They've been featured on countless talk shows and magazine covers as well as their own TLC program. Now the Gosselins are serving as the inspiration for Law & Order''s Oct. 16 episode.
The episode titled "Reality Bites" (not to be confused with the 1994 movie about Gen Xers) focuses on the star of Larry Plus 10, a Jon & Kate Plus Eight-type reality show about a dad raising 10 adopted special-needs children after his wife is killed.
"It seems to be coming at a good time," Law & Order executive producer Rene Balcer tells TVGuide.com. "Aside from people being amused, bemused, disgusted and shocked at their exploits, [people] are probably looking for some other perspective on it."
"Reality Bites" spotlights the competition between two families, Larry Johnson's and another clan comparable to that of Octomom Nadya Suleman, as they compete to get their own reality show when Larry's wife is murdered.
"The original inspiration was the murder of the couple in Florida who had a whole house full of special-needs kids that they had adopted and they had nothing to do with reality TV," says Balcer, who's also the head writer of the long-running NBC drama that often does topical episodes. "As we started working on that story, all the stuff with Jon & Kate Plus Eight, the Octomom and those couple of other shows with families with multiples started to feed into that."
Johnson becomes a suspect in his wife's slaying, but so does the Octomom-inspired character. "The babysitter is a suspect. One of the kids, who's a teenager, is a suspect. The teenager's friend is a suspect," Balcer says. "We've got lots of suspects."
Balcer says scenes highlighting Larry Plus 10 were informed directly by reality shows, even down to wiring a house for sound and those "confessionals" that can be staple of such programs.
He also hinted that viewers will see some unlikely but familiar faces in front of the camera. "In order to get some evidence, the prosecutors have to make some deal with the producer of the reality TV show," he says. "In order for him to turn over some evidence, they agree to appear on the reality TV show and submit themselves to these confessionals on cameras."
Besides the whodunit aspect, Balcer says there's the question of whether the episode will change people's attitudes about TV-friendly families such as the Gosselins and Octomom. "It may make, in some ways, both the producers and subjects of reality shows less sympathetic [to viewers]," he says. "Why would you want to subject your kids to that kind of intrusion?"
Does "Reality Bites" sound like a clever ripped-from-the-headlines episode?