‘Counting On’: How Did the Duggar Family Initially Get on Television?

The Duggar family has been on television for so long that it’s hard to remember where it all started. The supersized family has grown and morphed over the years. They’ve weathered scandals and celebrated marriages and births in front of the camera. They have also grieved unimaginable losses, all while the cameras rolled. Now moving into a new season of Counting On, fans are trying to remember exactly how the family ended up on television in the first place.

It all started with specials

The world’s very first introduction to the Duggar family came in September 2004. A one-hour special entitled 14 Children and Pregnant Again! followed the Duggar family as they awaited the birth of their 15th child, Jackson. Jackson, for those who want to feel old, is now learning to drive. Two years later the family returned for a second special titled Raising 16 Children. During the episode, audiences watched as the family crammed themselves into a three-bedroom rental home. The special also featured the birth of the family’s 16th child, Johannah.

Three more specials would eventually follow. 16 Children and Moving in followed the family as they finished up work on the home they built. On the Road with 16 Children followed the family as they road-tripped across the Western United States. The final special followed the family as their 17th child, Jennifer, was born.

The era of 19 Kids and Counting and Counting On

In 2008 the Duggar family finally received a series. The inaugural episode followed the family as they took on New York City. The rest of the season focused on Josh Duggar and his impending marriage to Anna. The family would appear in ten seasons of the show before it was yanked from the airwaves following Josh’s molestation scandal. The show’s final episode aired in May 2015.

It wouldn’t be long before the family returned to the airwaves in a new spinoff show, Counting On. Counting On debuted in December 2015, and followed the lives of Jessa Duggar and Jill Duggar as they moved away from their family and started families f their own. Ten seasons in, Counting On now follows several of the Duggar couples, and has recently welcomed Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar back into the fold.

How did the Duggar family end up on TV in the first place?

The Duggar family was discovered when Jim Bob ran for the U.S. Senate in 2002. According to The Encyclopedia of Arkansas, the New York Times ran a photo of the supersized family heading to the polls. From there, the family was contacted by Ladies’ Home Journal and Parents Magazine for interviews. Then a family of 13, reporters were interested in how the family made things work. Jim Bob lost his senate bid.

AJ Calloway and Hilaria Baldwin pose with the Duggar family during their visit with "Extra"
AJ Calloway and Hilaria Baldwin pose with the Duggar family | D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra

The interviews allegedly caught the attention of the executives at Discovery Health. The Duggars were then approached by the company to do a special. According to sources, the Duggars only agreed to take part in the special if their faith was highlighted. The stellar ratings of the first special eventually led to more, which the family then parlayed into a series.