Lynette Rice
May 29, 2009 AT 04:32 AM EDT

Judging by the body language in the May 25 series premiere of TLC’s Jon & Kate Plus 8,

it seemed as if Jon and Kate Gosselin could barely stay in

the same room together. But for right now, they (appear to) have no

other choice: The parents of multiples are contracted for a total of

40 episodes this year. This won’t make for the show’s longest season — last year, TLC aired 52 episodes — but it’s a significant number when you consider that the standard reality show on broadcast TV only runs for either 13 or 22 weeks. But then, most of the unscripted shows on the Big Four nets are hour-longs and aren’t shot docu-style (read: inexpensive), like Jon & Kate, TLC’s most successful franchise.

Fortunately for the Gosselins, the producers aren’t typically filming the

Pennsylvania clan around the clock. Kate Gosselin recently told EW that they only average

three production days a week and the crew can either be in their house

all day or for as little as two hours. Before any filming can begin, however,

the producers pow-wow with the Gosselins to decide what’s suitable to film. Camera-ready moments can be as simple as the sextuplets’ talking over the dinner table — this year, in fact, two of the kids will have a rather enlightened discussion about whether pterodactyls can fly — or as elaborate as following the family to get their passports for an overseas trip (that’s coming up this season, too).

“Sometimes they have ideas, but usually I say, ‘I don’t think

so,'” Kate told EW. “I’m not an actor. It has to be stuff I would do anyway.” But they like to plan in advance; in fact, the family already banked several episodes from the last round of filming before the fifth season even began this month.

The burning question, of course, is whether the family’s circumstances might change to the point where the show is dramatically impacted (i.e. if Jon & Kate suddenly finds itself without the Jon part). A contract is a contract, but it doesn’t appear that TLC would hold the couple over a barrel should the relationship crumble under the intense media scrutiny. “The show’s ratings have grown consistently, as

there has been interest in these real-life issues of this real-life family,” a TLC spokeswoman told the New York Times. “We will continue to air as the interest continues, and the family wants to

do it.”

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