‘Kardashians’ Review: Hulu’s famous family grows out of its scene

In the second episode of “The Kardashians”, Hulus’ new reality show with the widely documented Calabasas, California family, there is a moment of reflection. Kim Kardashian is backstage for “Saturday Night Live”, and is preparing for her host concert in October 2021, when her makeup artist bursts into tears and remembers how dizzying his client’s rise has been. “I remember 12 or 13 years ago when you were going on your first talk show … I just got that vision.”

The problem with having mastered reinvention is that visions of your past selves have a way of emerging. “The Kardashians” is presumably looking to the future – its subjects are on a new platform, having switched Hulu to E !, and are lavishly shot by a production that seems to save no cost. (The fake series footage that zooms in between family members’ homes is as close as Kris Jenner is likely to get in this lifetime to a “Birdman” tribute). But it is obsessed, in a way, that holds this series back from whatever it may be, with the past. As a series about the contemporary lives of Kim Kardashian and the family, this one is about as well-crafted and sharp as one might expect; take it as it means to you. But as an argument for Kardashian’s continued dominance in our culture, it has little novel to say.

Like all of us, Kim Kardashian lives a life divided between professional and personal pursuits. Unlike the rest of us, these persecutions are oversized and named, and her ambitions in the professional field seem to be nothing less than a total dominance of American attention – with her recent headline-generating divorce from Kanye West and the coupling with Pete Davidson proves she’s pretty much done with the job. Kim from “The Kardashians,” however, is more subdued than we’ve seen her; It may not help the series that the first two episodes portray her preparing to host “Saturday Night Live,” a role that seems to have made her actually nervous, rather than just performing insecurity. The coincidence of an endangered resurgence of her sex tape from the mid-2000s is further destabilizing, casting a shadow over what might otherwise be a momentary triumph.

If Kim has a hard time believing that a moment of humiliation is coming back into her life, she’s not alone. Her discovery of the news is presented spontaneously – to see her own face appear in an ad while a next generation of Kardashian plays on an iPad – and comes with a sinking sense of both subject and viewer. The Kardashian family’s journey from prurient celebrity to in-control role models has long since happened. The family’s legal team that puts out small fires of this short film is something that certainly happens in the Kardashians’ off-screen life, but to stage it as a fight on camera, with Kim promising to “burn them all to the fucking ground” “, feels like a repetition, an attempt to claim territory she already occupies. As Kim well knows, she has won the battle for respectability.

But that’s the conflict she’s willing to show. West, now Kardashian’s ex-husband, is not present here; both Kourtney and Khloe, Kim’s closest sisters, live in versions of peace, the former in an overly sweet relationship with rock artist Travis Barker, the latter in co-parenting balance with athlete Tristan Thompson. Arguably, the biggest conflict Khloe faces in the early part of the season is an attack of nerves around her appearance as a guest on James Corden’s talk show – giving her mother, Kris Jenner, an opportunity to recount past triumphs. “Do you remember in the beginning, years and years and years ago, we started filming ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’, right?” she says. “All the wonderful things people said and what inspiration we were and how they looked up to you girls.”

Jenner builds towards one point – that a critic among legions of fans has an overall influence on her daughter’s psyche – while she also makes another. Television has always been the primary engine of family businesses: Efforts in the apparel and beauty industry and movements against activism have always been driven by the show that is their life. “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”, which was launched on E! In 2007, his life began as a clever kind of family sitcom that presented Kim as a sweet response to his tabloid-ruined peers. As Kim and her sisters’ fame grew beyond the series, the show became the place where they addressed their scandals in something close to real-time; when the news of the family broke out, it was known that “Keeping Up” would depict a version of the family’s response in a few months.

What is there to answer when you are at the top? Throughout the first two episodes of “The Kardashians,” there is a traceable tone of panic – searching relentlessly public life to find the element that can be shared without embarrassment, personally without being too much. The answer seems to be to tell the journey of the family’s own reputation, staging a heroine’s journey from the last decade and a half of American culture to avoid breaking into something too real.

The series received its most accurate promotion in the form of an interview conducted by min Variety colleague Elizabeth Wagmeister, where Kim spoke to “women in business” and told that part of the audience: “Get up and work. It seems like no one wants to work these days.” The statement was widely tinted as tone-deaf, and it’s hard to disagree with this assessment – but it also seems like a rare misreading of the dynamic between star and fan of a reality artist who is getting rusty as she runs out of things she is willing to share. It was, if anything, a rare moment of genuine intimacy: Kim addressed her public in the same sluggish and self-aggrandizing way she addresses the family members with whom she shares a business. It was such openness now looking out for a reality star who might just be realizing she has grown out of her genre.

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