Now that season two of The Kardashians has wrapped on Hulu, we’ve got a lot of questions. And not about what happened this season, or what to expect in the next one. No, we’re actually trying to figure out bigger picture stuff here. Like just who this show is for, why the family keeps doing it, and whether we should still be watching.
When the Kardashians first graced our screens in 2007 with their E! show Keeping Up With The Kardashians, there was a sort of ramshackle charm to the whole affair. That likely sounds improbable to anyone who didn’t watch the first few seasons, and it’s incongruous with the glamorous Kardashians we know now. But early on the Kardashians almost felt like they could’ve been your own family. Sure, they lived in Beverly Hills and were casual friends with famous people, but besides that, they were a lot like the rest of us. Their family dynamic was chaotic, dysfunctional, and unfiltered, and it was genuinely fun to watch.
The storylines at that point were light and silly, like when they put a chicken coop in their backyard or when a pre-transition Caitlyn Jenner helped Kim get in shape for Playboy. Even the more serious stuff, like Khloé going to jail, was treated with humor and heart. The original theme song was adorable, with the infectious high-pitched whistling as it introduced each member of the family. Kim, Kourtney, and Khloé were humble boutique owners, Kylie and Kendall were pre-pubescent, and Kris had yet to trademark the term “momager.”
It’s a stark difference from where Keeping Up With The Kardashians ended up 14 years later. The old Kardashians wore pedestrian outfits from Dress Barn. The new Kardashians exclusively wore Balenciaga. The old Kardashians looked like they did their hair and makeup themselves. The new Kardashians looked like they had a team of hundreds working on them for hours. The old Kardashians got into their cars and distracted each other while driving. The new Kardashians flew on their private jets and talked about their packed schedules. Any ounce of relatability they had previously was gone. Keeping Up was no longer your typical family reality show. Instead, it became an inside look at the inner workings of A-list celebrities. This was even reflected in the show’s intro. No longer did it introduce Kris and her kin by name. It didn’t have to. You already knew their names. And that was why you were watching.
It didn’t come as a surprise when the family announced in 2020 that Keeping Up With The Kardashians was finally coming to an end. All of them had their own lucrative careers and seemed to be working non-stop. How did they even have time for a show? Plus, Kourtney had all but left and Kendall rarely appeared. It seemed that the Kardashians had outgrown their show just like they kept outgrowing their houses.
But there was a twist. What felt like a day later, they announced their new show: The Kardashians. It didn’t make any sense. Why make all that fuss about ending your show only to immediately announce a new one? How would this new show be any different than the one it was replacing? One of the ways, Kim told Variety, was that it would be more current. “We hated how long we had to wait … because once we got over something, we had to rehash it all over again,” she explained. It seemed as if the new show would be as close to airing in real-time as possible.
Of course, there’s still a bit of a delay. The Kardashians premiered in April, and its central storyline was about Kim preparing to host Saturday Night Live six months prior. Of course, we all know what happens: She does well and ends up hooking up with Pete Davidson, leading to the most confusing relationship of the decade (so far). You would be hard-pressed to find anybody who doesn’t already know how this story ends, as Kim and Pete’s every move became headline news.
Season two, which premiered in September, focuses on Kim’s attempt to wear Marilyn Monroe’s dress to the Met Gala while the Blac Chyna trial looms over the family. The producers are trying to make it suspenseful: If the dress doesn’t fit, Kim isn’t going to the Met Gala. Will she make it work, or will she sit at home watching TV like your pathetic ass is right now? Again, you know how it ends. She crash-dieted, lost 16 pounds, and wore the dress to the event with her then-boyfriend by her side.
So who exactly is this show for? Is it specifically made for people who just got out of jail or just woke up from a coma? For anyone who doesn’t fall into either of those categories, watching The Kardashians is like reading the history book after you fought in the war. We don’t need to spend weeks wondering whether or not Kim wears Marilyn’s dress to the Met Gala. We lived it! In this day and age, we are all Kardashian konsumers (sorry) whether we want to be or not. They have managed to force themselves so deeply into the kollective konsciousness (sorry!) that they don’t need a TV show for the world to “keep up” with them. By simply being living, breathing organisms in 2022, we are inherently keeping up with the Kardashians.
Think about it. The Kardashians arguably created the concept of the influencer, turning their Instagram grids into virtual billboards for everything from protein shakes to fake music festivals. It sounds like a sweet gig, which is why a Morning Consult study found that 86 percent of young Americans want in on it. Who wouldn’t want to quit their nine-to-five and make a living posting shirtless photos from a balcony in Ibiza? Kim is right that nobody wants to work anymore. And it’s because of her.
Many are even trying to replicate the Kardashian path to stardom by starting on a reality show. Look at The Bachelor, for example. Everyone claims they’re there to find true love—they’ll usually even gang up on at least one fellow cast member whom they deem isn’t there “for the right reasons.” Yet despite their heartbreak, they seem to have no problem selling diet pills and period subscription boxes on Instagram afterward. For wannabe influencers, reality shows today are what Saturday Night Live was for comedians before the internet: a launchpad for the next phase of their careers.
If reality shows are SNL, then the Kardashians are Kenan Thompson. You can’t help but wonder what they’re still getting out of it a decade and a half later. Can Kris not sleep without a mic pack attached to her waist? Can Kim not go to a doctor without broadcasting the appointment to the world?
Perhaps the real answer is actually a wholesome one. When the family spoke to Variety ahead of the new show’s launch, the outlet noted one of the ways the streaming series differed from its predecessor: It would more often profile the sisters individually rather than focus on getting them all together, a testament to how busy their lives are. Could it be that this reality show is the glue that’s holding the family together? Who knows if they would see each other as often—or at all—otherwise.
So who exactly is this show for? The answer seems to be that it’s for them. In a 2020 Ellen appearance, Kris said that Keeping Up gave her “the most amazing home movies in the world.” Caitlyn said the same thing in a YouTube video, adding that the show “made the family stronger.” The Kardashians have had their personal lives documented for so long that the kamera krews (last one, promise) and the massive paychecks from the show likely feel like second nature. To paraphrase Walter White, The Kardashians have a reality show because they like it. Because they’re good at it. Because it makes them feel alive. It may seem strange to us, but if it brings them together, makes them happy, and keeps fuel in their private jets, more power to them.