From the moment The Little Couple premiered on TLC in 2009, the show’s stars Bill Klein and Jen Arnold have garnered millions of fans’ hearts with their picture-perfect marriage and sweet family.
As the series’ official description explains, Klein and Arnold “are just like your average couple — except for the fact that they’re both under 4 feet tall! He stands at 4 feet and has a rare variation of a skeletal dysplasia called Spondyloepiphyseal Dysplasia (or SED) and has had more than 20 surgeries. She stands at just 3 foot 2 has a similar, and also rare type of dwarfism called Spondyloepiphyseal Dysplasia Type Strudwick, has had more than 30 surgeries — and yet this too is not what makes this couple unique.”
The Little Couple documents all of their hardships and successes, as well as the adventures of their two adorable children, Will and Zoey, and is an undeniable smash hit. But there’s more to this show than meets the eye.
It doesn’t feature the family’s hardest, most vulnerable moments
Any fan of The Little Couple would likely tell you that Klein and Arnold have the perfect marriage and the perfect family. But as the couple’s second memoir, Think Big, reveals, their hardest, most vulnerable moments aren’t included in the show.
Like the emotional day in October 2013 when Klein returned home from India with the couple’s newly adopted daughter, Zoey, and “stood in a house that felt large and lifeless.” Writing about the heart-breaking moment in Think Big, Klein revealed, “While our three-year-old son ran around playing with his toys, our two-year-old daughter wailed next to the front door. I had just introduced Zoey to her new home for the first time, but she didn’t want anything to do with it, and she didn’t want to be near her new daddy.”
While the couple was in New Delhi, India to adopt Zoey, Arnold was rushed back to the U.S. with a medical emergency. “Zoey had bonded with Jen, but not with me, and without her new mommy, she was inconsolable,” wrote Klein. “Trying to soothe Zoey only made things worse. Her cries echoed throughout the house… Zoey obviously wanted and needed her mother. She wasn’t the only one missing Jen.”
All the birthday, anniversary, and milestone celebrations are staged
Although the family regularly celebrates special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries on camera, all that fanfare isn’t actually real. The truth is, it’s staged especially for the show. Yes, the occasions themselves are legit, but as Arnold explained to Huffington Post in 2011, the family chooses to host the real celebrations when cameras aren’t rolling.
“We try to remind each other that dinners out with the cameras don’t really count and that we still need to have a separate celebratory dinner for us, for birthdays and anniversaries,” she said. “Even though we celebrate on camera, we do something separate as well.”
There’s an important reason why the kids aren’t constantly on camera
Despite both William and Zoey being a major (and super cute) part of the show’s ongoing success, they’re purposely not featured on camera too much, even though Arnold admitted in 2015 that the kids “are pretty whatever about it. In fact, if a camera gets in the way of what they’re trying to do, they’ll go, ‘Move! Move, move, you’re in my way.'”
That being said, Klein went on to tell Glamour in that same interview that “the large majority of what we do is off-camera because we want them to grow up in a normal, comfortable environment and experience what they want to experience without it being something that they have to do in front of an audience.”
This approach sure seems to be working, as Arnold added that they “haven’t heard from their teachers that they even talk about it [at school], partially because I don’t think they’re self-aware.”
Getting approval to film at Arnold’s place of work wasn’t easy
As fans of the show know, Arnold works as a neonatologist at the Texas Children’s Hospital and, sometimes, she shoots scenes for The Little Couple while at work. But as she revealed in a 2013 interview with Glamour, it took a lot of time and effort to convince the hospital to allow camera crews inside.
“When the show became a reality, we got in touch with the PR folks there, but there was a lot of hesitation,” she told the magazine. “As a hospital, they have a lot to lose, and they wanted to make sure it would show the hospital in a good light.”
“A lot of conversations took place with our production company, LMNO, and the hospital administration, and they were able to come up with an agreement,” she continued. “LMNO was great and had done shows in other hospitals, so I think everybody felt more comfortable.”
It has turned the couple’s home into a target for fans
Much of the action on The Little Couple occurs at their home, so it is regularly featured on the show. With all that exposure comes recognition — a lot of it. As Klein revealed, it has actually resulted in many fans dropping by their front steps uninvited.
“We’ve had people come to the door or tear pages out of books and write full-length notes and stick them in our mailbox,” he told Glamour. “I actually almost gave one lady a heart attack because I went to get the mail, and she was on my doorstep. I opened up the door while she was right there writing her note, and she fell over and all that stuff. We’ve had people come on Christmas Eve and all sorts of occasions.”
As flattering as the gestures of love may be, they do come with a slight dose of apprehension. “Everyone has been so nice, but when someone knocks on your door, you do wonder if they are well intended or not and maybe get a little nervous,” added Arnold. “So we do of course prefer when they send us a letter, since when we are at home that is obviously our private time… I do get it though because people watch us and feel like they know us!”
