Jon never wanted to do it, but Kate was the boss. According to Figure 8’s Bill Hayes, “you could see the friction [in their relationship] from the start.” And that made for good television. Jon & Kate quickly became the top-rated show on TLC, with an audience of between five and six million viewers. “We had a show that was rising in interest,” says Eileen O’Neill, “based on the unfiltered, sometimes cantankerous relationship of this couple with these eight beautiful children.” Often the production team would goad Jon and Kate into discussing their disagreements during their weekly couch sessions.
Kate forced Jon to quit his IT job to stay home and watch the kids while Kate went on a book tour for 2 years.
In the show’s fourth season, in 2008, Jon seemed to experience what Gail Collins has cleverly identified as the “feminine ‘problem that has no name’ that Betty Friedan wrote about in 1963.” He had been working again, this time as an I.T. analyst in the governor of Pennsylvania’s office in Harrisburg, but then he quit.
“He said he ‘just wanted to be Jon,’” Kate says disdainfully. But that had become impossible. “I remember Jon and I having a conversation some time in 2007,” Kate says, “to the effect of ‘We’re in this, and we can never go back,’ and I kind of secretly had a little grip of fear.” When they renewed their vows, in Hawaii, in the summer of 2008, she says, it was the first time they were “paparazzi’d.”