A Timeline of the Duggar Family's Rise to Fame and Fall From Grace

The Duggar family spent 17 years on television. From their first special, aired by TLC in 2004, until their final episode in March 2021, they’ve garnered interest. First, viewers looked at them with curiosity, trying to figure out how they managed to make it all work with so many kids in the house. Then, the family managed to amass a loyal fan base. In more recent years, they’ve caught the attention of critics who have pointed out serious issues within the family’s dynamic. Their rise to fame is easy to track, as is their fall from grace. 

The Duggar family rose to fame in 2004 with a TV special 

The Duggar family showed up on TLC for the first time in 2004. The family was well-known in their community, but the world had yet to learn about the supersized family in Northwest Arkansas. If the first special didn’t bring them instant fame, the second and third ones did. By the time the third special aired in 2006, the Duggars were gaining fans quickly.  

By 2007, they had a full-blown television show, and Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar hosted parenting seminars across the country. In 2008, the couple published their first book. In 2011 a second book was released, and in 2014, the Duggar daughters got in on the action. Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger Duggar penned a nonfiction book about relationships. Three of the four have since gone on to marry and start families of their own. Things were going well on the show, too. Then, 2015 happened. Back-to-back scandals threatened to dismantle the Duggar family’s carefully constructed persona. To be fair, there were rumors of trouble long before that, though. 

Murmurings of trouble within the family started back in 2006

While most casual viewers assume the Duggar family enjoyed many years of drama-free stardom, that’s not exactly the case. There were murmurings of trouble within the family as early as 2006, the year before 19 Kids and Counting premiered on TLC. According to USA Today, the police investigated the family in 2006 after the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline received an anonymous tip. Reportedly, Harpo Studios, the production company behind the Oprah Winfrey Show, received an anonymous email outlining the abuse, too. The production company forwarded the email to the Department of Human Services Hot Line and canceled the family’s scheduled appearance. 

The investigation wasn’t the end of it, either. In 2007 an internet user who went by the moniker Alice wrote a lengthy blog comment outlining sexual abuse within the family. The comment also made sweeping accusations about Jim Bob and Michelle’s parenting and family matriarch Mary Duggar’s involvement in the media machine. 

Josh Duggar’s back-to-back scandals in 2015 threatened the family’s media empire 

While there were rumors about the family swirling before 2015, the first concrete evidence of trouble was made public in 2015. In May 2015, In Touch published a police report outlining several instances of Josh Duggar molesting his younger sisters. The lengthy police report confirmed much of what Alice revealed in the blog comment. TLC suspended the series but later canceled it after backlash. 

In August 2015, just a few months after the molestation allegations were made public, Josh again found himself in the spotlight. Josh admitted to being unfaithful to his wife after his name was included in the Ashley Madison data breach. Josh resigned from his job and spent several months in a religious rehabilitation program. His wife, Anna Duggar, left Washington DC and settled back in Arkansas with the Duggar family. 

Josh Duggar’s 2015 scanals wasn’t the end of the Duggar family’s television career, but his arrest was

The cancelation of 19 Kids and Counting was not the end of the Duggar family’s TV career. Several months after its original cancelation, the show came back, rebranded, as Counting On. The rebranded series aired from 2015 until 2021 when TLC cut ties with the family following Josh’s arrest on two child pornography charges. 

The 33-year-old used car salesman had not appeared on the series, but viewers had spied his wife, Anna, and their children from time to time. Before Josh’s arrest, some Duggar family critics feared TLC was planning to reintegrate the family’s eldest son onto the show. That never happened. Jim Bob and Michelle, however, did appear in the show’s final season, despite its focus on the family’s children. A federal judge has set his trial for November 2021. 

At this time, TLC doesn’t appear to have any plans to bring the family back to the network. There aren’t any public plans for the Duggars to appear on any other channel, either. Jessa Seewald, Jill Dillard, and several other Duggar family members regularly post on social media and YouTube. Jessa featured the birth of her fourth child, Fern Seewald, in a YouTube video. TLC filmed the birth of her first three children. 

How to get help: In the U.S., call the RAINN National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to connect with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area. 

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