Who Needs 'Jon & Kate'? TLC Forges Ahead

As of last year, the highest-rated show in TLC's history was the Season 5 premiere of Jon & Kate Plus 8. No doubt Jon Gosselin rattled some network bosses when he decided to yank himself and his kids off the air shortly thereafter!

At some point during the tense negotiations with Gosselin, those TLC executives probably wondered, "Is there life after Jon & Kate Plus 8?" A year and a half later, the answer turns out to be: Heck yeah.

This Sunday night's lineup says it all. TLC is airing new episodes of three ratings-grabbers in a row: 19 Kids and Counting: Duggars Make a Movie (8 p.m. ET); Sarah Palin's Alaska (9 p.m. ET); and Sister Wives: Honeymoon Special (10 p.m. ET).

Each week, The Duggars attract over a million viewers. Sister Wives averages over two million.  (The season finale attracted 2.7 million.) And the premiere episode of Sarah Palin's Alaska attracted nearly 5 million viewers, breaking new ratings records for TLC.  

Clearly, TLC has learned a thing or two about how to attract viewers. Their former calling card -- wedding and baby stories -- was fine, but igniting debates on polarizing subjects is much more lucrative.

Should people have more children than they can fit in a minivan? (Or three minivans?) Are polygamous families just like the rest of us, despite their illegal status? (Even when the show itself provokes a police investigation?) Is Palin a genuine, country-loving mom, or a calculating, political operative? We could debate these issues for years, and that's what the network is counting on. With all due respect to Jon and Kate, TLC doesn't need them anymore. They've found their controversy-courting formula, and they're sticking with it.

What do you think of TLC's programming this year? Chime in below!

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