Jon & Kate Plus 8 premieres its fifth season tonight (TLC, 9 p.m.) after the kind of tabloid-publicity onslaught that has made even my non-TV-geek, non-tabloid-reading friends ask me who these people are and why they should care. (In case you missed it somehow, cheating insinuations have been circling both sides of the couple, though each one has denied his or her respective accusations.) Translation: Ratings for the quiet little TLC hit could go way up. It’s Memorial Day, there’s a marathon of reruns leading up to the premiere that could tripwire a bunch of unsuspecting folks into watching, and plenty of viewers will flock just to see what the fuss is about. (Whether they’ll admit it tomorrow is another story.) But I also have to agree that the clips TLC has released to promote the new season do look a little…uncomfortable. The funny thing about gossip coverage and reality TV is the way they seem to survive by eating each other until there’s nothing left: The press feeds the show, and the people selling their personal lives on TV fuel the gossip because their “real lives” are just continuations of their televised lives’ story lines. Then, suddenly, the gossip either hits saturation point and makes us sick of these “characters” and ready for new fodder (The Hills) or the real stuff gets a little too real for our viewing pleasure — and the latter is happening here. It feels to me like watching the tail end of Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica: It just makes me sad. What used to be a fun romp (which included, ha ha ha, wacky personality differences and the funny little irritations of married life) now feels fraught with real tension. Add in the fact that Jon and Kate have these eight adorable children, and that makes it even worse.
But maybe I’m reading too much into things. What do you think, PopWatchers? Has the Jon and Kate publicity piqued your interest in the new season? Or just freed up your Memorial Day evening for TV-free barbecuing?