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Series / 19 Kids and Counting

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They've had two more kids since this picture was taken.

19 Kids and Counting (formerly 17 Kids and Counting and 18 Kids and Counting) is an American Reality TV show that aired on the cable channel TLC from 2008 until its cancellation in 2015, featuring the lives of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, an ultra-religious family from Arkansas, and their children, called Josh, Jana, John-David, Jill, Jessa, Jinger, Joseph, Josiah, Joy Anna; twins Jedediah and Jeremiah; Jason, James, Justin, Jackson, Johannah, Jennifer, Jordyn, and Josie. (Sensing a theme here?)

Other family members include Grandma Duggar (Jim Bob's mother), Cousin Amy, Anna Duggar (nee Keller), Josh's wife, Jill's husband Derick Dillard, and Jessa's husband Ben Seewald.

The show follows the Duggars as they explain their unusual lifestyle raising 10 boys and 9 girls; the family is very religious, the children are homeschooled, do not dance, the girls wear long skirts rather than pants, and they don't even kiss before marriage (holding hands is okay)note .

In May 2015, the show was pulled off the air due to Josh Duggar's past child molestation accusations coming to light. On July 16, 2015 TLC announced that they would not be renewing the show for an 11th season or be reshowing any of the series' previous episodes. However, the show was effectively Un-Cancelled just 5 months later, with the premiere of Jill and Jessa: Counting On in December 2016. Ostensibly a Spin-Off created for Jill and Jessa to tell their stories relating to the revelation that older brother Josh had molested them, after the first couple episodes, the series turned right back to the original series's premise of focusing on the entire Duggar family. TLC had moved away from producing full seasons but cut all ties after Josh was arrested on child pornography charges in the spring of 2021. He would be convicted that December.

In June 2023, a four-part documentary series focused on the family was released on Prime Video. Titled Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets, it takes a critical look at both the Duggar family themselves and the particular branch of Christianity they followed (and their show subsequently promoted), the Institute in Basic Life Principles.

This show provides examples of:

  • Alliterative Family: All of the kids have names starting with a J, as does father Jim Bob. Josh’s kids all have “M” names.
  • All Men Are Perverts: While it's never specifically stated, it's heavily implied that this is the reason why the women dress very modestly. They even have a code word, "Nike", which alerts the males in the family to avert their eyes whenever a women who they deem "immodest" walks by.
  • Artistic License – History: While traveling in the British Isles, Jim Bob pointed out the building where King James wrote the King James Bible. He didn't write that translation, he only authorized it.
  • Artistic License – Medicine:
    • In the episode in which most of the children get chicken pox, Jim Bob tells them that they should be thankful because "getting the chicken pox now means you won't get shingles." In fact, the opposite is true, as shingles is a reactivation of the chicken pox virus.
    • Michelle and Jim Bob claim that their first miscarriage, the child that would have come after Josh, was lost because of her use of the birth control pill. There's no doubt from their tearful explanations of the situation that they believe this is true, but the pill doesn't really work that way.
  • Artistic License – Statistics: Jim Bob claims that A) Overpopulation is a myth, and B) The entire population can fit into Florida
    • While it's technically true that the world's population could fit into the state of Florida, it would be highly uncomfortable—the density would be about 130,000 people per square mile: about 20,000/sq. mi. denser than Manilanote , the densest city in the world. For reference, New York City has a density of about 27,000/sq. mi. Each person would have about 200 square feet to play with, which is smaller than some studio apartments—or more to the point, smaller than some rich people's kitchens. As for Jacksonville...
    • And with regard to the notion of overpopulation, the idea behind the theory was never that a too-large population would run out of room to live in, but that there wouldn't be enough food for them to eat. Exactly how large Earth's population would have to get in order to reach that point remains controversial.
    • Also, Jim Bob claims that he and Michelle spend more one on one time with their 19 children individually than a family with two children ever will.
