By Ken Tucker
Updated March 24, 2009 at 03:57 PM EDT
Jon and Kate plus 8: Laura Pedrick;Table for 12: Zave Smith

The fourth-season finale of Jon & Kate Plus 8 was promoted as though there would be husband-and-wife fireworks (“It’s all been building to this!”) but, really, all that consisted of were a few moments of Jon saying, “I can’t just be Jon [in public] — I have to be ‘Jon and Kate Plus 8.'” And while Kate said he was “struggling” with this identity crisis, Jon Gosselin, to his credit, seemed a tad embarrassed to even be admitting on camera that “we don’t have privacy at all… it’s tough.” He’s smart enough to know that that’s the sort of sound-bite that can bite back: It doesn’t do for a family-man to whine as though he’s Spencer Pratt dodging the paparazzi. I’d cut the guy some slack, for sure. If there’s one thing Jon rarely is, it’s a complainer. “We’re ready for season five, we think,” said Kate more cheerfully. Jon remained deadpan. But then, Jon’s always deadpan.

For regular viewers, the choicest tidbit occurred in the new episode that aired before the season finale, during which Kate said that the family has a new “helper” since they moved to their bigger house, and that “we will keep her identity a secret for privacy reasons.” That’s understandable, I guess, but may prove awkward next season — how, other than through deft editing, are you going to prevent the four-turning-five year-olds from referring on-camera to their “helper”? (And she’s not a nanny, Kate insisted.) Given the fact that Gosselin family and friends have all but disappeared as the series has proceeded, and given rise to lots of internet chatter and rumor about the reasons why, this morsel of news was intriguing. More to come next season, I’m sure.

Meanwhile, we have Table for 12, TLC’s new contribution to the kid explosion, about a New Jersey police officer, his wife, two sets of twins and sextuplets. The two back-to-back premiere episodes made a strategic mistake, I think, by focussing on activities (Mom’s birthday party and a trip to a restaurant) rather than introducing us to the family’s ordinary-day routines. What made Jon & Kate so fascinating in its first season was simply the stuff of organization — the how-they-feed/clothe/organize-the-kids stuff. Table for 12 did little to establish the children’s personalities last night. But parents Eric and Betty Hayes seem like very nice people, and the show handled the presentation of four-year-old Rebecca, who has cerebral palsy, with restraint, not exploitive sentiment. The episodes were, overall, edited in a rather dull way, but I’ll keep watching a few more times.

How about you? Did you watch Table for 12? And what did you think of Jon & Kate‘s finale, and Jon’s struggle with fame?