By FRAZIER MOOREAP Television Writer
NEW YORK You might say our national nightmare is over. Or is it just a TV series?
In any case, TLC's reality show "Jon & Kate Plus 8" will end its spectacular but stormy run Monday at 9 p.m. EST.
During this final hour, Jon and Kate Gosselin, the estranged parents of young twins and sextuplets, will venture on separate outings with the kids. (Jon will take them to a fire station near the family home in Wernersville, Pa. With Kate, they visit a local dairy farm.) Individually, each newly single parent will reflect on what the past has meant and what the future might hold.
And that will be that, says TLC.
It would seem the series is going out with a grateful sigh of relief, if not a whimper, after months in the midst of noise and upheaval. The feuding couple's split came to dominate the series, as well as helping fuel a firestorm of tabloid coverage.
It was all good for ratings, of course. When the pair made their separation official on a "Jon & Kate" episode that aired in June, it was seen by a remarkable 10.6 million viewers.
After that, production and airing of the series lurched in fits and starts to accommodate the Gosselins' unraveling home life.
Outside the show, both Jon and Kate made dueling he-said-she-said appearances on the talk-show circuit.
It was all quite a change from 2007, when the series first clicked with viewers for its heartwarming look at a devoted couple and the challenges they faced rearing eight young children.
Then, in September, a revamped series was announced. "Jon & Kate Plus 8" was meant to segue smoothly into "Kate Plus Eight" this month, concentrating on the kids and their mom.
TLC's president and general manager, Eileen O'Neill, described the new concept as "not a huge shift," and said Jon Gosselin would still be involved, though in a reduced role.
But that plan was apparently torpedoed by his objections to having the children displayed any longer on TV. Any filming of the kids has been halted for weeks.
"'Kate Plus Eight' is not in production," TLC spokeswoman Laurie Goldberg said Thursday. "We are focusing on the launch of Kate's new series in early spring."
She said no details were available on what kind of show it might be.
For now, a case of viewer fatigue with the Gosselins and their domestic drama might be understandable. A pair of episodes premiering earlier this week averaged 2.1 million viewers.
Meanwhile, safely off-screen, the drama continues.
Along with the divorce battle between the Gosselins, who've been wed for a decade, the end of "Jon & Kate" leaves unresolved a thicket of lawsuits entangling the warring spouses and the network.
Recently, Jon Gosselin filed a lawsuit against TLC, claiming television producers violated Pennsylvania's child labor laws in filming the show. It was filed in response to a network lawsuit alleging Gosselin failed to meet his obligations to TLC. (The network has said it retains an exclusive talent arrangement with him, as well as the rest of the family.)
In a separate matter, Gosselin was ordered to return $180,000 to a joint account he shared with his estranged wife.
But none of that need trouble viewers who are ready for a break. The final fade-out of "Jon & Kate" is nigh. Then sweetness will replace any bitter aftertaste in the "Jon & Kate" time slot, soon to be inherited by baker Buddy Valastro and his reality series "Cake Boss."