  • Awful Wedded Life: This happens with the newlyweds who are realizing just how difficult marriage truly is. Especially since they realize the advice they received from their parents was lackluster (Jinger even admitted this). They also discuss how they have to learn to live with each other due to not being allowed to beforehand.
  • Birds of a Feather: Derick and Jill, who not only share a faith but are both very interested in doing missionary work in third-world countries.
  • Black Sheep: Jill has grown to be the most secular of the kids and has become estranged from her family since around the time of her middle son’s birth in the summer of 2017. She and Derick claim that this started when they reached out to TLC for help with their medical bills from the birth (since it was filmed for the show) and found out that all of the money flowed through Jim Bob and realizing that none of them ever saw a dime of it. Since then she wears regular clothes, attends a mainline (albeit still relatively conservative) church, sends her kids to public school, has admitted to using birth control, and drinks alcohol occasionally. She claims that she is now not allowed to be at the family home without permission from her father.
  • Blatant Lies: The family says they use plastic and glass during meals. Actually, they only use paper plates, and claim that their carbon footprint is way lower than the average family's.
  • Bowdlerise: According to Anna's father, Jesus turned water into grape juice.
  • Bowling for Ratings: "Duggars Bowled Over" sees the family going bowling to celebrate James's eighth birthday.
  • Breaking Bad News Gently: After the events mentioned under Dumb Struck, an unusually-stern Jim Bob called a family meeting to announce miscarrying Jubilee, and he and Michelle expressed their gratitude and affection for each of their children.
  • California University: Real-life example. In an effort to keep the college-aged children at home, work around the show's shooting schedule, and respond to criticism that the parents weren't letting the kids pursue higher education, the Duggar children "attend" College Plus—a program that provides tutors and study guides so they can earn college credits through CLEP tests.
  • Catchphrase: "Totally!" appears to be Jill's.
  • Censor Box: Michelle asked for these to cover her knees in a clip of her water-skiing.
  • Chastity Couple: A weird case. The couples are forbidden to do anything physical, except from side hugs and holding hands (even front hugs are a no-no) before marriage. After they say "I do", they are given free range to "be fruitful and multiply" as they please with little to no formal sexual education beforehand.
  • Cool Car: The Duggars travel in a giant bus, not unlike a campaign bus or touring bus for a band.
  • Cool House: They spent years building a large compound that has all sorts of amenities in it.
  • Costume Evolution: In the early specials the girls wore prairie dresses and the guys wore solid color shirts with khakis. When the show became more popular they notably updated their style to a more modern look. Now almost all of them wear pants.
  • Crisis of Faith: Several of the kids (those being Jill, Jessa, Jinger, and Joy) have all admitted to questioning their faith at one point.
  • Daddy's Girl:
    • Jill and Jim Bob were especially close when she was younger; he was the one who was the most emotional on her wedding day and almost couldn't bring himself to give her away. He was also the parent who went with Jill to Nepal to meet Derick. Although, they’ve become estranged since about 2017.
    • Joseph's wife Kendra and her father, Pastor Caldwell. During Joe and Kendra's wedding episode, Kendra said repeatedly that the only people she didn't feel nervous with were Joseph and her father. While lighting the unity candle, "Butterfly Kisses", a song about a close relationship between a father and daughter played.
  • Deep South: They are deep within the Bible Belt, being in Tontitown, Arkansas which is located in the Northwest corner of the state.
  • Delayed Reaction: The announcement that Michelle was pregnant with Jubilee Duggar, just before a family photo.
    Jim Bob: Everybody say, Mama'sgonnahaveanotherbaby!
    Michelle: Mama's gonna have another baby!
    Josh and Anna: Really?!?
  • Dumb Struck: After learning that Michelle had miscarried Jubilee, Michelle and Jim Bob had a somber ride home from the hospital.
  • Earth Is Young: In one of the very early episodes they state that they don't believe in evolution (though it's clear that Jana wants to believe in it), and they say the Earth is 6,000 years old.
