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Legal Run-Ins Pose Pitfalls For Cable Reality Purveyors

Stars of MTV’s Teen Mom 2 and TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting find themselves embroiled in allegations of criminal behavior, once again demonstrating the potential pitfalls of reality shows built around previously unknown individuals who later get themselves into trouble.

Teen Mom 2 star Jenelle Evans turned herself in to law enforcement officials in Florida last Thursday (May 28) after allegedly assaulting ex-fiancé Nathan Griffith at his home two days earlier, according to Evans turned herself in with an MTV crew in tow filming the arrest, TMZ reported last week.

The series’ sixth season, featuring Evans, is slated to debut July 9. MTV officials would not comment on the Evans arrest, but said that episode is expected to premiere as scheduled in July.

The network also would not comment on reports that it filmed the arrest.

The 23-year old Evans has been in trouble with the law several times since debuting in the MTV reality series in 2011. She was arrested this past February in South Carolina for driving without a license.

The series generated a ratings bounce in season five, averaging 4.6 million viewers (on a live-plus-3-day basis), up from the 3.5 million viewers the series averaged during its season four campaign, according to Nielsen.

Meanwhile the fallout continues for TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting after the network pulled the show from its slate amid allegations that the conservative Duggar family’s eldest son, Josh, molested several girls when he was a young teen.

While the network has yet to say it would cancel the series, several major advertisers have reportedly pulled out of the show, including blue-chip companies Walmart, CVS Pharmacy, Choice Hotels and Payless Shoes.

OTT service Hulu last week dropped 19 Kids and Counting episodes from its programming menu. While descriptions of several episodes remain on the streaming service, a click takes you to a page that does not exist.

Hulu executives could not be reached for comment on the matter.

TLC executives would not comment on 19 Kids and Counting’s future or on the advertiser pullouts.

When TLC pulled 19 Kids and Counting from its lineup on May 22, it said at the time, “We are deeply saddened and troubled by this heartbreaking situation, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and victims at this difficult time.”

19 Kids and Counting is one of the network’s most popular shows. Its 10th season, which ended last month, averaged 2.3 million viewers, more than double the 1 million viewers TLC averaged during the first quarter of 2015.

It is also the second high-profile show to be pulled from TLC’s lineup in the last 12 months. Last October, the network cancelled Here Comes Honey Boo Boo after series star “Mama June” Shannon was reportedly dating a convicted child molester.

In February, sister network Discovery Channel cancelled Amish Mafia, a spinoff of TLC’s Breaking Amish, after three seasons when chocolate giant The Hershey Co., based in Lancaster County, Pa., said it would not run ads during Amish-themed programming on Discovery Communications outlets. DiscoveryChannel pulled the plug on its firearms-based docuseries Sons of Guns last August after series star Will Hayden was arrested on child-molestation charges.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.