The Duggars might be seeking forgiveness. But will Madison Avenue listen?
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, the stars of hit TLC reality show “19 Kids and Counting,” will make a bid to save their TV careers Wednesday when they talk with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. It will be the family’s first TV sit-down since Josh Duggar, the eldest son in the Arkansas family, admitted to inappropriate contact with several underage girls when he was a teenager.
The revelation — which counters the Duggars’ image as a deeply religious and wholesome clan — was met with outrage and anger on social media, eliciting such hashtags as #CancelTheDuggars, #DitchTheDuggars and #BoycottTLC.
But the toughest blows came from companies such as Walgreens, Payless Shoe Source, Choice Hotels, Pure Leaf Iced Tea and General Mills, which all said they would no longer be running ads on the show. The Discovery Networks-owned TLC has pulled “19 Kids and Counting” reruns from its lineup and has given no indication that the series will go back into production. Streaming giant Hulu, which also carries ads, has dropped the program as well.
Even if the Duggars can drum up public sympathy with their scheduled TV interview, getting sponsors to support the family’s TV endeavors again may be an insurmountable challenge. Advertisers traditionally avoid having their products or services associated with scandal or controversy, and with so many TV choices today, there are a multitude of other places to run their spots.
Janet Janjigian, executive managing director of the business consulting service Carmen Group West, said TLC would be better served by stating its intentions for the future of the show. The network has repeatedly declined to comment.
“There’s a great deal to be said for just cutting your losses as a network and moving on,” Janjigian said.
Of course, TLC may have already decided to do that and just hasn’t announced it yet.
Here’s a look at other shows in recent TV history that have had to cope with off-screen dramas:
Show: “Fashion Police”
Network: E! Network
Duration: September 2010 to present
Controversy: “Fashion Police” was a solid hit until the show’s matriarch, Joan Rivers, died in September, leaving E! without the fiery comedian to lead commentary about celebrities and their fashion choices. Comedian Kathy Griffin was tapped as a new co-host, and other co-hosts, including Rivers’ daughter Melissa, returned. But co-host Giuliana Rancic came under fire in February after the annual Oscars broadcast, when she said Disney Channel star Zendaya’s dreadlocks looked as though she smelled of “patchouli oil and weed.” Some Zendaya fans interpreted the remark as racist, leading Rancic to apologize. Griffin and co-host Kelly Osbourne cited the comments when they quit the series.
The business stakes: E!, mostly known as a destination for celebrity-fueled reality shows and pop culture, has moved toward a broader array of programs in the last year. “Fashion Police” was already losing viewers after Rivers’ death, and the debacle caused by Rancic made it even more expendable in the short term.
Aftermath: The network decided to put the show on hold until September. “We look forward to taking this opportunity to refresh the show before the next awards season,” E! said in a statement following the news. Rancic, Melissa Rivers and stylist Brad Goreski are expected to continue when the show returns in the fall.
Show: “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo”
Duration: August 2012 to August 2014
Controversy: Viewers fell in love with quirky and funny “Toddlers & Tiaras” young pageant competitor Alana (Honey Boo Boo) Thompson and her mother, “Mama June” Shannon. So when TLC made a spinoff show starring the family, it became an instant hit, securing high ratings and a place in pop culture history. But after its fourth season finished airing in August, reports surfaced that the family matriarch was dating a convicted child molester.
The business stakes: Now available in about 94 million homes in the U.S., TLC is the second most widely viewed channel owned by Discovery Communications, behind the Discovery Channel. Even before the Mama June news, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” had garnered backlash from various critics, who contended that the series exploited children. Still, the latest batch of episodes that aired in August ranked No. 1 among ad-supported cable programs with 18- to 34-year-old women and No. 2 with 25- to 54-year-old women. Both groups are highly desired by advertisers.
Aftermath: In October, TLC said in a statement that the network was pulling the plug on the series. “Supporting the health and welfare of these remarkable children is our only priority,” a spokeswoman said. “TLC is faithfully committed to the children’s ongoing comfort and well-being.” Shannon reacted to the show’s cancellation by posting a video to Facebook, thanking fans for their love and support. “The statement of me dating a sex offender is totally untrue,” she said in the video.
Show: “7th Heaven”
Network: UP TV
Duration: Show aired on WB network from 1996 to 2007. Reruns aired on UP from July 2012 to October 2014.
Controversy: Stephen Collins, who played beloved father the Rev. Eric Camden on “7th Heaven,” made headlines last fall after an audio recording emerged in which he admitted exposing himself to teenage girls. Detectives in Los Angeles and New York said they began investigating the actor in 2012 after allegations were first made.
The business stakes: The Atlanta-based UP TV channel focuses on “faith-friendly” programming. “7th Heaven” made up 21 hours of weekly programming on the low-rated network. The show “has been a beloved family show and a fan favorite on our network,” Charley Humbard, president and chief executive of UP, said in a statement following initial news of the allegations.
Aftermath: UP pulled the series from its lineup in October and put reruns of “Supernanny” in its place. Humbard said the family-friendly network was “deeply concerned for the families that are potentially affected by these disturbing allegations surrounding actor Stephen Collins.” In December, Collins publicly admitted that he engaged in sexual misconduct with three girls decades ago.