When it comes to the Duggars, TLC just can’t pull the plug.
Five months after the network officially canceled its hit “19 Kids and Counting,” which chronicled the lives of the deeply religious Southern family, TLC has officially introduced “Jill & Jessa: Counting On.” The three-part special debuted on Sunday night and starred the two eldest Duggar daughters, purportedly to show what they have been up to since their family’s reality TV empire came crashing down.
Really, the 90-minute premiere was a deep dive back into one of the more shocking meltdowns in TV history. Back in May, reports emerged that eldest son Josh Duggar had molested several young girls (including his sisters) when he was a teen; Josh apologized and resigned from his job at the Family Research Council. Though the Duggars attempted damage control, advertisers fled and TLC finally canceled the show in July. A month later, Josh’s name surfaced in the Ashley Madison hack. Josh — calling himself the “biggest hypocrite ever” with a job promoting family values — admitted to cheating on his wife, citing a pornography addiction, and checked himself into a treatment center.
Now, “Jill & Jessa: Counting On” was a fairly brutal emotional look into what his siblings have gone through since Josh’s “wrongdoings” went public, as they talked about feeling betrayed by their brother. In between updates about Jill’s missionary work and Jessa’s pregnancy, the special interviewed eight Duggar siblings, as producers asked them to describe the last four months. On-screen text helpfully popped up to remind viewers: “Several months ago, a police report was released containing allegations that, as a minor, Josh inappropriately touched five people.”
The Duggar kids all followed the same script in their responses: They couldn’t believe that (a) the police report was released and (b) the media was so interested in events that happened in Josh’s past so long ago. Jessa and Jill, who already sat for an interview with Fox News’s Megyn Kelly, described how (as two of Josh’s victims) they had already forgiven him and moved on.
“So the police report was released to the world. And I know that wasn’t right,” Jill, 24, said. “We had to work through it because as a victim, you’ve already worked through that — you’ve already dealt with it and you’ve already moved on. And you don’t want that rubbed in your face all the time and for everybody else to see.”
Jessa, 23, concurred it was unfair that the family had to re-live everything again, because “definitely there was a period of time in our family where Josh was not to be trusted.” And after years of working to find closure, she was upset that they had to rehash everything in public.