As viewers reacted in shock to each horrifying detail that emerged in the case of semi-repentant confessed child molester/reality TV star Josh Duggar, it was easy to overlook one frustrating detail: That TLC, the network that made Duggar and his family famous, didn’t actually cancel their show. Yes, it did pull all scheduled episodes of 19 Kids And Counting from its lineup, but failed to take the decisive step of actually removing the Duggars’ public platform. Compare this to TLC’s other reality-TV child molestation case, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, which was officially canceled the day after TLC was forced to respond to reports that family matriarch Mama June was dating a man convicted of molesting one of her relatives.
So what’s the difference here, besides that Josh Duggar was never convicted of his alleged crimes? (You can thank the Arkansas state trooper who let him off with a stern warning—and who also happens to be currently serving 56 years in prison for child pornography—for that.) Predictably, 19 Kids And Counting is rapidly losing advertisers—Payless ShoeSource, Choice Hotels, General Mills, and Walgreens have all pulled out from the show, a technique the Duggars presumably find very offensive. But a new Variety article claims that TLC has yet to make a decision on whether it will formally cancel the show, and is being is being “methodical in its deliberations.”
Maybe that’s because the Duggars, despite their association with the sex abuse-prone Christian Patriarchy movement, are well connected. Even a quick Twitter search reveals quite a few pictures of Josh Duggar posing with Republican Party leaders, and the family stumped for Rick Santorum during his 2012 presidential campaign. Josh’s father Jim Bob Duggar even served in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1999 to 2002, and campaigned unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2002 on a platform that included making incest a capital crime. (And let’s not forget the time Michelle Duggar recorded a political robocall comparing trans women to child molesters.) And, as any climate scientist can tell you, ultra-right wing conservatives hate to admit when they’re wrong.
Or maybe it’s because, as perverse as it may be, the scandal could be good for TLC’s ratings. According The Hollywood Reporter, TLC broke viewership records when the marriage of its reality stars Jon and Kate Gosselin very publicly dissolved in 2009, and 19 Kids And Counting’s ratings are currently higher than Here Comes Honey Boo Boo’s ever were, neatly (if cynically) explaining the difference in how the network handled each set of allegations. So don’t be too surprised if a suddenly Josh-free 19 Kids And Counting quietly slinks its way back onto cable in between episodes of Sister Wives and My 600-lb Life. If that does happen, remember: the only surefire way to prevent an unplanned Duggar series is total abstinence.
UPDATE: A new People Magazine story confirms that TLC isn’t ready to give up on the Duggars just yet, and is planning to “refocus” the series into a spinoff focusing on newlywed sisters Jill Dillard and Jessa Seewald (née Duggar—they’re the type to change their names after marriage, obviously) and their cute babies, rather than brother Josh’s—ahem—troubles.