There are some recurring complaints that arise about television. One is that reality TV is awful. Another, from at least one segment of the audience, is that television hates Christians.
Both claims are nonsense. That’s not to say that all reality shows are good — but neither are all dramas, comedies or game shows. As for the issue of faith, again, there are shows that are smug and disrespectful, but there are others that value strong belief and standards. TV is a big tent, and a little searching will find a show to satisfy almost any taste.
Case in point: 19 Kids and Counting, the series that begins a new season at 9 p.m. Tuesday on TLC.
For those of you tuning in late, 19 Kids follows Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their 19 children. They do not use birth control and Michelle has said that “we would love however many [children] the Lord sees fit to give us.” In 2011, at the age of 45, she was pregnant with what would have been their 20th child, only to miscarry.
There has been plenty of debate about the Duggars’ child-bearing, especially as Michelle gets older. But it is an article of faith with the family, and one that their TV show neither mocks nor questions. Similarly, the show gives free rein to their professions of faith, and their values.
In the season premiere, for example, the family is getting ready to go to Florida for a wedding of Anna’s sister Priscilla. (Anna is married to Josh, the oldest of the Duggar kids; Josh and Anna have two children of their own.) Priscilla and her future husband, David, have been looking forward to the big day, having made an emotional commitment but avoided the physical; they do not even kiss until after they are married.
Now, maybe you think that’s extreme. Maybe you disagree with some of the ways the Duggars live — and how they expect their children to follow a similar path. I certainly question some of their decisions. But we’re not talking here about whether we agree with them. We’re talking about their point of view getting a regular TV showcase, and one that does not mock or belittle the Duggars or their beliefs. Nor is there any of the yelling and backstabbing so many people associate with reality TV.
Considering all the outcry about bad reality shows and faith-baiting, I would have thought 19 Kids would have a larger audience than it does. It’s not my kind of show. But there are plenty of viewers who would find this satisfying.
Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including in the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Twitter and Facebook. You can reach him at 330-996-3582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.