The Bates Family of 21 Takes on Reality TV

Aug 8, 2012 2:32pm

The Bates family of East Tennessee is a wholesome Christian family like any other, multiplied by 19.

Parents Gil and Kelly Jo Bates have 19 mouths to feed, 19 sets of laundry to wash and 19 developing brains to educate, but they’re not complaining.

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They aren’t complaining.

“We actually thought that we wouldn’t have many children but God just showed us how precious children are,” Kelly Jo Bates said today on “Good Morning America,” alongside Gil and their 19 children.  “The Bible says they [children] are blessed.”

The Bates’ larger-than-life family will be the stars of  a new reality show, “The United Bates of America,” that will premiere Monday, Aug. 13 on TLC.

But to watch the show, the Bates will have to make an adjustment in their crowded life. They will have to get a television set.

Kelly Jo Bates gave up her career early on in the couple’s marriage to raise their children, which now totals 10 girls and 9 boys ranging in age from 23 down to baby Jeb.  Kelly Jo home-schools the whole brood on her own in the family’s home in the Tennessee hills while Gil runs a tree-cutting business with the help of his sons.

Despite that single income, the Bates family manages to live debt-free, mortgage free and uses no credits by following a simple philosophy.

“If we have the money we go get it and if we don’t, we don’t. Everything is cash,” Gil said.  “We try to work hard.  We try to find the best buy and we live within our means.”

The Bates admitted they had some hesitation about putting their lives in front of the camera for all the world to see but were motivated to do so by another famously large clan, the Duggars, on whose own TLC show, ” “19 Kids and Counting,” they’ve made guest appearances.

“We had kind of shied away from doing a reality show,” Gil said.  “But after being on the show with the Duggars a few times we got so much response about people asking questions about family and the choices we made we thought if somehow our mistakes and successes…could be encouragement to someone else that we thought maybe we could use it as a platform for other people to love God, love their family and love others.”

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While the Bates – who describe themselves now as “content with whatever the Lord” chooses for them in terms of having more children – are following in the steps of the Duggars and other families made famous by reality TV, don’t expect them to go completely Hollywood.

When asked about the biggest star, Kim Kardashian, in the family that has taken reality TV to new heights,  not one of the Bates had any idea who she was.

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