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Hulu's The Kardashians is listless and missing the campy fun of Keeping Up with the Kardashians

  • Compare the first two episodes of The Kardashians to the early episodes of E!'s Keeping Up with the Kardashians, "and it’s hard to believe we are watching the same people," says Lovia Gyarkye. "This more polished and stylized show is still an experiment in marketing, selling viewers an unattainable aesthetic and lifestyle, displaying dizzying amounts of wealth and eliciting contradictory emotions. As I’ve written before, it doesn’t really matter whether you abhor, admire or envy the Kardashians. Reactions to their antics are part of the massive PR machination central to their relevancy and economic status. But whereas Keeping Up managed to maintain a level of camp, The Kardashians strips away any bits of fun, leaving only the rigid ethos of a family that has mastered being famous. The new show is plagued by an aggressive ennui. Not even the sleek opening credits — drone shots offering glimpses of each family member’s busy life backed by Silk Sonic’s funky hit '777' — can shake off the listlessness. Kris, Kourtney, Kim, Khloé, Kendall and Kylie have been filmed for so long that this critic wonders if even they sometimes find themselves surprised that the cameras are still rolling."


    • The Kardashians will satisfy Keeping Up with the Kardashian fans, but it has nothing new to say: "I wrote in my review of the Keeping Up with the Kardashians finale last year that the Kardashians have transcended the need for the show, and there’s nothing in the two episodes of the new series made available for review that convinces me otherwise," says Jordan Julian. "With their omnipresence on social media, they’ve outrun the pace of TV production. Even 8-year-old North is on TikTok now, much to Kanye’s chagrin. We already know the gender of Kylie’s baby formerly known as Wolf Webster, we know Kim passes the baby Bar Exam on her fourth try, and we have seen an entire photo album’s worth of pictures of Kourtney and Travis’ engagement. There are literally zero stakes. It’s difficult to think of another show that so transparently exists solely to make its billionaire subjects even richer."
    • The Kardashians is slicker, having taken inspiration from rival reality shows: "When KUWTK paved the way for reality TV, The Kardashians has learned from it - and that's not a bad thing for this new era for the family who are trying to separate themselves from their past and step out on their own (read: away from Kanye)," says Helen Daly. "The family are more relaxed this time around. Sure, there's drama in their life but it doesn't feel like a ticking time bomb is about to go off constantly - it's chilled. Gone are the days of the sisters fighting, and here's familial love and support. It's echoing back to the early seasons of KUWTK where the family really only had each other, not fame. The editing is wittier, too, with the confessionals being cut in at smarter moments. For the first time, the family is saying what they really think. When Scott and Khloe talk about moving on from Kourt, Khloe freely admits he still loves her, saying what we're all thinking."
    • Kardashian family's obsession with the past keeps The Kardashians from moving forward: "The trouble with having mastered reinvention is that visions of your past selves have a way of popping up," says Daniel D'Addario. “The Kardashians is putatively looking to the future — its subjects are on a new platform, having swapped in Hulu for E!, and are sumptuously shot by a production that seems to spare no expense...But it’s obsessed, in a way that holds this series back from whatever it might be, with the past. As a series about the contemporary lives of Kim Kardashian and family, this is about as well-made and incisive as one could expect; take that however it means to you. But as an argument for the continued dominance of the Kardashians in our culture, it finds itself with little novel to say."
    • The Kardashians is fascinating in how it shows celebrity dynamics: "The richest part of the new Hulu show is witnessing snippets of their now gravitational celebrity orbit, however mediated – the familiarity with which famous performers from James Corden to Amy Schumer enter and exit the screen," says Adrian Horton. "Schumer advises Kim on her SNL monologue with actual pushback to her jokes (one that is sharper than you’d expect). There’s something interesting, in a work-porn adjacent way, in watching Kim name-drop 'Dave' (Chappelle) for monologue advice or request SNL booker (and Ben Affleck ex) Lindsey Shookus for last-minute line changes to spare the unstable Kanye. Interesting and somewhat revulsive, too, to see James Corden’s hype-man advise Khloé to ignore social media – this, for a woman who has gaslit followers on her manipulated body and images and participated in her own fair share of online bullying. These asides stick the most because they hint both at the celebrity ecosystems whose rupture the Kardashians rode and remade, and the casualness with which the ultra-famous go about their well-oiled days. Nothing has changed and yet everything is different now, elevated. The Kardashians have stuck together."
