Hulu’s ‘The Kardashians’: TV Review

America’s favourite reality television family returns on a new network, as Kim, Khloé, Kourtney, Kendall, Kylie, and Kris juggle career, family, and life in the spotlight.

The Kardashians have returned, but it’s difficult to generate enthusiasm for people who rarely step away from the spotlight long enough to be missed.

The reality television superstars abruptly declared last year that the 20th season of their cash-cow show Keeping Up With the Kardashians would be their final. It signalled the end of an era for the clan that carved their own niche in the American imagination and acquired ever-increasing fortunes through marketing fantasy.

Unfortunately, it did not herald a schism between family and civic life. The conclusion of Keeping Up and the Kardashian-Jenners’ association with E! allowed them to sign a multi-year content contract with Disney. The Kardashians, the first instalment of said costly contract, premieres on Hulu on Thursday, April 14.

The Kardashians are not the family they used to be, with more money, more children, and multiple lucrative enterprises under their belts. Compare early Keeping Up moments, which were packed with histrionics, sibling quarrels, and low-fi production qualities, to the first two episodes of this sleek new endeavour, which were sent to reviewers for review, and it’s difficult to believe we’re watching the same people.

This more polished and styled version of the show is nevertheless a marketing experiment, offering viewers an unrealistic aesthetic and lifestyle through extravagant displays of riches and generating contradictory feelings. As I previously stated, it is irrelevant whether you despise, admire, or envy the Kardashians. Reactions to their shenanigans are a necessary component of the huge public relations campaign that underpins their relevance and economic standing. However, if Keeping Up with the Kardashians retains a sense of camp, The Kardashians wipes away all of the frivolity, leaving only the rigorous ethics of a family that has mastered celebrity.

The new show suffers from an epidemic of ennui. Even the slick opening credits – drone views of each family member’s hectic life accompanied by Silk Sonic’s groovy song “777” — cannot dispel the listlessness. Kris, Kourtney, Kim, Khloé, Kendall, and Kylie have been videotaped for an extended period of time, and one critic wonders if they, too, are occasionally startled that the cameras are still rolling.

Their lives are similar to those of other ultra-rich entrepreneurs and inheritors, but it would be tedious to show the six stars scurrying from meeting to meeting (Caitlyn Jenner and Rob Kardashian are not yet featured in the new series). As a result, they re-litigate old conflicts, create tension, and elicit drama from razor-thin moments. It’s an incredible sight to behold, if not always an exciting show to watch.

In the first episode, the family gathers for an intimate cookout at Kim’s minimalist ranch. There, the most famous Kardashian announces that she has been asked to host Saturday Night Live by Lorne Michaels. She is concerned about her capacity to do so: What if she isn’t sufficiently amusing? Should she invite Kanye as a musical guest? (At the time of filming, the couple appeared to be getting along better.) What if she causes the family embarrassment? The final question is possibly the most amusingly perplexing.

The family gathers around a big, ornately adorned table and snacks on fried chicken, mac & cheese, and burgers in an attempt to calm Kim’s anxiety. They maintain that she is amusing (despite years of being told otherwise) and point out that the middle Kardashian is capable of accomplishing anything she sets her mind to.

Family has always been a cornerstone of the Kardashian brand, but it is emphasised even more so in Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Motherhood has altered the sisters’ life, as they spend the most of their testimonial time reaffirming the importance of their children in their lives. There is a lot of discussion about how important it is for parents to make time for their children and less on what it means to raise Black children in America, but such discussions may come up later.

The focus of the new Kardashian period becomes evident throughout these one-on-one talks. If the previous chapters focused on climbing the Forbes lists and creating headlines, this one will focus on restraint and reconciling domestic life with the loud call of American capitalism.

The Kardashians does actually promise to focus on the clan’s professional lives – particularly Kim’s, who recently stated that women nowadays do not want to work. The early episodes are dominated by the SNL narrative. We watch the mother of four preparing for her appearance by meeting with comedians such as Amy Schumer, packing her costumes with her sisters and mother, and reporting on her stylists and makeup artists’ progress.

However, haunting the background and increasing Kim’s uneasiness is her sex tape, which reappears early in the first episode. The video’s legacy weighs heavily on her, and she spends considerable time threatening to use the power of her lawyers and her money to have the tape’s fragments erased. She had no idea what to do twenty years ago; now, she claims, she has the resources “to burn them all to the fucking ground.”

The other sisters are given some screen time in these first two episodes, but nowhere near as much as Kim. Kourtney’s story revolves around her already-publicized romance with Travis Barker. They are attempting to purchase a home and have a child, and Kourtney discusses the difficulty associated with both attempts. Meanwhile, Khloé is attempting to mend fences with Tristan Thompson, concentrate on the development of her new estate, and manage her deteriorating anxiety. Kylie and Kendall haven’t made as many appearances as they should, but previews of upcoming episodes hint to their arcs.

The Kardashians may disappoint lifelong followers of the Kardashians, or even the casual observer. The family that is famous for being famous and sharing themselves unashamedly has honed, toned, and polished their brand to an astonishing degree. There is nothing here that surprises, shocks, or titillates.

However, it appears as though this is immaterial. I noticed dozens of headlines the day the embargo on coverage of the show (whose distribution was strictly controlled) was released, seizing on “revelations” from these episodes. At this point, the Kardashian brand is a complete ecosystem; it’s irrelevant who they claim to be, whether they’re authentic or approachable. Whatever actions they take will be documented, disseminated, and consumed. Whether we like it or not, we are all now a part of their machine.

Diksha Dutt is a coder, blogger, and teacher. Apart from blogging, she is an avid reader and a travel enthusiast. Thanks for stopping by and getting to know her.