TLC’s Jon & Kate Plus 8 Ropes Record Ratings

If last night’s season premiere of Jon & Kate Plus 8 served as a field guide to human frailty, as the senior Gosselins separately acknowledged the allegations that have made tabloid fodder of them both, the special 73-minute episode also scared up record ratings for TLC.

According to Nielsen ratings data, the Jon & Kate opener drew 9.8 million viewers on Memorial Day, giving TLC its highest prime-time delivery in its 29-year history.

In the wake of accusations that Jon Gosselin had engaged in an affair with a young schoolteacher, the season five premiere also scared up unprecedented ratings among women 18-34 (2.6 million) and women 18-49 (4.3 million).

Once an amusing/exasperating look at passive-aggressive family dynamics––the slumped and mumbly Jon Gosselin was the poster boy for torpor, while wife Kate ardently played the pit-bull role––Jon & Kate Plus 8 has metastasized into a narrative that’s less to do with the overwhelming day-to-day realities of caring for eight children than it is a commentary on mass media. For better or for worse, the show is now about how the Gosselins have been changed by the show itself.

Even the format seems to have changed. In lieu of their customary joint interviews, Jon and Kate Gosselin shot solo segments. Sitting alone on the couple’s love seat, Jon complains disingenuously about not having “signed up for public scrutiny” when he agreed to do the series.

Spliced through Jon Gosselin’s denials that he’d been unfaithful were Kate Gosselin’s foreboding take on the last several months. “I have a lot of anger,” she said. “This is not where we were supposed to be. This is not what I envisioned for us. He’s made some very poor decisions and we all have to live with them.”

The “confessionals” were recorded just days prior to Monday’s airdate.

Season five of Jon & Kate resumes Sunday, June 1, in its regularly scheduled time slot (9 p.m.). The following week marks the series’ 100th episode.