The untold truth of Jon and Kate Plus 8

Jon & Kate Plus 8 quickly became a television phenomenon after making its debut on TLC in 2007. Following the wholesome exploits of Jon and Kate Gosselin and their eight children, viewers tuned in by the millions to watch the ever-bickering couple navigate everything from grocery shopping for a small army to the herculean effort of undertaking a family outing to a pumpkin patch. 

"With a brood of eight children, consisting of sextuplets and twins, the Gosselins are hardly your typical American family. Jon and Kate are the ambitious parents of this adorable bunch and they are battling all odds to make sure their children have a normal and happy childhood," TLC described the show in a press release. "Jon and I both always knew we wanted to have kids," Kate said via voiceover in the opening moments of the very first episode. "But we never imagined we'd have this many," added her husband. 

Yet what viewers saw on TV was far from the whole story. Read on to find out about the untold truth behind Jon & Kate Plus 8 that catapulted the Gosselins to fame.

How Jon and Kate Plus 8 came to be on TLC

In 2004, Jon and Kate Gosselin were a typical married couple with young twins, Mady and Cara Gosselin, and a hope of having a third child. When Kate was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, she underwent fertility treatments — which worked a little too well. Instead of becoming pregnant with one baby, she became pregnant with six. The arrival of the couple's sextuplets quickly captured national media attention. "Each baby had, I believe, a doctor and three nurses," Jon told CBS's The Early Show after the sextuplets' birth. "I took a head count in the room and there were 27 people. But outside of the room, there was the rest. There was a second room with three baby-like cradles for each of the babies, a, b, and c. Then d, e, and f were in the operating room."

News coverage led the Gosselins to be featured on Home Delivery (via Philadelphia magazine). This was followed by two specials on the Discovery Health Channel before TLC came calling with an offer to create a reality show around the Gosselins' day-to-day lives. And thus, Jon & Kate Plus 8 was born.

How the stars of Jon and Kate Plus 8 first met

The story of the Gosselins began on "a sunny, warm day in October 1997," Kate Gosselin explained in a 2008 episode of Jon & Kate Plus 8. Jon was working at a hotel and living with his mother, while Kate had recently graduated from nursing school. Kate accompanied a friend who worked at the same hotel to a company picnic. "There was this guy walking across the grass, and I wasn't really looking for anybody cause I was very self-sufficient, but he caught my attention," Kate recalled. She added, "I was like, 'I'm not leaving here until I meet him.' I declared that."

That guy, of course, was Jon, who admitted he "had a girlfriend at the time" when he first laid eyes on Kate at that fateful picnic. "She was gone the next day," Kate quipped of the girlfriend, revealing she and Jon immediately started dating and quickly fell in love. "We were the couple that people always said were sickening sweet," Kate admitted. "Can you believe that?"

"I don't know what happened," Jon deadpanned, a wry joke that, in light of what would happen to their relationship later, turned out to be both predictive and cringeworthy. 

The Gosselins weren't always proud of what viewers saw on Jon and Kate Plus 8

Fame wasn't something that the Gosselins contemplated before the runaway success of Jon & Kate Plus 8, especially when that celebrity stemmed from showcasing their real lives, warts and all, as entertainment for TV viewers. "I'm not always proud of what you see on the show, nor is Jon," Kate told The Washington Post in 2008, adding that they were "certainly not going to hide [their] imperfections."

Executive producer Wendy Douglas told the Post, "They don't yell and scream at each other, but many people appreciate it because it's so real. And it's a testament to Jon and Kate that they allow us to shoot all of it." Added Kate, "I'm actually shocked by the thousands of emails that we get from viewers who say that Jon and I are a lot like them." She noted, "The goal is to show the world that this job is hard — a lot harder than Jon and I ever imagined." 

Living their lives in front of cameras is something they gradually accepted, but Kate insisted nothing in the show was rehearsed or scripted. She said she "wouldn't have the time" to memorize a script.

Jon and Kate Plus 8's stars renewed their vows while their marriage disintegrated

Viewers found the Jon & Kate Plus 8 couple to be all too relatable, with Kate Gosselin coming across as a control freak sniping at her hen-pecked husband, who appeared to be understandably overwhelmed by the responsibilities of raising eight youngsters. What viewers didn't realize was that the cracks in their marriage were presumably deepening with every episode, even when they traveled to Hawaii to renew their vows in a romantic ceremony — captured by cameras, of course.

"Our marriage has been a wonderful and adventurous nine years," said Jon Gosselin. "As I stand here today I am proud and honored to be renewing our vows and recommitting myself to you. ... I am the happiest father and husband knowing that you are by my side always. I will always be your partner for life."

Kate, reading her vows, shared, "Our first wedding was for us. This time it is also for us but mostly to publicly promise our children that we will always be together, complete as a family for always."

