Probably the most easily recognizable title of the reality TV era, “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” recently began its 18th consecutive season. If you are a nonregular to reality shows but are aware of its campy tropes, you might already fully know what to expect from the Kardashian family’s boring and sometimes controversial livelihoods as socialites of the celebrity world.
In the midst of crowded parties and fashion shows of New York, Kim, the show’s de-facto mascot of sorts, appears to feel at home in such a fast-paced environment. She’s mingling around and promoting the launch of her new slimwear line, SKIMS. As an audience, we’re given just enough detail about the progressive, body-positive message of the new clothing line to assume that Kim is rebranding herself as a reformist entrepreneur. However, little attention is given to the product after its singular mention when Kim receives a call from NBA player Tristan Thompson, her sister Khloe’s “baby daddy.” Kim invites Tristan to dinner and much to Khloe’s annoyance, and the two reconcile their broken friendship. This is a common trope throughout the series as the ongoings of the Kardashian brands are mentioned, but are overshadowed by the petty drama that viewers prefer.
For example, Kylie Jenner, the world’s youngest “self-made” billionaire, is shown preparing to travel to Paris to promote her cosmetics brand. The show then cuts to Kourtney and her newly formed bad attitude, which she adolescently uses to torment her sisters through her own laziness and apathy. Cut back to New York, where Kim and Tristan are having dinner at a lavish five-star restaurant. Among all this, the family’s matriarch and publicist, Kris Jenner, checks in on each of her daughters. I wish I could say I’m merely summarizing these events in lieu of explaining them in full detail, but I can’t. There’s virtually no other information than what’s shown on the surface. Amongst the constant bopping of background music and cuts between cameras, it’s aggravating to stay tuned with regard to how little actually happens among all the sisters’ individual plotlines.
While Kourtney’s egocentrism builds tension amongst the sisters, Kim eventually takes it upon herself to physically assault Kourtney in a less-than-convincing catfight. Khloe, who is present, does little to break up the altercation. The highest point of drama occurs when Kylie, who has fallen ill, alerts her mother that she can’t attend the fashion show in Paris to promote her brand. The audience might be eager to find out how this problem will be resolved, but we are left to “tune in next week” to find out.
Perhaps this is why people watch. To an outsider, family quarrels existing at the richest level of American society might seem reassuring that life is not so perfect in the highest tax bracket. The relationships among the main Kardashian trio of daughters appear to be rooted in their outright pettiness to each other. They act childish despite the vast monochromatic wardrobes and mansions they have at their disposal. But even if that mode of thinking was the case for viewership, would someone even want to watch 18 consecutive seasons of consistent feuding?
It’s because “Keeping Up” feels like junk food for the eyes. It’s mindlessly entertaining. It mainly continues to exist purely as the central platform for the Kardashian brand, whether it be SKIMS or Kylie Cosmetics or for general clout when Kim needs to promote a fashionable Judy crisis kit in the midst of a global pandemic. Season 18 takes a shift to look at each of Kris Jenner’s five daughters as entrepreneurs and activists in their own right. Just last month, Kim was being praised for her endeavors in criminal justice reform, for which she advocated in a visit to the White House.
As long as “Keeping Up” endures, so too will the Kardashian’s relevancy. In season 18, that relevancy will depend on how well a new, enterprising slant is received by audiences. And if seeing one reality TV star behind the white house podium wasn’t already enough for you, maybe try to keep up with the Kardashians a little less.