“Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets,” a docuseries exploring the life and theology of a family made famous through reality television, has had “the biggest debut of any documentary series ever produced by Amazon Studios,” according to Variety.
The four part docuseries centers on the Duggar family, who came into the national spotlight with their TLC reality show “17 Kids and Counting,” which was subsequently renamed “18 Kids and Counting” and later “19 Kids and Counting.”
The show also inspired the spin-off “Counting On,” as well as a number of other similar reality programs on TLC featuring other families. However, the success of the Duggars’ reality shows was hampered by scandal, as the family’s eldest son, Josh, is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence for child sex abuse materials.
In “Shiny Happy People,” viewers are given insights not only into the theology and parenting philosophy of the famous family, but also the history of the movement of which they are a part.
The series pays special attention to Bill Gothard, founder of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), an umbrella organization for several Christian ministries, including a homeschooling program. Throughout the series, individuals who were formerly associated with IBLP share their stories, many of them carrying a common thread of control and abuse.
Following the release of “Shiny Happy People,” many viewers who are Christian or formerly Christian have taken to social media to share stories about their own experiences and upbringings that mirror many of those told in the series.
More than 60% of viewers of the show have been women, a large proportion of them falling in the 18-34 age demographic, according to Variety.
“I’d love to tell you that we knew for sure it was going to do exactly what it’s done,” said Amazon Studios’ head of television Vernon Sanders, “but it’s been multiples higher than what we anticipated.”
Cori Shepherd Stern, executive producer for the show, said that the show “isn’t just voyeurism.” Rather, Stern believes the series is “confronting…basic beliefs [that] permeated our culture, far beyond IBLP and Gothard.”