Why I’m Glad To Take A Break From The Duggars

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Jinger Duggar gifs thumbs up 19 Kids and Counting season 11 TLC

Last night's 19 Kids and Counting ended on a cliffhanger of sorts: The Duggars celebrated Michelle‘s birthday with a makeover and the news that the whole clan was going to China and Japan for… well, I don't remember why, but let's say so they could have more material for season 11.

Because it seems pretty clear that this show is continuing on strong. TLC‘s tweet seemed like the network is expecting more years to come with the Duggars:

the Duggars 19 Kids and Counting new season 11 TLC tweet

There's been no official announcement yet, but it's only a matter of time. Especially since TLC seems to air two seasons each calendar year, which means we should expect season 11 around February, if not sooner. Am I the only one really surprised by this? Because reading the Free Jinger forums, all of the posters seem to unanimously agree that season 10 of 19 Kids has been especially tedious. As I've pointed out every week in my recaps, each episode seems to be cobbled-together footage with one interesting development in the last four minutes.

In the lead-up to the season finale, TLC hinted that Michelle had “a big surprise” to share with the family. I was sure she was gonna be pregnant with child #21 — or would it be #20 since she miscarried Jubilee Shalom? I truly don't know — but yet again, expectation trumped reality. For Michelle's birthday, the kids treated her to a salon day, where her BFF Cindy popped up to cut Michelle's hair.

Michelle Duggar makeover new hair photo 19 Kids and Counting season finale the Duggars TLC Freshair Salon birthday

While I agree with the Free Jinger posters that Michelle's new hairdo did bring to mind Grandma Duggar, for the most part I thought it was an incredible improvement over her crunchy curls and teased bangs. What made it even more fun was how uncomfortable Michelle was: When asked if she liked it, she responded, “I could learn to like it.” And when she shows off her “big surprise” to the family, Jim Bob declares, “I liked it longer.”

Then Michelle has to guess her big surprise (the Asia trip) through a trivia game. Did anyone else laugh when she couldn't remember how old Josh was when he married Anna? But eventually Michelle guesses the surprise, and everyone celebrates.

…And then we cut to all of the younger kids throwing up? Sometime after the party, Jackson, Johannah, Jennifer, Jordyn, Josie, Mackynzie, and Michael all get the flu. My stomach turned a bit when I saw the kids throwing up into styrofoam cups, but I guess that's what you have to do when you have that many sick kids. Whether the Asia trip would be cancelled wasn't even a question since, as we've learned, this show isn't very good with the dramatic plotting.

Personally, I thought the best part of last night's episode was early on, when the kids set up a romantic night for Jim Bob and Michelle at a hotel and made a bunch of sex jokes, including putting a note on the wall that said Be fruitful and multiply! 1×1 = 19

These cringeworthy moments are too few on 19 Kids. Like, remember when Jim Bob gave poor Jinger the sex talk while they were turkey hunting? Amazing! And the awkward moment where a Duggar fan asked Kirk Cameron to take a photo of them, completely not recognizing him? So great. But I often wonder if these funny moments are worth wading through the mundanities of the Duggars' lives. Or, worse, playing into the Duggar cult of celebrity.

My problems with them aren't even really about their religious beliefs, though I certainly don't agree with the “be fruitful and multiply” mentality. I don't like the way they're congratulated for not doing anything of note, and I'm really not a fan of Michelle making all of her older children care for the younger ones.

A comment from one of the Free Jinger posters about the season finael really stuck out to me, about how the family was aware of their criticism and seemed to be subtly responding to it in the episode:

There was quite a bit of STFU internet tonight: sick kids sleeping with JimBob and Michelle, Michelle carrying a child, Michelle going to change a diaper on Josie, boys helping to clean the house, JimBob tkaing his own children to the dentist without a buddy…

19 Kids is at its most entertaining when the Duggars at least acknowledge how ridiculous it is that they're famous. I would have more patience with this family in season 11 if they continued to address their critics. It probably wouldn't tempt me away from those ranks, but at least I'd respect them a little more.

GIF: the-duggars on Tumblr

Photo: Freshair Salon