New TLC Reality Show ‘The Willis Family’ to Focus on Extra-Large Musical Family

The real question: Will a Duggar boy marry a Willis gal?
The real question: Will a Duggar boy marry a Willis gal?

By Holly Rasmussen

TLC has a major hit on its hands with the 19 Kids and Counting, which follows the life of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their 19 children, so it’s no surprise that the network keeps producing more shows about large families. In addition to ’19 Kids,’ TLC has Sister Wives (which follows the giant polygamous Brown family), on its roster, and will soon add another. The network announced this week that it will air a show tentatively titled The Willis Family, which will follow the Willis clan, a family out of Nashville, Tennessee, that has 12 children.

Like the Duggars, all of the Willis kids are musical. They even appeared on the most-recent season of America’s Got Talent as a family band and are currently on tour. (Well, at least maybe their show will be more interesting than ’19 Kids.’ We can only watch so many episodes revolving around courting, marriage, pregnancy and root beer floats!)

There are other similarities between the Willis family and the Duggars: All of the Willis kids have names that begin with the letter “J!” (One Willis kid is named Jaeger. I’ll bet ol’ Jim Bob is mad he didn’t’ think of that one! They also have a son named Jedi, naturally.) The Willis kids, like the Duggars, are home-schooled.

Anyway, Brenda and Toby Willis are the parents and appear to also be the managers of the family band. Their kids sing, dance (a Duggar no-no), play instruments, act and participate in a plethora of other activities. The show will follow them as they take their 12-kid family band on a West Coast tour where they will perform their brand of Irish-influenced music.

Toby and Brenda Willis have 15 kids...and wear jeans!
Toby and Brenda Willis have 12 kids…and wear jeans!

“I want people to understand that we are a normal family like anyone else and we try to live our lives to the fullest,” Brenda recently told New York Post. “We try to give our kids beautiful lives that embrace every part of our culture and other cultures — travel, music and the outdoors, which we love.”

The Willis clan appears to be a bit more progressive than the Duggars, however. The girls wear jeans! (I guess they don’t subscribe to Jim Bob’s fear of ladies in trousers.) Brenda attended college, so we know they’re more progressive than the Duggars in that respect.

There hasn’t been any word on whether or not the Willis family subscribes to the same type of ultra-conservative Christianity that the Duggar and Bates families do, but it’s likely. TLC knows what sells and apparently, right now, that’s large,  “wholesome” families.

The show is set to premier May 5 on TLC. That is also the day Jill Duggar’s birth special airs so it will just be a dynamite ratings day for TLC.

(Photos: Discovery Press)



  1. I will not watch the bates as they are all part of the cult thru bill gothard,mr. bates works for the ati and so does erin bates husband ,they all are in the same religion and the willis are catholic and of irish decent,brenda is anyway,i don’t know what toby is,they homeschool ,but not thru bill gothards curriculium,they have home church ,there is nothing wrong with that,toby and brenda let the kids pick who they are interested in!

  2. Love the willis clan 🙂
    a real family !!!
    such talented kids ,with such down to earth parents ..

    good Luck in all endeaveor

  3. This is a very talented and interesting family. Finally a family famous for more than having a mother with a clown car uterus. The parents also seem to be in charge of childcare rather than forcing oldest girls to be sister moms. I will enjoy watching them.

  4. I met this family when they performed at Ratlin Road in Disney World and they are fabulous! My husband and I got a chance to chat with Toby Willis about his wonderfuly talented children. I am looking forward to watching this family on TLC.

  5. I’m pretty sure this is the family whom, at least in Illinois, is most well known for the fact that one of the parents had several young siblings killed in a car crash a while back involving a truck driver who got his license under shady terms. Said crash ended up sending the then governor George Ryan to jail for letting the trucker get a license. Will be interesting if this story is ever brought up in the show since I think it might have been brought up in their AGT audition.

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