The anticlimactic news on Monday night's Jon & Kate Plus 8 that Jon and Kate Gosselin have filed for divorce, may have raised more questions than it answered. Most pointedly: how will the dynamic of divorce, with its wrenching effects on families play on television?
Kate Gosselin said the show did not break up her marriage and that the couple made their lives available for public consumption precisely because it allowed them to provide for their large family.
"It was not brought on by the show or caused by our career choices at all," she said during the episode. "We've always done the show for the kids."
But will viewers want to watch the Gosselin's family life unravel? And what about the kids?
"Divorce is rough enough on kids without it playing out in front of the camera," says Shari Anne Brill, senior VP and director of programming at media buying agency Carat.
"I don't now how much of a normal childhood they're having," adds Brad Adgate senior VP of media of research at Horizon Media. "And you could even draw some parallels between their kids and child stars that have a hard time adjusting to anonymity as they get older."
Monday night's episode was teased last week in a TLC promo promising a huge "announcement." The hype worked. It was the most-watched program in the series' history attracting 10.6 million viewers, out-rating the series' previous high of 9.8 million viewers for the May 29 fifth season premiere.
In the episode Kate Gosselin proclaimed: "The show must go on." And apparently it will, after a short hiatus. A TLC spokesperson confirmed that after a special retrospective June 29, the show will go on hiatus until Aug. 3. Filming has been suspended to give the family time to "regroup," after which a "modified schedule will be in place to support the family's transition."
The network had previously ordered 40 episodes for the fifth season.
Since problems in the Gosselin's marriage surfaced earlier this year, the couple has become a tabloid favorite. Unflattering characterizations of a marriage on the rocks and parents consumed with media stardom have made the family a paparazzi target. On Monday's episode, Jon Gosselin complained: "We have soldiers dying in Iraq, and all people care about is what I had for lunch."
And while the show will go dark for a few weeks, media analysts envision a plethora of new possibilities for the estranged couple.
"Jon & Kate Go on Dates," quips Brill.
"I wouldn't be surprised if TLC puts out two shows, one with Jon and one with Kate," adds Adgate. "Most likely, they'll have a spin-off show. There's too much money in it not to. How long that will last is up to viewers and adversities. At the very least, next year they could be on I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here."