Lake City residents Gil and Kelly Jo Bates peer out their hotel room that overlooks Times Square and marvel at what they see.
"It's busy," Kelly Jo says of the city that never sleeps. "We've had a good time here, but we're Tennesseans at heart. We like the slow pace and life."
It doesn't get much slower than Lake City's farm country, where the couple raises 19 children, ranging in ages from a few months to 23 years old.
Most of last week, the Bates brood was in the Big Apple to promote their new reality series, "United Bates of America" (debuting 9 p.m. Monday, TLC). Cameras document the daily life of the mega-family, from how they get laundry done (full loads every other day) to their grocery shopping (going through eight gallons of milk many times week) to their close-knit structure.
The Bateses weren't looking for a TV gig. They don't even own a set. But once they appeared on TLC's like-minded reality show "19 Kids and Counting," producers and the cable channel knew they had the makings for their own series.
"United" has opened a new world to them. They learned to negotiate with a TV executives (when production began, Gil Bates, who runs a tree removal service, didn't know they would be paid for doing the series) and traveled to New York City, a foreign territory to them.
While in New York, they appeared on "Good Morning America," "Good Afternoon America," "Nightline" and "20/20." After their "GMA" appearance, comic Chris Rock ribbed them during his segment.
The Bates know their choice to have so many kids won't sit well with everyone. "What makes the show special is that it is about family," Kelly Jo says. "It's the good, bad and things we need to work on."
Terry Morrow may be reached at 865-342-6445 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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