Despite its positive nature, the show has gotten Arnold and Klein criticized
The Little Couple has garnered countless fans over the years with episodes of the reality show averaging a whopping 2.1 million viewers back in 2013. But despite its popularity and overall positive nature, the show’s stars have endured their fair share of criticism, especially when it comes to their parenting. It may be hard to believe, but when Arnold and Klein first announced they were adopting not one, but two kids — 3-year-old William from China and 19-month-old Zoey from India — they received a deluge of “comments on how crazy it is to be adopting two kids at once.”
The couple explained the decision to adopt two children around the same time wasn’t planned, but it was meant to be. When Klein and Arnold started the 11 month-long adoption process for William in 2012, they had no idea that they would also receive a call from Little People of America about adopting Zoey, as they had actually put their names on the LPA waiting list four years earlier.
“I guess we kind of looked at it as, you know, there are a bunch of other people, friends of ours, that have two, three, some even four kids, you know, they haven’t killed each other yet,” Klein joked while speaking with The Wrap. “For those people who said, ‘You’re crazy,’ well, it’s just kind of like life,” Arnold added. “Like getting pregnant with twins, it’s not something we planned on. But hopefully, it’s a blessing that we’ll figure out a way to handle.”
Its future became uncertain when LMNO sued Discovery Communications
Despite The Little Couple’s impressive ratings, the show’s future became uncertain when shooting stopped abruptly following the eighth season due to a nasty legal battle between Discovery Communications, the company that runs TLC, and LMNO, the independent production company hired by Discovery to produce the show.
Court troubles began in June 2016 when LMNO Cable Group filed a $7 million lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, “five days after Discovery informed LMNO it had temporarily halted production on six of its shows following an audit of the production company’s books,” reported Deadline. Despite the fact that the two companies had worked together since 1999, neither held back, as LMNO accused Discovery of “breach-of-contract and copyright infringement,” claiming they secretly began shooting footage for The Little Couple on their own, trying to bypass the contract they held with LMNO.
LMNO also claimed that it had “been the victim of an extortionist accountant who’d been embezzling from the company for years and falsifying the records to conceal his crime” and that, when they refused to pay the $800,000 he demanded in exchange for his silence, he decided to take “his doctored books to LMNO’s largest customer and use his own fraudulent creations to destroy LMNO’s business relationship.” LMNO went on to conclude that Discovery jumped at the chance to believe the allegedly falsified documents in order to get out of its contracts with LMNO and “enrich itself at LMNO’s expense.”
The drama only got worse when Discovery fired back
Discovery was quick to file a cross-claim against LMNO, calling the accountant that LMNO dubbed an extortionist a whistleblower and thanking him for showing Discovery how it “was being systematically defrauded via inflated production costs for these shows.”
Discovery said that upon investigating LMNO’s practices, they found them to be “inconsistent with Discovery’s contractual rights” and therefore they “decided to terminate certain of our contracts with LMNO, based on the results of a lengthy review of long-standing production agreements which revealed procedures and practices that did not respect Discovery’s contractual rights.”
Eventually, Arnold and Klein jumped in on the controversy, too
As the battle between LMNO Cable Group and Discovery Communications raged on, Arnold and Klein finally had enough in May 2017 and filed papers in a California federal court, “making their first move at ultimately rescinding intellectual-property rights they’ve conveyed and collecting what they believe to be their rightful share of contingent compensation from the series,” revealed the Hollywood Reporter.
As the couple’s lawyers, Jennifer McGrath and Neville Johnson, explained, “Intervenors have now learned that LMNO engaged in systematic fraud against them and Discovery by grossly inflating purported expenses, falsifying accounting documents, and falsely contending that no contingent compensation was due to Intervenors.” What the couple is asking for is “compensatory damages, punitive damages and emotional-distress damages.”
Bill Klein battled depression and suicidal thoughts in college
Arnold and Klein are known for sharing a positive message and showcasing an uplifting outlook on life on their show, so no one was really expecting Klein to step forward and admit to having battled with depression and suicidal thoughts when he was younger.
It was during a 2015 HuffPost Live interview (via Us Weekly) that Klein opened up about his past struggles with mental health, saying that after years of bullying, he “reached the deepest [pit] of depression and that brought me to the brink” in college. He went on to reassure fans that “life has gotten better and better every single year,” but admitted that the battle never truly ends, revealing that he’s “had bumps along the road every year to deal with.”
Jen Arnold secretly went through a heart-breaking miscarriage
Soon after Arnold and Klein adopted their son Will from China and while they were working everything out to finalize the adoption of their daughter Zoey from India, the couple got some surprising news. “‘I’m pregnant,’ [Jen said in] complete and utter disbelief,” Klein recalled in the couple’s 2016 book, Think Big: Overcoming Obstacles With Optimism. “After going through two years of fertility treatments and surrogacy followed by miscarriages, this was unexpected, to say the least!”
Unfortunately, they later learned the heart-breaking news that the pregnancy was not viable. Even so, Klein couldn’t help but sum up his life with Arnold so far as an “incredible and crazy and extraordinary road full of wonderful surprises.” One that their two adoptive children make all the more incredible. “I will see Jen’s beautiful smile, and Will’s never-ending joy, and Zoey enthusiastically hopping and skipping along, and just think, ‘When did I win the Powerball of life?'” Klein concluded.
