‘The Kardashians’ are getting too good at being famous

The Kardashian and Jenner women, posed in nude clothes against a dark green background.
The Kardashians are back on television after announcing the end of their long-running series “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” less than a year ago. Their new follow-up on Hulu has been met with mixed reviews. (Photo courtesy of Hulu)

As of this Wednesday on Hulu, the Kardashians are back. And, spoiler alert — they have a new font. That’s really the only major change, but definitely a big one (at least enough to warrant an entirely new, multimillion-dollar show). 

After less than a year-long break, America’s most famous family returns to the screen in their new Hulu show “The Kardashians.” The pilot, which premiered Wednesday proves that fans of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” have nothing to fear. As the family frets over who got invited to a random, mid-week barbeque, talks at length about all their work (and how lazy the rest of the world is) without ever being seen doing said work and as Kim faces backlash for hosting an upcoming “Saturday Night Live” episode, audiences can find comfort in just how little the Kardashians have changed. 

That being said, there are a couple noticeable shifts in the newer, sleeker streaming version of the show. First and foremost, “The Kardashians” finally recognizes what viewers really want — house content. A long, tracking opening shot takes the audience through an extensive (albeit speed ramped) tour of the major sets of this show, offering a sequel to the already considerable coverage (thanks Architectural Digest) of the Kardashians’ luxury homes. Furthermore, the new, aforementioned serif (!) font and spunky, freeze-framed titles give the classic split-screen transitions of KUWTK a new HGTV feel.

“The Kardashians” also shows how a break was the last thing this family needed. Not only has the (brief) absence given viewers time to get over their long-term fascination with the Kardashians, thus making the audience harder to impress, but it has also given time for the Kardashians to learn from their mistakes in KUWTK and sharpen their skills.

Now, the family is too good at being famous. They’ve returned to television with a level of refinement and artificiality that exponentially exceeds their previous show. “The Kardashians” does not star a messy, dramatic influencer family backstabbing each other and dropping what becomes months-old gossip in interview inserts. Instead, it is a show about an unimaginably powerful family reckoning with remarriage, dominance in late stage capitalism and whether or not they’re funny. 

This new cultural context is fully put on display in the pilot as Kim battles the resurgence of possibly another sex tape (yes, it is an uncannily well-timed callback to the first season of KUWTK). As Kim and her family compare this experience to the one years ago, Kim asserts that she now knows what to do, and has the means to do it. In a call to Kanye about the situation, he tells Kim (according to her) “You have the power. Nothing will cancel you.” Later, Kim ends the episode with a declaration to her lawyer that “I have all the time, all the money, and all of the resources to burn them all to the fucking ground.” This level of invincibility does accurately represent the Kardashians’ place in society — they truly are uncancelable (as the reboot of this classically unpopular show proves). However, it also makes the drama, reality TV nature of this show less entertaining for the average viewer when they know the stars cannot lose. 

“Keeping Up With the Kardashians” originally covered a moderately famous family navigating the drama and excitement of the entertainment industry in the 2000s. Now, “The Kardashians” is a show about one of the most powerful families in the country being just that. At least in the pilot, there is none of that simple, trashy drama or ridiculous one-liners that cemented KUWTK as a decently popular, cult series. Now, there are only extremely long scenes about Scott Disick feeling left out (like, extremely long. There was a full five minute conversation about this and it wasn’t even the only one) and how Kim is stressed about SNL (again, multiple 3-5 minute scenes). Ultimately, it is now only the banal drama that they can’t solve with a quick phone call or a couple million dollars. 

The freedom of streaming definitely promised potential for a Kardashian show that kept the drama and humor while also covering the heavier topics of the Kardashians’ role in society, or at least fit some kind of economic critique into their constant complaints of how no one in the world understands hard work like they do. Instead, it has floundered in trying to dramatize a family who has become too successful at being dramatized. But perhaps it was just a slow start to the season — we all know what happens when Kim finally does go on SNL. 

However, no matter your opinions on the Kardashians, their cultural role, what they’re doing to the youth of America and whatnot, the new show does do well in reminding viewers of one, timeless truth — no matter the time, place or network, no one is as obsessed with the Kardashians as Scott Disick. There has to be some kind of social commentary in that.