Ironically, I figured that out of last night’s two shows I had to watch, I would have nothing to say about Stars Earn Stripes and plenty to write about TLC‘s new mega-family reality series The United Bates of America. But instead, I railed against Stars for being yet another manipulative reality competition, and I was completely underwhelmed by Bates. TLC seemed to be grooming the Bates family to be the Duggars‘ successors, or at least a holdover until 19 Kids and Counting returns. And in many ways, the Bates are as much of a shitshow as the Duggars: Here’s a family so entrenched in religious belief that they’ve completely justified their selfish and utterly unreasonable lifestyle. Let’s go through the main similarities:
- Charismatic patriarch with a wife who stares at him stupidly during confessionals
- The older kids get stuck taking care of the infants
- Unfortunate hairstyles on the women
- Women wear only dresses and skirts — I think the Bates say because it’s more modest and something about pleasing God — while men get to wear jeans, shorts, whatever
- They have as many babies “as the Lord deems,” and then act all confused and sad when their 19th child is so frail it has to be hooked up to a respirator
I can see why TLC signed them on to their own show, especially since they sing. (Watch the “theme song” here, it ain’t pretty.) But that’s about all they’ve got over the Duggars, who are simply more entertaining. Absolutely nothing happens in the first two episodes of The United Bates of America, and it’s not as if you can pick out any rising stars within the family who you’d be willing to watch as the show goes on (like oldest Duggar child Josh with his own family, or Jinger who everyone’s convinced is trying to dig her way out of the compound). OK, so Gil and Kelly Jo Bates change Valentine’s Day to “I Love You Day” and make sure all the kids buy each other gifts, but my parents did that with my sister and me.
I get the feeling that when TLC first heard about the Duggars, the talent scouts turned to each other and were like, “We’ve struck gold!” Because you had Michelle‘s crazy eyes and Jim Bob‘s creepy almost sexual vibe (don’t pretend you don’t see it) and their dark past with the miscarriage and the fact that Josh had found his own vacant-eyed child bride in Anna. There was so much material, whereas the Bates don’t give you anything to work with. Gil and Kelly Jo use more than one letter in naming their kids, so their offspring have normal names like Erin and Tori. They drop some religious what-the-fuck lines, but the cameras don’t follow them into church. Tumblr user wtffundiefamilies pointed out that while Gil and Jim Bob both act like overgrown children, Gil is actually competent and provides for his family… which is boring.
The only embeddable video I could find is tragically dull, as Gil polls the family on what their show should be called:
But honestly, the rest of the videos leave a lot to be desired, too. You can’t even find any entertaining .gifs of them! The Bates do nothing. They must think that simply by virtue of popping out a bunch of kids, they’re fascinating to American viewers. But in order to have a successful reality career, you need to generate more weirdness once you’re on-camera. (Or, in the case of the Duggars, completely manipulate the tragedy of your miscarriage for ratings. I’d like to think this was more TLC’s fault, but who really knows.) Though I couldn’t help thinking, as I watched, that if you put Heather Burns from the Miss Congeniality movies in a fat suit, she could play a great Kelly Jo. But they’ll never get a biopic, because they’re not interesting!
While we wait for the Duggars to return, just watch Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. You’ll be headdesking so hard you’ll put yourself into a coma, and when you wake up, Jim Bob and Michelle will be back.