Despite all the legal drama, they’ll be back on TLC in Fall 2017
With the show being caught in the middle of an ongoing three-way legal battle, fans of The Little Couple weren’t sure when they’d be able to reunite with their favorite TV family (if at all).
Remember: It was June 2016 when production company LMNO filed a $7 million lawsuit against Discovery, claiming that the network tried to break its contract by siding with an accountant who they say tried to extort them. In August, Discovery fired back with its own lawsuit, calling said accountant a “whistleblower” and, in May 2017, Arnold and Klein joined the legal battle against LMNO, claiming “breach of written contract, fraud, conversion, unfair competition, accounting and more.”
But despite the ongoing dispute, fans were able to breathe a sigh of relief when, in July 2017, it was announced that the show would in fact be returning to TLC and a premiere date was set for September 19, 2017 at 9 p.m. ET.
As TLC revealed, “this season, the family brings us along for some exciting travels from Washington D.C. all the way to London.” What’s more, “adorable Will and Zoey are older and more independent, and while that means a whole new set of challenges for the parents, this family is only growing closer and stronger!”
They’ve decided to pack up and move to Florida
For as long as the show has been on the air, Jen Arnold, Bill Klein and their two kids have been living in Houston, Texas, where Arnold worked as the medical director of the Simulation Center at Texas Children’s Hospital, as well as the assistant professor of pediatrics in the Division of Neonatology at Baylor College of Medicine.
However, viewers tuning into the The Little Couple‘s ninth season come Fall 2017 will notice a major change of scenery, as the family packs up its belongings and makes a big move to Florida! The relocation was inspired by Dr. Arnold’s career and will see her, Klein and their two kids setting up shop in St. Petersburg.
Arnold’s career is the reason why the family is moving states
It was July 2017 when the family moved from Texas to Florida, driven by Arnold’s decision to accept the position of medical director of the Simulation Center at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. She also agreed to work as a “part-time assistant professor with Johns Hopkins University” and coach parents on “how they should care for premature babies when they take them home.”
As the hospital points out on its blog, the move down South is a homecoming for Arnold, who was born in St. Petersburg and “first came to Johns Hopkins All Children’s as an infant in the neonatal intensive care unit.” She even tied the knot at the St. Petersburg’s St Mary Our Lady of Grace Church, which is “near the hospital campus”.
“I’m thrilled to return home to Florida,” Arnold said, pointing out that “the opportunity at Johns Hopkins All Children’s is a perfect fit personally for me [and] professionally with the growing education and research resources at the hospital.”
The whole family is not afraid to get political
Between working, raising a family and filming a hit reality show, Arnold also finds time to get political. In July 2017 she headed to Washington D.C. where she spoke out against “proposed cuts to Medicaid” and joined “the Children’s Hospital Association for a day of meetings with members of Congress.” As reported by the Washington Post, this included “confabs with Republicans who have supported the proposed cuts to Medicaid.”
“The timing is critical,” Arnold said of her lobbying. “The BCRA is scary — it would cut $43 billion in Medicaid funding, which would more negatively affect kids than adults. We have to speak out. We have to talk to our congresspeople.”
And she’s not the only one in the family getting political! Arnold was joined by her hubby and kids who weren’t shy about getting involved, as she documented on Instagram. “Today I get to help #SpeakNowforKids! Learn why children’s health care is so important,” she wrote, posting a photo of Zoey followed by one of Will, which she captioned, “Will on The Hill! You can advocate today to [sic]! Contact your members of Congress and tell them to protect children’s health care!”
The show has gotten some negative feedback from viewers with disabilities
In a blog post titled Are Reality TV Shows Starring People With Medical Conditions Exploitative?, August Pritchett, a student at Armstrong State University, argued that “reality shows on modern television that feature such people are not much different than the circus freak shows from a hundred years ago.” Pritchett, who herself has a disability, pointed out that many TLC shows, such as Little Women of LA, “tend to focus on the fact that these people are different from those who are ‘normal’ in order to convince viewers to watch them.”
Honing in on The Little Couple, she applauded them for “educating viewers about dwarfism,” but warned that even shows with good intentions can have a negative impact. “There’s the risk of ‘inspiration porn,'” she wrote. “Inspiration porn is a term applied to situations when a disabled person is sooooooo inspiring because they do normal things,” she added, concluding that “having reality programs that feature those who accomplish so much despite being disabled could become inspiration porn that makes viewers pity and objectify them.”
What does the future hold for The Little Couple?
Legal battles can be very lengthy processes and it doesn’t seem like filming of The Little Couple will be able to resume until the pending lawsuits between LMNO Cable Group, Discovery Communications, and Bill Klein and Jen Arnold are officially settled. Until that happens, however, fans can continue to keep up with the couple, as well as their two adorable children, via social media by following Arnold on Instagram and keeping up with Klein on Twitter.