  • El Spanish "-o": During a mission trip to El Salvador, Jim Bob tried to get a group of children to move by saying, "Back-o out of the way-o."
  • Everyone Owns a Mac: For the parental controls.
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: With 19 kids and dozens of grand kids (none of whom are adopted) it's not surprising this happens. Jill even admitted that doing it 5 to 6 times a week is a proper amount to have a happy and healthy marriage.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The titles for each special.
  • Family Theme Naming
    • Josh and Anna have carried on the theme-naming tradition with Mackynzie, Michael, Marcus, Meredith, Mason, Maryella, and Madysen.
  • Financial Abuse: The family technically never got paid for being on the show, they were just reimbursed for living expenses. However, the contracts were all signed with Jim Bob and only Jim Bob through his own production company. None of the kids ever saw a dime of the money until very late in the show’s production, around the time of Jill’s falling out with the family which was in large part due to finding this out. He used this to keep the kids under his thumb and manipulate them to staying on the show. Apparently one of them was even on food stamps at one point. It’s unclear exactly how much money Jim Bob was making a season but Derick claims to the best of his knowledge the ball park is upper 6 figures which goes a long way in rural Arkansas. He also said that when he did the math when Jim Bob did offer to pay them and the other kids, it amounted to about minimum wage.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Michelle miscarried their 20th child before the 9th season aired, however a lot of the 9th season shows them going to prenatal doctor visits.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble:
    • The five eldest daughters. Jana (melancholic), Jill (leukine), Jessa (choleric), Jinger (sanguine), and Joy (phlegmatic).
    • For the younger four: Johannah is sanguine, Jennifer is phlegmatic, Jordyn is melancholic, and Josie is choleric.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: The kids typically get engaged within several months of courtship.
  • From Special to Series: It began as a special called 14 Children and Pregnant Again! and after two more specials, it was adapted into a show. Before the cancellation, the network had moved away from producing seasons and back to specials.
  • The Fundamentalist: They are devout Independent Baptists, who follow Bill Gothard's strict interpretation of the Bible. In the early seasons, they tried downplaying this to "very conservative values".
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion:
    • As well as any form of birth control.
    • To add more to her Black Sheep status, Jill admitted that she now uses birth control.
  • Hands-Off Parenting: Despite how much they try and deny it, they are very much this. In the first special, Michelle admitted that she only "looks after the new baby until it's weaned". She created the buddy-system, where the four eldest girls raised the younger kids.
  • Happily Married: All other considerations aside, Jim-Bob and Michelle seem quite happy together.
  • Holier Than Thou: They often come across this way. Especially when they talk about how they don't do things that "normal" families do.
  • Hollywood Atlas: This family travels a lot. They've been to New York, Australia, China, Japan, Mexico...
    • Some of the family went on a mission trip to El Salvador, and it was covered on their show as well as in one of their books.
  • Idiot Ball: Common sense is not this family’s specialty:
    • The girls choosing to wear flip flops instead of hiking boots in South America. You know, that place with the dangerous snakes and spiders? They also wear them to hike up a mountain.
    • Another case occured in the second episode when Jim Bob and Michelle allowed Jackson (who was three at the time) to walk to the washroom in the airport by himself (and yes, he got lost).
    • Jessa insists on having natural home births (or in Ivy's case she originally intended on a hospital birth with limited medical help), despite how dangerous her first one was.
  • Idol Singer: Amy. She's good, but not as fantastic as the family says.
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: The boys (sans Josh) make it clear that they are very protective of their sisters. Most notably this happened with Jinger and Joy when they were first starting to court.
  • I'm a Man; I Can't Help It: The boys are warned about this.
  • The Jailbait Wait: At least three marriages involved teenagers. Those being Joy, Kendra, and Lauren who were all 19 when they tied the knot with their older husbands (Austin, Joseph, and Josiah were all in their early to mid-twenties when they married). The youngest boy who’s gotten married is Justin. He announced a courtship at just 17, got engaged on his 18th birthday to an almost 20 year old Claire, and they got married only three months later.