This Jon and Kate Plus 8 star filed for divorce after cheating rumors

In April 2009, not long after renewing their vows on Jon & Kate Plus 8, Kate Gosselin was out of town doing promotion for her first book, Eight Little Faces, when Jon Gosselin was photographed by paparazzi exiting a bar at 2 a.m. with the family nanny, then-23-year-old Deanna Hummel, as reported by People. Hummel's brother told tabloids that she and Jon had been having an affair for months. Jon denied those claims, but did admit to "poor decisions and bad judgments," apologizing "for putting [his] family in this awkward position."

Two months later, Kate filed for divorce, issuing a statement claiming that "Jon's activities have left me no choice but to file legal procedures in order to protect myself and our children." Jon released his own statement, stating that "this will be a difficult transition for all of us."

This left the show and its stars in a difficult spot, especially given that Jon & Kate Plus 8 was so popular that filming the show had become a full-time gig for the Gosselins. "We don't have a backup plan anymore," Kate said at the time. "We're caught, because this is our job."

The truth behind the Jon and Kate Plus 8 stars' split

As the couple's increasingly nasty split played out in the tabloids, fascination with Jon & Kate Plus 8 only grew. Yet for fans of the show, the marital bickering that once seemed funny and entertaining appeared to be, in hindsight, the sad evidence of a crumbling marriage. 

In a 2009 People interview, shortly before she filed divorce papers, Kate Gosselin, who's done some horrible things over the years, admitted she was having trouble accepting husband Jon's denial that he didn't cheat on her. "I don't think I know if I believe him," she said. "I don't think that I know the whole truth, and to be very honest, I don't know that I ever will."

A few months later, Jon Gosselin appeared in a highly publicized ABC News interview and dashed any hopes of a reconciliation. "Our relationship will never be fixed," he said. "I don't trust her anymore. I was abused ... I was beaten down." He added cryptically, "She made the first move. She knows the truth." And just like that, TLC's Jon & Kate Plus 8 was forever changed.

The Gosselin divorce episode resulted in record ratings for Jon and Kate Plus 8

The implosion of the Gosselins' marriage may have left their personal lives in shambles, but it brought Jon & Kate Plus 8 some monster ratings. The 2009 episode focusing on their divorce became the show's highest-rated episode ever, with the Los Angeles Times reporting it was seen by a staggering 10.6 million viewers. "Breaking up may be hard to do," joked the Times, "but it sure helps reel in viewers."

Six months later, the pair had officially uncoupled. "I am very relieved that our divorce has been finalized, and I look forward to the New Year, focusing on the children," Kate Gosselin said in a statement to People in December 2009. "On behalf of myself and my legal team, I want to express my deep appreciation to the judge and his staff, as well as to the arbitrator, for resolving this case." She added, "This has been a challenging transition for all of us, but I am confident that we will move ahead with the important task of restructuring our lives."

Another important restructuring also loomed on the horizon as TLC tried to figure out how to save its hit show.

Jon and Kate Plus 8 continued... without Jon Gosselin

The show must go on, as the saying goes, and in September 2009, TLC announced Jon & Kate Plus 8 would morph into Kate Plus 8, shifting the focus to Kate Gosselin's new role as a single mom raising eight kids under the glare of the media spotlight. Jon Gosselin would be downgraded from series regular to recurring guest star.

"Given the recent changes in the family dynamics, it only makes sense for us to refresh and recalibrate the program to keep pace with the family. The family has evolved and we are attempting to evolve with it; we feel that Kate's journey really resonates with our viewers," said TLC president Eileen O'Neill in a statement to TV Guide.

"The program will continue to capture the incredible lives of the eight Gosselin children and their family, but will now include a deeper focus on Kate's role in the family and her journey as a single mother building the next chapter in her life," declared a press release, as reported by New Jersey's Star-Ledger.

TLC sued Jon and Kate Plus 8's Jon Gosselin for breach of contract

While Jon Gosselin was making the media rounds and telling his side of the story, the Jon & Kate Plus 8 star should have taken a closer look at his deal with TLC. As CNN reported in 2009, the network sued him for breach of contract. TLC's suit alleged that Jon had agreed to provide "his and his family's services in taping and promoting the program in and around the family home and to provide those services exclusively" to TLC. TV appearances on other networks, TLC claimed, violated his contract.

Jon lawyered up and fought back. "Apparently, TLC has elected to initially litigate this case in the court of public opinion ... because neither Jon nor I have been served with legal pleadings or informed by TLC of the instant litigation," said Jon's attorney, Mark Heller, blasting TLC's claims as "weak, feeble and baseless."

Heller added, "Discovery and TLC has treated Jon Gosselin like a dog by attempting to keep him on a leash and muzzle him and deny the father of eight the opportunity to earn a livelihood to support his family."

