Hit & Run: Keep it in the family

Wednesday 22 January 2014 05:20
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If you were shocked by this week's pictures of Katie Price cavorting in Ibiza while her newly-estranged husband Peter Andre was left looking after their children, you ain't seen nothing yet. American reality television show Jon & Kate Plus 8 goes one better: take a couple, struggling to bring up a set of twins and sextuplets, throw alleged infidelity into the mix and a high profile separation, and you've got enough schadenfreude to fill gossip magazines for months.

But while in America it has been billed as one of the most colourful stories in reality TV history, attracting up to 10 million viewers an episode, the British public has hitherto been left in the dark. So if it helps, think of it as Katie and Peter Stateside, with childcare replacing topless modelling. The story goes like this: Pennsylvania-based Jon and Kate Gosselin married in June 1999 after a brief romance, trying for a baby immediately. Kate, a 34-year-old nurse, underwent fertility treatment and had twins in October 2000. Trying for another child in 2002, Kate had more fertility treatment and was shocked to discover after ultrasound that she was carrying six embryos. Bingo! Kate gave birth to six healthy babies in 2004. The pair was pounced upon by producers working with the Discovery Channel, who proposed a one-hour television feature; the reality series soon followed. The first episode of Jon & Kate Plus 8 – the story of the couple struggling to come to terms with their newly-expanded family – aired in July 2007. There have now been five seasons (since season three it has aired on niche cable channel TLC).

While originally it had limited appeal, last April the story of their relationship went supernova. Jon was photographed leaving a nightclub with "friend", Deanna Hummel. Hummel's brother helpfully confirmed to the newspapers that she and Jon were seeing each other and reports of Kate's infidelity followed. On Monday night the disintegration of their marriage reached its apotheosis: the pair confirmed they are separating. The current series has been put on hold while they sort out their differences.

Whatever the morals of following a family in meltdown (and who is H&R to criticise?) the pair would be best to string things out a little. They are said to receive $150,000 an episode. There are also rumours that Jon's new girlfriend might appear in forthcoming broadcasts. Sheesh. If our own reality heroes are anything to go by, the circus has only just begun. Rob Sharp

You're never too young for your first phone – apparently

We could soon be living in a world bedevilled by the trill of Charlie and Lola ringtones and the cry of: "Hello ... I'm on the tricycle." Such is the nightmare vision of the future afforded by news that a mobile phone is being marketed at four-year-olds. The brightly-coloured Firefly, of which 7,000 handsets have already been sold at £85 a pop in Ireland, is about to wend its way into the hands of a toddler near you. This is not a welcome development but while some have already declared their arrival the beginning of the end of childhood as we know it (even though more than half of under 10s already possess a mobile) all might not be lost providing a few simple etiquette rules are followed.

Parents should insist tots' mobiles are placed on silent mode during nursery and childminder sessions, while texting during meal and bath times should also be banned. Ring tones might be confined to less irritating theme tunes (how about 64 Zoo Lane or even the soothing sound of In the Night Garden?) while the fitting of a hands-free device to scooters and trikes could limit the scope for accidents. Alternatively you could just not buy them one. Jonathan Brown

Manchester's mass media hermit prepares to go live

Roger Crab was a hermit. The 17th century writer lived a life of isolation on a diet of roots and herbs. He did not blog, obviously. Nor would he have done, for the life of a hermit – one who "retires from society and lives in solitude", according to my dictionary – surely doesn't include chatting with the online masses. Unless, that is, you're Ansuman Biswas. The Calcutta-born artist is packing his bags (I'm watching it live on his blog – it's as dull as it sounds) as he prepares to become the "Manchester Hermit". Starting on Saturday, he'll spend eight weeks holed up in the tower of the Manchester Museum. Biswas, 43, beat 60 other applicants to the post, and while the Lindow Man, knocking on a bit at 2,000-years-old, will be his only human company, he will present an object a day from the institution's stores via his blog tinyurl.com/nhsotd, inviting correspondents to submit comments in which they "imagine a world without it". In doing so, he may well become the world's most gregarious hermit. What next? @hermit Tweets? Youtube.com/hermit? Crab, one imagines, would not be impressed. Simon Usborne

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