Months after a scandal involving a member of the Duggar family shut down TLC’s long-running reality hit “19 Kids and Counting,” the network is resuming its on-air relationship with the Arkansas brood by starring daughters Jill and Jessa in two or more specials.
Production begins soon on the programs, announced Thursday, with an anticipated airdate by year-end for at least the first of them. Two or three are currently planned, the network said.
So far untitled, they will feature Jill Dillard, 24, who, with her husband, Derick, and their infant son are preparing to move to El Salvador for missionary work, and sister Jessa Seewald, 22, who with her husband Ben is expecting their first child on Nov. 1.
A production source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the programs will not include 27-year-old Josh Duggar, the oldest of the Duggar siblings and the subject of revelations last May that, as a teenager, had fondled four of his sisters, including Jill and Jessa. More recently he publicly apologized for a pornography addiction and cheating on his wife. The source said he will not appear on any future TLC programming.
“What we will be following in these specials is Jessa preparing for her first child,” TLC Executive Vice President and General Manager Nancy Daniels told The Associated Press, “and we’ll be watching Jill preparing to make a major move to Central America with her family, which we know is something our audience will be interested in.”
The project, Daniels said, came together quickly “after talking with the girls and understanding that this was something they wanted to do.
“We know that our audience is really excited about what’s been going on with Jill and Jessa as they move into young adulthood,” said Daniels. “And now they’re both at the precipice of big changes. With what was happening in their lives in the next few months, it felt like now is the time (for the specials), and we got going pretty quickly.”
The specials will be following a recent documentary TLC commissioned and aired to raise awareness of child sexual abuse nationwide. Both women participated in that film, titled “Breaking the Silence.”
“They thought it was an important issue, and they showed an incredible amount of courage in sharing their story,” Daniels said. “We were struck by that courage, and by how they are moving forward. Our audience continues to be engaged with what’s going on in their lives.
“There’s no doubt it’s been a tough few months on the family, and we’ve obviously been in close contact with them as they’ve been going through it,” Daniels added
Viewers have watched Jill and Jessa grow up along with their numerous siblings since 2008 on “19 Kids and Counting,” which chronicled the family life of Arkansas couple Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their children, now numbering 19. A portrait of wholesome family life, it became TLC’s most watched series, averaging 3.2 million viewers, until it was pulled from the air in May, then officially canceled in July.
SOURCE: Associated Press – Frazier Moore