A legal battle delayed Kate Plus 8

TLC's lawsuit against Jon Gosselin led him to file a countersuit, issuing a cease-and-desist order that halted production of Kate Plus 8, the revamped version of Jon & Kate Plus 8, until the legal dust settled. This delayed the premiere until the legalities could get worked out. Eventually, reported CBS News, the suit was settled, and TLC could finally move forward with the family's "best interests." 

When Kate Plus 8 finally premiered, ratings were a fraction of what they once were (via People). Even worse, it simply wasn't the same show. As Entertainment Weekly noted, "everything is tinged with weary familiarity and bitterness," concluding that "Kate Plus Eight was grim stuff."

In August 2011, TLC announced Kate Plus 8 was canceled. "TLC has decided not to renew another season of Kate Plus 8, the network said in a statement (via Entertainment Weekly). "By the end of this season Kate Plus 8 will have hit the 150 episode mark (including Jon & Kate Plus 8); an exceptional milestone. TLC hopes to check in with Kate and the family periodically with specials in the future."

TLC reversed course and revived Kate Plus 8

If there's one word to describe Kate Gosselin, it's resilient. After Kate Plus 8's cancellation in 2011, she never really went away, parlaying her fame into an appearance on The Celebrity Apprentice. In 2014, TLC announced that she'd be returning to the network that made her a star — for one night only, however — in a one-hour special to catch fans up on what had taken place in her life since the show went off the air. 

According to People, the special would "touch on how all eight kids have grown, what their interests are currently and the latest on Kate's life and career."

Ratings for the special were strong enough to warrant more specials, including one followup chronicling the Jon & Kate Plus 8 sextuplets' 11th birthday and another focused on Kate's 40th birthday celebration. In late 2015, it was made official: Kate Plus 8 was returning, with The Morning Call reporting that eight new episodes would air during December 2015 and January 2016. The show would once again rise like a reality show phoenix from the ashes of cancellation.

Jon and Kate Plus 8 rebranded yet again as dating show Kate Plus Date

The revived Kate Plus 8 never came close to recapturing the ratings of Jon & Kate Plus 8 at its peak, and TLC finally pulled the plug in 2017 (via Daily Beast). Yet that was not the last that viewers would see of Kate Gosselin, who re-emerged in 2019 with a whole new version of the show: Kate Plus Date, which added a Bachelorette-style twist that sent her out on dates with an array of "mystery men" seeking to hook up with the single mother of eight.

According to TLC's announcement, Kate Plus Date would "follow Kate's journey as she evolves from reserved and cautious to open and invested." The announcement noted, "While the first few dates are awkward, even 'painful' in Kate's words, she eventually learns to trust the process with the support of her matchmakers and daughters. ... After being wooed by all ten mystery men, she is faced with the difficult decision of choosing just two guys to take on a second date. The pressure is on."

Jon and Kate Plus 8's Jon Gosselin claimed a new Kate Plus 8 special was filmed illegally

Kate Plus Date hit the air, but it didn't exactly set the world on fire, as the premiere attracted just 769,000 viewers. Yet TLC, a network that would become known for shows like 90 Day Fiancé, The Little Couple, and OutDaughtered, was not done with Kate Gosselin yet, and, in October 2019, the network revived Kate Plus 8 with a special 2019 episode that focused on the Gosselin twins heading off to attend university.

There was one teensy little problem, however; Jon and Kate were in the midst of a nasty custody battle, with some kids living with her and some with Jon. Filming that episode, Jon claimed (as reported by the Daily Mail), violated a 2018 court order prohibiting any of the sextuplets from being filmed for reality television. "I'm furious. Absolutely furious," he told the Mail. "They didn't care. It's really upsetting that big business and big corporations go do whatever they want, against a parent's legal right."

The Jon & Kate Plus 8 star added, "They put profits and ratings ahead of the well-being of my children and filmed illegally without work permits."

Jon Gosselin revealed the brutal truth behind Jon and Kate Plus 8 after a ten-year gag order was lifted

When TLC settled its legal battle with Jon Gosselin in 2009, that settlement apparently included a ten-year gag order prohibiting him from commenting on TLC, his ex, and her reality TV exploits. In November 2019, however, that gag order was lifted — and Jon had a lot to say. "I believe that her belief system is skewed. ... I think once fame and money got involved, it twisted her belief system. On my end, I've been fighting to get my kids off TV forever," Jon said of Kate Gosselin on Dr. Oz

"All she wanted was legal custody to film my kids to sustain her lifestyle and their lifestyle. It gets all warped. That's fame though. It just twists things around," the Jon & Kate Plus 8 star added, alleging Kate has a "narcissistic personality disorder."

Kate, who's dramatically changed over the years, responded in a statement to People, saying, "I have consistently made it a rule never to respond to Jon's delusional ramblings, and I will not break that rule now. However, at some point soon, I look forward to making sure the absolute truth about our family is known."