“Wholesome” TV – My Guilty Pleasure

Is anyone else fascinated by “wholesome” shows like “19 Kids and Counting”? Maybe “Sister Wives”? Maybe “wholesome” isn’t the word — shows that document the life of Christians and fundamentalists.

I really don’t know why but I actually sit and watch these shows (much to my husband’s amusement) and find them fascinating. I think it’s just because they show a life that is very different from my own.

Maybe it’s like driving past a car crash. You definitely don’t want to be a part of it, but you still look and wonder what happened.

It’s definitely a guilty pleasure. However, I don’t see it as mindless. It feels like I’m actually being exposed to a different culture. Albeit, through the filter of television. 

Does anyone else do this? Will anyone else admit to doing this?


  1. Katydid says

    One of the child “stars” of one of those shows grew up and kept a blog about the experience, which was carefully edited to make it look more impressive than it was. The royal family of those shows is nothing like you see on tv; they were living in poverty and eating garbage before they were discovered, and while they were showing you a magical happy-land, the truth was far more sordid; the family grifted free stuff everywhere they went, at least one of the sons was sexually assaulting female family members (and some non-family members), the girls were doing all the work–homeschooling the younger ones, doing laundry and cooking and cleaning for double-digits of family members, raising their siblings. The father’s come under scrutiny for “managing” the money of all the family members so the now-adult members of the family are still financially dependent on his whims.

    It’s important to realize when you watch these programs that they’re like Christianity itself; a glittering come-on masking a rotten and filthy reality.

  2. Bruce says

    While you say these shows: “document the life of Christians and fundamentalists.”,
    I see it differently. The shows may have started that way. But before the first episode ran, the producers and directors had edited them to cut out any scenes that might have been offensive or distasteful to mainstream viewers and the advertisers.
    All memories are more pleasant when the bad bits are cut out.
    These shows show some truths, but the hard bits are gone. So, they are shows, not documentaries.
    I think it can be ok to enjoy these shows, as long as one recalls that they are not true documentaries, and that the realities behind them were and are harsher.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    It feels like I’m actually being exposed to a different culture

    It feels like that because that’s what it is, no different than if some Haredi Jewish or Wahhabi Muslim family let the cameras in. Any backward middle eastern death-cult follower family is going to look alien to someone civilised.

  4. says

    I, uh… I wouldn’t call those “wholesome”.

    “The Good Place” is wholesome. r/awww is wholesome. (As is r/blep) Steven Universe is wholesome and delightfully subversive and kid-friendly.

    But “19 Kids”, “Counting On”, “Sister Wives”? Nope.

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