YES, JON AND KATE Gosselin are divorcing.
But, hey, how about those playhouses?
Last night's episode of TLC's "Jon and Kate Plus 8" had been billed as containing an announcement from the Berks County couple, whose fractured marriage has been tabloid fodder for months.
But when the announcement came, a little more than halfway through the hourlong show, that the two were separating, it seemed almost anticlimactic - People magazine had reported hours earlier that divorce papers were filed yesterday.
For a generation that has no memory of the Louds, or of the 1970s PBS series "An American Family," the idea of a couple who've lived in front of cameras for years, along with their eight children - 8-year-old twin girls and 5-year-old sextuplets - getting a divorce might seem almost inconceivable.
What was strangest, though, about last night's show was how little it differed from most other episodes.
For half an hour, as the couple sniped at each other in separate interviews, a crew from a company that makes "Crooked Houses" for children was assembling three of its products on the Gosselins' property. In what appeared to be yet another of a long line of product-placement deals arranged by either TLC or the Gosselins themselves, some of the children wore T-shirts bearing the slogan "Create Crooked," and their parents mentioned the name of the manufacturer at every opportunity, occasionally even working it into the family's ongoing drama.
And while the juxtaposition of "crooked houses" and a house divided might seem particularly unfortunate, it was apparently not, as I'd first assumed, product misplacement. Early on in the show, the Web site for the company crashed, presumably from the traffic generated.
But what of the Gosselins' main business, which is, after all, the Gosselins?
Under the post-divorce plan outlined by their parents last night, the kids get the house, where their parents will take turns living with them.
Jon, while speaking bitterly about the paparazzi, seemed to have forgotten his earlier reluctance to continue with the show. "I do have a lot of fond memories of filming, and what the show has meant for us," he said, and seemed to indicate that he'd continue to participate when he's in residence.
That said, "I could get offered a job, and that would change the whole schedule."
Kate, who's become the family breadwinner, thanks to a book, "Multiple Blessings," and speaking engagements, seemed determined to continue with the show, and equally determined that no one should think the show itself might have exacerbated the couple's problems.
"It's a new chapter. Not a chapter that's been brought on by our show," she insisted.
By 9:45, the producers had the two reminiscing - separately, of course - about all the fun they'd had. And, naturally, there were clips to illustrate all that fun.
Then it was time to take the kids out for a restaurant meal, which, thanks to the rain, allowed Jon and Kate to show the kind of teamwork they're going to need lots more of in the future, as they used umbrellas to take turns sheltering their kids from a storm that, for once, wasn't just metaphorical. *
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