  • Long Runner: It originally had at least 4 specials before becoming 19 Kids and Counting that ran from 2008-2015. After it was un-canceled, it aired 11 seasons as Counting On.
  • Like Parent, Like Spouse: Out of the girls, Joy-Anna married a man who is the most similar to Jim Bob. Joe has also said that one of the reasons he married Kendra was because of her similarities to Michelle.
  • Manly Tears:
    • Jim Bob cried before he walked Jill down the aisle and doesn't seem to be at all ashamed.
    • Joseph bawled his eyes out when Kendra walked down the aisle.
    • Notably averted with Josiah, who didn’t cry when he had his 'first look' with Lauren, much to her surprise.
  • May–December Romance: Jeremy was born in 1987, while Jinger was born in 1993, making them 6 years apart.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: The name says it all.
  • Men Can't Keep House: John-David and Joseph stayed behind while the family was in Little Rock for several months to be closer to Josie in the Hospital. During that time, the older girls had to periodically go back to their home and clean the house for the boys, including throwing out moldy food.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: The boys between Joy and Jackson are more Out of Focus compared to the rest of the kids.
  • My Eyes Are Up Here: The reason for the modest dress code and the "no dancing" rule. YMMV on how well this actually works, especially in the very early specials.
  • My Nayme Is: "Jinger" is just "Ginger" spelled to match the starts-with-J naming theme.
  • New Season, New Name: The show started out as 17 Kids and Counting, then became 18, and then 19, with earnest efforts to get to 20 when it was canceled.
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: The rules in the Duggar family for the kids prior to marriage: no kissing, no holding hands, and no frontal hugs; side hugs may be okay, with permission.
  • Odd Name Out:
    • Michelle.
    • The name they say they would have given to their second child, who they lost to a miscarriage, would have been Caleb. However, had Caleb been born, they would not have had the J name theme to begin with, as they say they only decided on it after realizing their first three children were coincidentally given names that began with J.
    • Out of the kids in the house, Michelle's great nephew over whom they have custody's name is Tyler.
  • Official Couple: 'Courting' is basically this.
    • Josh and Anna
    • John-David and Abbie
    • Jill and Derick
    • Jessa and Ben
    • Joseph and Kendrs
    • Josiah and Marjorie, later on Josiah and Lauren
    • Jinger and Jeremy
    • Joy and Austin
    • Justin and Claire
  • Oh, Crap!: This happens to Josh and Anna when they find out that the big clan is coming over for a holiday dinner a day earlier than expected. It disrupts Josh's home renovation and Anna's cooking.
  • One of the Boys: Joy-Anna, who can rock climb while wearing a skirt.
  • One-Steve Limit: Heavily averted. With having 19 kids, plus dozens of grand kids, it's no wonder this happens. Even in the original line up, there's Jana, Joy-Anna, and Johannah which all seem like variations of the same name. Josiah, Joseph, and Josie are also very similar names.
    • Amongst the grandkids, there are two girls known as ‘Evy’, only three months apart.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Jim Bob's full name is James Robert, but he's been going by Jim Bob since he was young.
  • Opening Narration: The show opens with the Duggars introducing themselves as a normal American family, but bigger. Originally, members of the family elaborated a bit on just how their conservative values and large size impacted their lives and made them unique, but they soon had to cut nearly all of that out, because...
    • Introdump ...the title sequence of the show features Michelle naming every single one of her children in birth order, taking time to mention older children who have moved out, their spouses and children, and new arrivals of her own, as applicable.
  • Out of Focus:
    • Before Jim Bob’s dad passed away, he was never on the show as much as the other extended family because he didn’t agree with their lifestyle.
    • Many of the younger kids, including the chunk of boys between Joy and Johannah and also Jordyn seem to be the least active in the show.
    • When it was un-canceled and became Counting On, Anna, Jim-Bob, and Michelle were faded out for a long time. However in more recent episodes (much to viewer's dismay) the last two have become more prominent in the show.
