TV Time: The Willis Clan

She Said:

I love shows about big families. I was a fan of Jon and Kate Plus 8 several years ago. I love 19 Kids and Counting and the Duggar family. I’m absolutely devastated; still, that TLC didn’t renew United Bates in America for another season (although I still dream and pray that it will return on TLC or another network). When I heard about The Willis Clan, I knew that I would definitely give the show a try. After all, what doesn’t sound good about a big family learning, growing and playing country music together? If The Willis Clan were really as simple and sincere as a show as I first judged from the advertisements, it would have been a treat. However, I was very disappointed to find a show where I felt so sorry for the overtaxed children and so disliking the parents, I can’t watch it anymore.

The show’s concept is like that of all the aforementioned big family reality shows. Watch and see how a big family lives life together. The Willis Clan is unique because unlike the other families performing together is what got them a show. They’ve been a family band for a long time. In addition to music, their children are also very active in dance (with 2 of the children having been national ballroom dance champions) and wrestling. Do you wonder how they ever have time to rest? Well, you’ll still wonder that after watching the show. The thing is, I don’t know if all that stuff even makes them happy. One of the things that always radiates from The Duggar and Bates families is their lovely, quiet joy. I may not always agree with the Duggars, but I don’t think that they or their children have ever been so stressed, as the Willis Clan appears to be. I can’t relax watching these children get pushed so hard. I realize that it’s important to learn discipline and diligence, but do they have to be pushed so hard?

The Willis Clan is helmed by Toby Willis. He’s a very intimidating and pushy guy. One of his daughters comes to him with a dental problem and instead of helping her he asks her what solutions she’ll bring to the table. Now, I understand teaching kids to do things on their own. But, I would call the dentist for RJ and he’s my husband. I can’t imagine telling a child in pain and need of medical attention to not just bring me problems. He’s even kind of bully in the Bible study we see the family having.  Don’t even get me started on the fact that the he said any man wishing to court one of his daughters has to wrestle him (and that he made one potential suitor vomit when they wrestled), what kind of demand is that? I’m amazed that someone so concerned with his daughters seriousness about romantic relationships encourages his young daughters to do “sexy” ballroom dance moves in their routines. He says that pushing the children isn’t about making money or getting famous. I believe him. However, I believe that he’s living out his dreams through his children and he’s a bully. I do think that he loves his children, it is obvious. But he just pushes so much! I don’t care much for the mother because I don’t see woman fighting to care for her children, just some blindly supporting their husband. I know that she wants to respect him, but I couldn’t see my children living in such a constant pressure cooker and not speak up.

We’ve watched 3 episodes now and I can’t connect with them in a positive way. I think one of the little girls is just precious. I can appreciate that in some areas they are talented, but not extraordinary and certainly don’t appeal to my taste. Of the 12 children in the Willis Clan, Jasmine is my favorite. I really admire her talent, beauty and her desire to stand out and not blend in. She’s a very good dancer and watching her write her first song was beyond precious. Some of the other kids, particularly the 2 oldest, stress me out so much. They are always so upset about… something and anything: gigs, songs, and “mission creep”- it’s truly exhausting and upsetting to watch

I appreciate that it’s a “clean” show (if you discount the children singing about brandy, some of their ballroom dance moves and the bikinis). But, I can’t find anything in the character of the people of this show that I really want to emulate in our own life. Yes, I think diligence is important and I’m committed to learning to be more diligent, But, I also believe what Jesus said about worrying:


Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?  Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Luke 12:25-26


If I can’t help things by worrying, then I need to learn to pray and be diligent about what rests on my shoulders. While I’m sure Toby Willis intends to be a good father by pushing so hard for excellence, I think I would rather follow my Heavenly Father’s plan of working for Him and not worrying. It’s really upsetting to see the kids so upset about songwriting and playing music. Hearing him complain about mission creep also upset me. Mission creep (when a task gets more complicated than you had anticipated) is part of life. My whole life has been fraught with mission creep the past year and worrying and being upset never helped! Leaning on God, asking for prayer, letting things go and working how I can- that helped. Wasting time on things that didn’t matter, putting too much time in the wrong pursuits and then worrying about it only led to more frustration. I don’t know why Toby prefers to arm his children with wrestling and performing skills instead of teaching them discernment about what’s best for their lives. I almost said he should teach them stress-management, but I really think (while that’s good, too) he should stop burdening them with perfection and too many performance and sports obligations.

It’s a sad show and I have to quit watching because it’s not getting better and they just make me feel upset and stressed.


Kari’s rating- 0

The Willis Clan- image from

The Willis Clan- image from

He Said:

Kari is a huge fan of “big family” shows.  She still watches old episodes of Jon & Kate Plus 8 from before the Gosselin’s collapse, and 19 Kids and Counting is still appointment viewing in our house.  I can enjoy this subgenre of reality television, but it isn’t always my favorite.  The Willis Clan was going to have to be pretty good for me to enjoy it.

Instead, it’s a stressful annoying mess.  I’ve been pretty vocal about what I feel Jim Bob Duggar’s shortcomings are as a parent, especially of adult children.  Toby Willis is far worse than Jim Bob.  Jim Bob at least feels he is doing what’s right by God, whereas I don’t feel the same devotion from Toby.  With Toby, that what’s he’s doing is the Lord’s will seems, from the show, to be a convenient afterthought.  In the pilot we even hear some about how he handles potential suitors for his daughters: they have to be able to beat him in a wrestling match.  How juvenile.  At least Jim Bob screens potential mates for character qualities that he’s looking for in a son-in-law.

Toby pushes his children way too hard.  He has a dogged determination for his children to be great athletes and professional musicians.  Did I mention the competitive ballroom dancing?  Titles really matter to Toby.  He’s a former state champion wrestler, and his boys are state champions, and one pair of his children is national dance champions.  This two-headed monster is a weird one where the arts take precedent for once, but in a weird way.  One of his boys had to miss the state championships for wrestling in the last episode because the family band got booked into 18 shows in 10 days at Walt Disney World.  The child didn’t even ask Toby if he could compete because he knew it was pointless.  Dad said in a voice over that business came first.  He didn’t even have to think hard about which to demand his child to do, let alone which one he would attend.

There’s no real focus on good character on this show either.  The only thing that is valued in this family is hard work.  There are some cute smaller kids, but I feel bad for them.  One little girl that wants to be in the family band is required to play back up keyboards, but really wants to sing.  In one instance three of the younger girls are left to choreograph and practice their own Irish dancing routine while watching two younger siblings both less than two years old.  Toby admits to us that it’s a lot to ask the girls, but scolds them in the moment.  The older kids are just very stressed out and seem angry and/or scared to fail.  Everything they do is much more high stakes in their minds than it actually is.

I’m getting angry and stressed out just writing this.  I won’t be watching this again.

RJ Rating-0