    • Kim Kardashian's sex tape scandal hits different on The Kardashians: "The tape was released without Kim's consent, but that didn't matter," says Kristen Baldwin. "By the time Keeping Up With the Kardashians premiered in October 2007, most viewers saw Kim Kardashian as a fame-hungry wannabe who parlayed some purloined home-movie porn into an on-camera career. In the KUWTK series premiere, Kris arrives with the exciting news that Tyra Banks wants to have Kim as a guest on her daytime talk show...Contrast that to the series premiere of The Kardashians in 2022. During the aforementioned family barbecue, Kim's son Saint runs up to show her something that popped up on his Roblox game. It's an ad featuring a picture of his mommy's cry face and touting 'unreleased footage' of her 20-year-old sex tape. (Fortunately, Saint was not yet old enough to read.)...Naturally, Kim is mortified, angry, confused — but she's also ready. Lawyers are summoned for an emergency conference call...Once, that sex tape defined her. Now, Kim Kardashian is the medium and the message. Love her or hate her, she's earned that new font."
    • Kim Kardashian humanizes and energizes The Kardashians: "In the two episodes released early to critics — the first of which dropped on Hulu Thursday — it's Kim whose life elevates The Kardashians into something more compelling than the latest unscripted soap opera wrapped around a C-list celebrity family," says Eric Deggans. He adds: "Honestly, if you hated this family before now, Hulu's The Kardashians won't change your mind. And some fans will likely find this show something of a rehash, centered on incidents that have already been picked apart by TMZ and People magazine months ago. I'm also still trying to figure out why a show distributed on adult-oriented streamer Hulu bleeps out the curse words. But it is also true there is still something quite compelling – and disturbingly of the moment – about watching a family whose business is being famous go about their business on camera."
    • Executive producer Ben Winston met with more than 50 potential showrunners, but kept hidden that the show involved the Kardashian family: “When we were interviewing showrunners, I wouldn’t ever say what it was for,” says Winston, one of the partners -- along with James Corden -- at production company Fulwell 73, which is producing The Kardashians. “We said, ‘It’s about a group of six billionaire businesswomen, who are connected in some way and they all run the incredible companies,'" he says. "People were like, ‘Wow, that’s an amazing story.’ And then I would say that they are sisters, and everyone was like, ‘Oh my god, that sounds like the most fascinating family.’ They weren’t thinking it was a famous family. That’s the approach that we wanted to have.” Winston adds that he wanted the show to come across as a docuseries.
    • Kim Kardashian says her family benefitted from taking a year off from filming: “I think once we announced that we were going to be stopping our show, just different offers came in from different streaming services, and that was really intriguing to us and just seemed different,” she says. “We wanted to do something different, but right away we were like, ‘We miss this. Who were we kidding, we should be doing this.’ We got a year off from filming, and I think that was really beneficial for our souls just to really soak it up. But the filming this time is different, and I just love it.” 
    • Filming separately and for streaming will lead to a faster turnaround time, so viewers won't have to wait long for real-world events to be shown on screen: “We wanted it to be as current as possible,” Kim says. “We hated how long we had to wait. That was like the death of us, because once we got over something, we had to rehash it all over again.” As for joining Hulu, Khloé Kardashian says: “We wanted to be with someone that’s tech forward, so we’re with the times. For us to be still on cable was just not so on brand for us.” Kourtney Kardashian, meanwhile, believes the Hulu show will be the last chapter of her career in reality TV. I see myself living in another city,” she says. “I don’t think I see myself filming on a show in five years. I would probably envision myself, like, just living.” When asked if she truly considers a life away from the cameras, Kim laughs. “No,” she says. “I don’t.”

    TOPICS: The Kardashians, E!, Hulu, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Ben Winston, Khloe Kardashian, Kim Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian, Kris Jenner, Reality TV