to his role reduction was declaring he hoped to somehow repair his relationship with estranged wife Kate, though the sincerity of his intentions remains unclear.
TLC announced Thursday it was suspending filming of the kids, slamming Jon Gosselin for his “erratic behavior” along with his "repeated self destructive and unprofessional actions." But the network’s statement noted that he’s still under contract, suggesting that as far as TLC officials are concerned, we may not have seen the last of this televised circus.
The show started benignly enough five seasons ago with a winning lineup: many cute kids and understandably harried parents, who were likeable, even if Jon came off somewhat immature and Kate a tad bossy.
But the presence of the cameras changed the family dynamic, as it seemingly has in other so-called reality shows. Jon Gosselin’s apparent bid to use his kids as a negotiating chips comes just days after Los Angeles Lakers star Lamar Odom felt obliged to insist his wedding to Khloe Kardashian was legit – and not just fodder for “Keeping up With the Kardashians.” (The nuptials, nonetheless, will be the subject of an upcoming episode).
All the parties in the Gosselin case – Jon, Kate and TLC – need to ask themselves what’s best for the kids. Is the financial security offered by the show worth the media scrutiny?
While the children may be somewhat sheltered now in a Pennsylvania estate, the show and endless gossip items about their parents are a permanent, online chronicle of the destruction of a family. Growing up Gosselin isn’t going to be easy.
The folks at TLC, whether they like it or not, have been thrust into the role of a third parent. It’s up to network officials to act like responsible adults, call Jon Gosselin’s bluff and cancel this travesty – for the sake of the kids.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.