babies TV

Big Brood Spawns Big Ratings

Jon and Kate Gosselin with their eight children in a scene from the family’s reality series on TLC. The show, the highest rated on the network, is in its fourth season.

Published: February 12, 2009

LONG before Nadya Suleman and her octuplets, the supersized family was a staple of scripted television. From “The Brady Bunch” to “7th Heaven,” large clans have given screenwriters a head start at creating the sense of family that successful series evoke.

Now that formula is a big hit on reality television. “Jon & Kate Plus 8,” in its fourth season, is the highest-rated show on TLC. Its Jan. 26 episode drew 1.6 million women between the ages of 18 and 49, a group advertisers particularly covet. That handily beat the season premiere of the TNT series “The Closer” starring Kyra Sedgwick, which drew 1.2 million from the same demographic.

Why are viewers so fascinated by a housewife mopping her kitchen floor and doling out organic lollipops? Isn’t television supposed to be about escaping mundane lives, not reliving them vicariously?

Jon and Kate Gosselin, who live in southeastern Pennsylvania, have 7-year-old twin girls, Mady and Cara, and 3-year-old sextuplets — the surprising outcome of their second visit to a fertility clinic for, as they say in the show’s intro, “just one more.” Instead of one, the Gosselins got Hannah, Leah, Alexis, Aaden, Collin and Joel. The six babies have turned into six healthy toddlers, and now their problems seem no more serious than the average family’s: a messy house, too little time and too little sleep…