WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 17: Michelle Duggar (L) and Jim Bob Duggar of The Learning Channel TV show "1...
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New Duggar Family Docuseries Will Explore The Dark Side Of Reality Show & It Premieres Soon

Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets takes a deep dive into both the Duggar’s TLC brand and the strict religious organization that inspired them.

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For years, the Duggars were a mainstay of the media landscape. Headed by Jim Bob and Michelle, the prodigious family straddled the line between spectacle and adorable, never shying from their conservative Christian principles, but never delving too deeply into them either. A new docuseries Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets explores this seemingly squeaky clean family, as well as the crimes, scandals, and revelations that shattered the Duggars’ wholesome facade. Here’s what you need to know going into the series, including how to watch.

How to watch Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets.

The four-part docuseries premieres on June 2 on Amazon Prime and all episodes will be released at once.

What can we expect? “A limited docuseries exposing the truth beneath the wholesome Americana surface of reality TV’s favorite mega-family, The Duggars, and the radical organization behind them: The Institute in Basic Life Principles,” the synopsis reads. “As details of the family and their scandals unfold, we realize they’re part of an insidious, much larger threat already in motion, with democracy itself in peril.”

The Duggars were on TV from 2004 to 2020.

The Duggars’ first television appearance was a one-hour special on TLC called 14 Children and Pregnant Again. Four years and three children later, the family had their own series 17 Kids and Counting (its final iteration would be 19 Kids and Counting), which ran from 2008 to 2015. After being cancelled (more on that in a bit), the family maintained a media presence with a spin-off series called Counting On, which followed the older children as they began getting married and having children and ran until 2020.

The Duggars were part of the Institute on Basic Life Principles.

Within minutes of their very first TLC special, the narrator makes clear the family’s brand: “To the average parent ... 14 children is unusual. But a combination of organization, ingenuity, team spirit, and a heavy dose of faith has helped the Duggars create a world that bears as much resemblance to the Waltons as it does to life here in the 21st century.” (For those among us too young to catch the references, The Waltons was a long-running historical drama that aired from the early-’70s to the early-’80s about a large, folksy, wholesome family in rural Virginia.)

It’s a brand that was honed within the Duggar household via the Institute on Basic Life Principles (IBLP), a strict, nondenominational Christian organization founded by Bill Gothard. The IBLP, which has been categorized by some as a cult, places an emphasis on the idea of hierarchy (known within the institute as the Umbrella of Protection) in which a father is the unquestioned leader of his family. IBLP members are expected to have as many children as possible and strictly adhere to the rigid, extremely conservative beliefs and practices of the institution. For years, the Duggars were considered poster children for the organization.

The Duggar family in the 2010s.NBC NewsWire/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

The Duggar brand, and the IBLP, suffered a fall from grace in the 2010s.

In 2014, Bill Gothard, the founder and leader of IBLP was accused of sexual misconduct by former employees and volunteers of the organization. He was placed on administrative leave. Though the purported victims dropped their lawsuit in 2018, citing “unique complexities” and the statute of limitations, by that time more than 30 women had come forward.

In 2015, just one year after allegations had been lodged against Gothard, In Touch reported that Josh Duggar, the eldest of the eponymous 19 children, had molested five girls, including four of his sisters, as a teenager. Despite the fact that multiple accounts of abuse had occurred between 2002 and 2003, which Josh admitted to his parents as early as March 2002, Jim Bob did not go to the police. Instead, he consulted church elders and a former Arkansas state trooper, Joseph Truman Hutchens, who reportedly gave Josh a “very stern talk,” but took no further action in July 2003. (Incidentally, Hutchens is currently serving a 56 year prison sentence on child pornography charges.)

No formal police investigation was conducted until 2006, after an anonymous email was sent to The Oprah Winfrey Show alleging abuse prior to a scheduled appearance by the Duggars. Harpo Studios sent the letter to the Department of Human Services Hot Line and canceled the appearance, launching the first formal investigation into the matter. But because the report hadn’t been filed until 2006, the statute of limitations had expired and no charges could be filed. 19 Kids and Counting was not renewed for another season. (Though that same year, the family signed on to Counting On, which focused mainly on the older girls.)

Over the next four years, Josh was embroiled in a series of scandals and lawsuits — including allegations of sexual assault by a sex worker and admitting to being unfaithful to his wife via Ashley Madison, a website for married people who want to have affairs. In 2021, Josh was charged with possession of child pornography, and was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2022.

Josh Duggar’s arrest photo.Handout/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Some Duggars family have already spoken out against aspects of their upbringing.

Jill Dillard, the fourth of the Duggar children, is currently estranged from her parents and is the only one of the “19 kids” to participate in interviews of Shiny Happy People. She and her husband Derick have announced the publication of a memoir, Counting the Cost, that “details [their] painful journey as part of the reality-show-filming Duggar family.” In an interview with Romper earlier this year, Jinger Vuolo (child #6) spoke warmly of her family, but full-throatedly condemned the IBLP, categorizing the teachings of the organization as “harmful” and “abusive.”

Jim Bob and Michelle have spoken out against the documentary.

On June 1, the same day the series was released on Amazon, Jim Bob and Michelle posted a statement on the Duggar family website.

“The recent ‘documentary’ that talks about our family is sad because in it we see the media and those with ill intentions hurting people we love,” they wrote. “Like other families, ours too has experienced the joys and heartbreaks of life, just in a very public format. ... We have always believed that the best chance to repair damaged relationships, or to reconcile differences, is through love in a private setting. We love every member of our family and will continue to do all we can to have a good relationship with each one.”

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