    • Jill’s family isn’t on the show anymore but she herself occasionally pops up during family events.
  • Parental Substitute: Jim Bob and Michelle hardly seem to interact with their kids, and leave the parenting, and even home schooling their kids to the older daughters. See Promotion to Parent.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: How Michelle described Jedediah and Jeremiah in "20 years, 20 Duggars".
  • Practically Different Generations: Oldest, Josh was born in 1988, and youngest, Josie was born in 2009. This was so much so that Michelle and Anna were pregnant with Josie and Mackynzie at the same time.
    • People often group the kids into different generations; with gen one being Josh to Jeremiah, and gen two being Jason to Josie.
  • Promotion to Parent: The "buddy system", where each new child is assigned an older sibling to look after, especially true for the four oldest girls.
  • The Quiet One: Joseph doesn't talk very much.
  • Quirky Curls:
    • In the earlier seasons, the four eldest daughters did homemade perms making their hair into tight curls.
    • Michelle looks like she hasn't updated her hair since the 80s. Though, it's not as bad as it was during the early specials.
  • Sex Is Evil: It's clear Jim Bob and Michelle believe that any kind of physical relationship before marriage is a sin.
  • Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: The family strongly opposes any kind of premarital sex (even hugs are a no-no), and many believe the kids who marry in their teens are desperate to explore their sexuality.
  • Scenery Dissonance: In one episode Jill was calmly practicing the harp whilst being interviewed. Two seconds later you could hear a blood curdling scream and a smack. Which was Jason falling 12 feet into an orchestra pit.
  • Science Is Wrong: When they go to the Creation Museum, they are quick to dismiss any views on evolution. They even said that they tend to stay away from science museums that teach differently than the Bible.
  • Sibling Seniority Squabble: Jana is three minutes older than John David.
  • Sibling Team: Invoked with the buddy system which in practice was the brunt of childrearing falling in the older girls.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: Jessa does a spot-on and rather hilarious imitation of a smitten Jill in season 8.
  • Snowed-In: "Duggars on Ice" and "Duggars' Big Thaw."
  • Spin-Off:
    • Jill and Jessa: Counting On premiered 5 months after the show was cancelled, and has effectively simply become the new name for the show.
    • Amy and Dillon focuses on Duggar cousin Amy (who was a frequent guest star on the original show) and her husband Dillon King, and their not-quite-as-conservative marriage and relationship.
  • Standard Snippet: Amazing Freaking Grace is an important song to this family.
  • Switching P.O.V.: At various points in their books, Jim Bob and Michelle both refer to themselves as "I", adding their respective names in parentheses as needed.
  • The Talk: Jim Bob gave this to eldest son Josh on his wedding day. It involved Legos.
  • The Teetotaler: No one in the family is allowed to drink any form of alcohol, or use any mind-altering substances. Although Jill now occasionally drinks alcohol.
  • Therapy Is for the Weak:
    • Despite several of the kids admitting to having mental health issues, they highly discourage any form of therapy.
    • This is averted with Jill who is actively seeking professional therapy for her childhood trauma.
  • Those Two Girls: Jessa and Jinger are very close. Not only in age (they're Irish twins), but they seem to be the best of friends and often do interviews together.
  • Those Two Guys: Jackson and Johannah are very close, and often did interviews together.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Johannah is active, brave and reckless, Jennifer is shy, gentle and likes to pick out her own outfits, the (former) tomboy Joy-Anna and her four older "ladylike" sisters.
  • Trademark Favorite Foods: Dill pickles, Tater Tot Casserole. Grandpa loved ketchup.
  • Two First Names: Jim Bob, John David, Joy Anna, and Jordyn-Grace.
  • Verbal Tic: Jim Bob often says "but uh" in most interviews. The kids often say "and so" during interviews.
  • With Us or Against Us: Jim Bob and Michelle don't like it when their kids stray from their lifestyle. This is made clear with Jill, who's now estranged from her parents.