We've got a theory: Anything that seems too bad to be true probably is.
Jon and Kate Gosselin are Exhibits A-Z. The cheesy alleged affairs. The cheesy midlife-crisis clichés. The cheesy Fantasy Island-style cameos.
You think this stuff just happens? We don't. And just in time for Monday's return of Jon & Kate Plus 8, we blow the lid off the evil-genius TV plot that has produced the world's greatest reality drama—onscreen and off.
The evidence (by which we mean, stuff we strongly suspect):
• Circa 2006: Discovery Networks, a cable giant arguably then best known for a series about a guy learning to scrape up roadkill, trains its cameras on a young, innocent Pennsylvania couple who recently welcomed sextuplets to a family that already included twins. A gut feeling tells us that executives notice right away that the Gosselin brood is far more fetching than scraped-up roadkill.
• May 2006: The Gosselin documentary special, Surviving Sextuplets and Twins, debuts. A gut feeling tells us that executives notice how Kate could use a tummy tuck, and how Jon could use a blonde. (The giveaway for Jon? His on-camera quote, delivered as he sits beside the then-brunette Kate: "I only like blondes.") Another gut feeling tells us that the executives and the Gosselins start to talk about how they could help each other out.
• January 2007: A sequel, Sextuplets and Twins: One Year Later, premieres. Kate gets her tummy tuck. Jon doesn't get his blonde. A gut feeling tells us negotiations are ongoing.
• April 2007: Jon & Kate Plus 8 premieres on Discovery's TLC. The cable giant gets its new signature series; Jon gets his blonde: a dyed Kate. A gut feeling tells us everybody's happy.
• Circa 2008: The Gosselins move into a new house. A gut feeling tells us the Gosselins have never seen the real-estate tax on a five-bedroom, $1.3 million mansion.
• March 2009: Real-estate tax bills are mailed out in the Gosselins' Berks County, Pa. A gut feeling tells us negotiations between the Gosselins and the TV executives are reopened. A new (moneymaking) storyline is needed—pronto!
• April 2009: Jon is "caught with another woman" (a blonde—natch) by Us Weekly.
• May 25, 2009: With the Gosselins dominating the tabloids, the fifth-season premiere of Jon & Kate Plus 8 debuts to series-record ratings. A gut feeling tells us that executives notice they're onto something.
• June 22, 2009: By day, the Gosselins file for divorce; by night, Jon & Kate Plus 8 hits another new ratings high. A gut feeling tells us that executives notice they're really onto something. Central casting is called. Guest stars needed—pronto!
• Spring-summer 2009: A gut feeling tells us Deanna Hummel is hired as the Other Woman No. 1 because of her brother's willingness to spout sound bites fit for Days of Our Lives; Hailey Glassman is brought on as the Other Woman No. 2 because of her appeal to potbellied NASCAR dads who fancy themselves studs; Steve Neild is cast as the Other Man No. 1 because of his appeal to soccer moms who can't resist a Harlequin romance hero ("Oh my, he's a bodyguard!"); designer Christian Audigier is inserted into the storyline in order to grow the family-friendly brand among Ed Hardy dudes; his yacht is brought on board to appeal to easily impressed young women, like Glassman; former Star reporter Kate Major is enlisted as the Other Woman No. 3 to complete the harem (and give the tabs even easier access to the story).
• July 2009: Jon watches his and old Kate's own E! True Hollywood Story special (while in the company of new Kate) at Michael Lohan's Hamptons pad. Our gut tells us Jon went rogue on this one. Even for this show, it's too bizarre a twist.
• Aug. 3, 2009: Bloodied but certainly unbowed, Jon & Kate Plus 8 returns with new episodes. Our gut tells us the TV executives and the Gosselins think they've put one over on us.
Jon isn't that good an actor. Kate isn't that good an actress. They really are ordinary people who got in over their heads and, oh by the way, happen to be the parents to eight dragged-along-for-the-ride kids.
You gotta admit, our conspiracy theory is way less depressing.
(Originally published July 31, 2009, at 4:08 p.m. PT)