'Quints by Surprise' parents say show creates great memories
At the risk of providing y'all with angry comment fodder (and incurring the wrath of several new parents in the newsroom), I have a confession to make:
I don't like babies.
It's not that I actively dislike them — I just don't have much use for children until I can hold a decent conversation with them. Don't get me wrong ... I have two kids and I love them more than anything in the world. But the first nine months of each of their lives totaled the worst year and a half I have ever endured.
So you can understand my ambivalence when I discovered that yet another show about a family with multiple children — TLC's "Quints by Surprise" — was hitting the airwaves.
For starters, there are a lot of babies (we've already covered that). Then there's the fact that these invasive and voyeuristic shows seem to have the potential to destroy apparently well-intentioned families — I first became exposed to the genre when y'all became fascinated with Jon and Kate Gosselin's meltdown. And Jennifer Masche has filed for legal separation from her husband, Bryan, who was recently accused of resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and threatening domestic violence. Masche seeks sole custody of the couple's children, who starred with their parents in two seasons of WeTV's "Raising Sextuplets."
But "Quints" stars an Austin couple, meaning I needed to watch.
The show sure makes Casey and Ethan Jones seem like ordinary, level-headed, caring parents and spouses: They put their Steiner Ranch house on the market as they downsize because of the poor economy; he struggles to complete an MBA; they take their babies (and the quintuplets' older sister) out onto the lake to watch fireworks. But didn't the Gosselins seem as if they had good heads on their shoulders at first?
Readers have been vocal about the show on the TV Blog (www.austin360.com/tvblog).
"It's unfortunate that these parents learned nothing by watching what happened to families of multiples that have chosen the same path," wrote one commenter, clearly not a fan. Another wrote, "No amount of ‘sugar coating' is going to make this family sweet. They have sold their children's privacy to the highest bidder."
Other readers defended the family: "I love this show because the dad actually acts like he really loves his wife and kids, and they don't fight constantly like the other reality shows."
As the show wraps up its first season Monday, Oct. 4, I decided to check in with high-school sweethearts Casey and Ethan. Here are some highlights of our conversation:
American-Statesman: You must be aware of the controversy surrounding other shows about multiples. What conversations did you have with each other when you were deciding whether to do the show? What concerns or reservations did you have?
Casey Jones: In no way have we ever compared ourselves to those other families; each family is just so different. Ethan and I know what our relationship is based on and how our family runs, and we always said that if we got to a point where (the show) was too stressful for either one of us or it was causing any issues that we would stop. So far we've just had a great time with this; it's been a wonderful experience.
So you didn't have any concerns or reservations at all?
Ethan Jones: We may have had some thoughts about the privacy issue. Obviously, we discussed it as a family and talked about potential pitfalls and troubles and challenges that may come our way. But we didn't feel like, from the outset, that it wasn't anything that we couldn't overcome as we, like Casey said, put our family first, put our marriage first, and everything else is secondary to that.
Casey Jones: Yeah, we're just really anxious to get our story out there, and we just felt like there were so many more positive things that could come out of this than negatives that it was worth going for.
Has the experience been what you expected it would be?
Casey Jones: Yeah, it really has. There have not really been any big surprises. We've got a really good relationship with (the production company) and we've always been able to be really just upfront and honest about how we feel about everything. And they've been great about working with us and our needs and our concerns. Any time there's any type of a little issue, we come forward with that and it's resolved.
What is the actual process of the show? How often are there cameras around you and your family?
Casey Jones: It's always different. Sometimes we might have a couple of weeks go by where we don't do any filming at all. And then the next week we might film three or four days. It just depends on what's going on in our lives, you know? Some people think that the cameras are here 24/7 and that they're filming every single thing we do. It's not constant filming. No one spends the night at our home; we don't wake up in the morning with a camera in our face. We always know when they're going to be here; it's planned out.
Have you ever been asked to do anything differently with the cameras around that you wouldn't have done normally?
Ethan Jones: No. We just wanted to share the experience — the ups and the downs, the struggles and victories — the whole deal. We just wanted to be ourselves, and that's what we've been able to do with the cameras around. And that's actually kind of the really fun part about it. There's no acting involved. It's just being ourselves and having fun as a family.
Do you think the way you are portrayed is accurate?
Casey Jones: Yeah, that's one of the things that we love about it — that's us up there. And to us it just looks like great home videos. It's going to be great to show the kids when they're older. Not many people get this opportunity, so we just feel really fortunate that we've been able to do this.
Ethan Jones: It's exciting to watch, because they're filming when we're doing a lot of cool stuff as a family. It's a neat experience, and we're just trying to soak it up.
Casey Jones: And it's fun because sometimes they might be filming Ethan, something he's doing with the kids, and I'm not there at the time. So I see a lot of things for the first time once the show is put together.
How have your lives changed? Do you get recognized?
Casey Jones: Since the series started, there have been a few times when we've been out in Austin, you know, eating at restaurants and things like that where people have said stuff to us, or sometimes when I'm at the grocery store I've had someone stop me. But it hasn't been overwhelming.
Are you aware that there are people who think that you might be exploiting your children? How do you respond to those people?
Ethan Jones: Yeah, we're aware of that, and we just laugh. I mean, it's the silliest thing to think that filming your kids while they're playing at a park is exploiting them. It's absolutely absurd to us. If people want to think that way, there's really nothing we can do for them. We obviously don't agree, and I don't think our kids will agree 20 years from now when they're looking back on these videos and memories that we've created.
Casey Jones: Our kids aren't actors. We don't ask them to say anything or do things that we wouldn't normally do as a family. We don't work long hours, and everything that we do is just fun. It's no different than one of us holding a video camera, filming what we do.
Are you happy that you decided to do the show, and would you make the same choice again?
Casey Jones: Definitely, yeah. We have no regrets.
Ethan Jones: We're having fun, and we hope it continues. And we still stand by our pledge to each other that if it ever becomes where it's not fun and not beneficial to our family, then we'll pull the plug. But we don't see that happening anytime soon.
Casey Jones: And something else about the show: 99 percent of the feedback we get from people is positive. People e-mail us all the time and tell us that they're very touched by our story. We get a lot of people that are going through fertility issues themselves, and we have just gotten so much positive feedback from doing this show, and that's what we focus on. There's that small, small, small percentage of people out there that, you know, voice their opinions in a negative way toward us, but we just don't let that bother us because they're definitely the minority.
Have you heard anything about a second season?
Casey Jones: We don't know.
Ethan Jones: We're waiting to hear from TLC.
'Quints by Surprise': 8 p.m. Mondays, TLC