19 Kids and Counting, The Duggar Family


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Life goes on.

And when there are two parents, 19 kids, grandkids, cousins, various significant others and in-laws, that's a lot of life to be had. But when it occurs off-camera...it's just life.

For 10 bright, shining seasons, 19 Kids and Counting was the crown jewel of TLC's programming lineup, the mild-mannered adventures of the Duggar family proving a tremendous draw and only increasing in popularity with viewers over the years.

The show's last season, ironically, was its highest-rated.

And it likely would've gone on for as long as the network and the Duggars would have each other, if not for all-too-real life getting in the way.

In Touch was first to report, and then media all over soon confirmed, that Josh Duggar, Jim-Bob and Michelle Duggar's eldest child, had received counseling as a young teenager after molesting two of his sisters, Jessa and Jill.

"Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret," Josh said in a statement on May 21, 2015. "I hurt others, including my family and close friends. I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life."

On May 22, 2015, TLC suspended 19 Kids and Counting.

Though Jim Bob and Michelle, aided by Jessa and Jill, tried to repair the damage done, sitting down with Fox News' Megan Kelly and insisting they had all of their children's best interests at heart, TLC heeded the public outcry and canceled their show for good on July 16, 2016.

Josh, who at the time was proudly opposing same-sex marriage and touting other conservative values while working at the Family Research Council, welcomed his fourth child with wife Anna a few days later.

Interest in the family remained high, though, as Jessa Duggar kept fans up on her first pregnancy via Instagram.

And then in August, Josh was taken down another peg. In fact, he fell off the ladder entirely.

The extramarital-hookup website Ashley Madison was hacked in August 2015, and Gawker unearthed an account belonging to Josh amid the data dump. There was ultimately no denying it, and Josh publicly apologized for cheating on Anna—after which he hightailed it off to rehab.

"I have been the biggest hypocrite ever. While espousing faith and family values, I have secretly over the last several years been viewing pornography on the internet and this became a secret addiction and I became unfaithful to my wife," he admitted.

OK, so that was the nail in the coffin of public interest in the Duggars.

Or not.

Breaking the Silence, a commercial-free, educational special about victims of child sexual abuse and how to both report it and seek counseling, aired Aug. 30 on TLC, having been in the works pre-Ashley Madison reveal.

But the network was hoping to salvage at least some of its cash cow, and about a month after Josh checked into treatment, Jessa (who welcomed her first child Nov. 5, 2015) and Jill Duggar were given at first their own three-part special, and—after 2.2 million people tuned in—ultimately their own show, Jill and Jessa: Counting On.

A slew of sponsors pulled adds from 19 Kids right after Josh's molestation history was revealed and, despite the strong ratings, companies such as Ford and Crayola apparently didn't want to be associated with any Duggar-centric programming and they expressed their annoyance after the Counting On special first aired in December that their ads ran during the show.

Counting On weathered a controversy all its own in June when outraged commenters prickled on social media in response to Jessa and Ben's posts in response to the massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Critics called for a cancellation, but the show was renewed for a second season.

But the exodus continued when, fast-forward to September, at least four more sponsors—Gerber Life, Trivago, Thumbtack.com and Hotwire—pulled their ads from the network after they aired during the spin-off's season premiere, noting that they didn't have control over where TLC placed their spots and they certainly hadn't approved any perceived association with Counting On.

"We did not have control over when the advertisement ran, as it was a direct response buy," Trivago said. "We did not purposely intend to advertise during any specific TLC program." Hotwire, meanwhile, said, "While we are able to select which cable networks air our ads, we do not select the specific shows. After further consideration we have decided to remove this network from our plan."

Big Lots, Aaron's Inc., Aspercreme, Gold Bond, ACT Kids Rinse, Children's Nasacort and Allegra followed suit after their ads ran during the Sept. 13 episode, according to In Touch.

So the Duggars hadn't quite bounced back from scandal after all.

Rumors abounded that TLC was going to ax Jill & Jessa: Counting On (which, of course, features a bunch of the rest of the family) in light of the advertising drama, but the show remains front and center on the network's website. There has been no announcement, however, about a third season.

Meanwhile, Josh—who stayed in treatment until March—and Anna Duggar surfaced this past Saturday at his sister Jinger's wedding to watch her marry soccer player Jeremy Vuolo.

"He had his arm around her. They were talking and smiling," a source told Us Weekly about the couple's interaction during the happy occasion, a year after concerned observers of the world encouraged Anna from afar to get a divorce.

Tonight I fell in love with orange zest truffle butter??? annnnd more in love with @kingdillpickle

A photo posted by AmyRachelleKing (@amyrachelleking) on

Missing from the nuptials was cousin Amy Duggar, who appeared on 19 Kids and didn't always see eye to eye with the majority of the fam, but she insisted to Entertainment Tonight that there was no big suspicious reason for her absence.

"I was absolutely invited. I love my family! There is no riff between me and my cousins at all. It was just wrong timing," she said. "We already had something scheduled."

Amy married Dillon King last September in the middle of the fallout over Josh's Ashley Madison admission, and Anna attended Amy's wedding alone without her husband.  

I was completely shocked just like the rest of the world," Duggar posted on her blog on Monday.

"I was completely shocked just like the rest of the world," Amy recalled to People this past January about finding out Josh's infidelity. "The only difference was I was being fitted for my wedding dress with tears running down my face and a glass of wine in my hand as the news broke. I wondered what the heck was going on? A million questions flooded my mind."

"Rage came over me, sadness crept in, and reality sat in that the person I had known my entire life turned out to be a fraud, and a complete stranger," she added. "I've always heard that there were people in this world that lived a double life, but I never thought that someone so close to home would be living a lie."

Amy and Dillon were in Vegas when Jinger and Jeremy said their I-dos.

Jessa and Ben announced in August that they're expecting their second child, and they celebrated son Spurgeon's first birthday this week.

One thing has remained exactly the same for the Duggars since 2008, back when there were only 17 Kids and Counting and America was just really interested in watching ordinary-yet-special families doing their thing, nearly 24/7, for the cameras.

And of course we mean their togetherness. The immediate family's bond hasn't loosened a bit, at least not publicly, in a most singular fashion. Outsiders are free to be as disturbed as they want to be by the Duggars' stance on LGBTQ rights and how they handled both Josh's issues when he was a teenager and his issues just last year.

But that's also why people—the like-minded, the devoted fans, the curious, the love-to-haters—keep tuning into whatever the Duggars and an obliging network are willing to share.

Even if TLC does at some point end their partnership for good, there are too many Duggars, and their brand is too big, for the family to fully go away in the manner of reality stars who flame brightly for awhile and then fizzle into obscurity.

For better or worse, there will always be Duggars to check in with, and at this point, still, most of them cannot be counted out.

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