When the Kardashian family announced the end of E!’s Keeping Up With the Kardashians in 2020, it seemed like the end of an era. There were retrospectives, teary good-byes, and even reunion shows to mark a grandiose farewell. But if we really thought we were done keeping up, we learned nothing from those 20 seasons.
Just three months later, Disney announced that the family had signed a deal to produce “new global content” for Hulu — but what exactly did this vague announcement mean? A revival of the hit daytime talk show Kris? The addition of Armenia to Disney World’s Epcot? Sponsored posts for The Dropout? It turns out it essentially meant the continuation of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, sans those first three words. But just as Keeping Up evolved over the years to adapt to the family’s changing life, this new chapter provided an opportunity to hit reset on how they share their stories. And with that recalibration and new home came the longest gap that the family has been off television in 15 years.
But finally, our long national nightmare is over. After a ten-month absence, the Kardashian family is back on our screens, and what better way to start this new chapter than with drones? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a bird trapped in Kylie Cosmetics headquarters? If so, their new show’s opening has you covered, with drone footage soaring from one sister to the next through the Calabasas skies.
It’s the first big difference between this show and its predecessor, but just when you might worry that too much has changed, Kendall uses her drone shot to call out sick from the first family group scene. Ah, that’s the show we know and love. (Later, Kendall clarifies in a confessional that she actually had COVID, but promises she’ll be back to shoot the rest of the season — which I’ll believe when I see it.) This “Avengers Assemble” montage brings the on-camera family together for a barbecue at Kim’s house.
What our gals call a barbecue is something to behold: monochromatic ball-pit slides, silver buffet serving trays, and clothes that I wouldn’t have otherwise ever thought to describe as clothes. A pregnant Kylie arrives, and Kim (correctly) predicts that she’s having a boy; Kris greets Tristan by saying, “Why did I think you were at basketball?” as if he were on a middle-school CYO team; and Rob is welcomed with … just kidding! Rob is obviously not there.
The series is shot slightly more like a documentary than a reality show, aligning with the Kardashians’ longtime love of breaking the fourth wall (their new intro even features a CGI glass wall shattering before them). At one point, Kim — a modern-day Fleabag — looks directly into the camera while making herself a plate of chicken nuggets to tell us that she’s only a vegan sometimes.
We also get new confessionals, some of which are filmed on the go — a change that seems less like a “stylistic” decision and more like a “Kourtney wanted to spend less time filming confessionals” decision. The formal, seated confessionals now appear to be shot in their identical taupe homes, and they all look exactly like Khloé’s Nurtec ODT commercials.
Though the barbecue was clearly meant to set up the show’s first major plot point, with Kim announcing to her family that she’ll be hosting Saturday Night Live, the gods have even more drama in store. Like the consummate professional he is, Saint waits for the cameras to be up and rolling before he saunters over to Kim with a reveal on his iPad. Apparently, on Roblox, a character featuring Kim’s “cry face” mentions a “new sex tape.” Saint, much like Kendall, cannot read — so he thinks it is funny that his mom is a video-game character, as we all do when our moms are video-game characters. But he instantly realizes he has made a grave mistake, and his little face drops when suddenly his iPad is gone and his mom is suing his favorite game.
Now here’s the thing: I do not know what Roblox is, nor should I have to. It’s bad enough that the Kardashians have made me acquire a surface-level understanding of sports, but now they’re introducing video games into the equation — which is something I thought we left behind with Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.
While Kim sics her lawyers on Roblox, she preps for SNL, which mostly involves making long ponytails and sitting by racks of colorful bodysuits that look like they’re made out of Book Sox. We also get our first mention of Pete Davidson, who Kim says calmed her nerves about hosting while they were at the Met Gala. As you picture this conversation, bear in mind that Pete was in his Holly Golightly, DDS costume, and Kim was sheathed head to toe in black fabric — a classic meet-cute.
And though Kim claims she isn’t funny, she refers to Debra Messing only as “the girl from Will & Grace” (The Mysteries of Laura erasure) when discussing her rude tweet about Kim hosting SNL — which at the very least gives Kim something to bond with Nicole Kidman over.
But among all the SNL and Roblox hubbub, the premiere gives us status updates on the three core relationships — and thank God it does, because otherwise we’d have no way of knowing anything about them. Here are the updates:
Everybody except Kris saw this relationship coming, which apparently came about when Kourtney made a move during a movie date. Kourtney doesn’t say which movie they watched, so until told otherwise, I can only assume it was The Nightmare Before Christmas. They go to Travis’s studio, which appears to be just a bike shop on account of the 100 bicycles there, and he and Penelope find themselves in a drum-off — prescient foreshadowing of her eventual pop-punk band called Poosh. Kourtney and Travis call each other “babe” six times this episode.
The separated Kim and Kanye (who hasn’t yet appeared on-camera) are seemingly in a positive place. Kim even considers having him be the musical guest for her SNL gig (a power I didn’t know hosts had), but thankfully opts to have her own moment instead. She also mentions that Kanye wants to quit everything to become her stylist full-time. Someone needs to just give this man a Malibu Barbie and call it a day so he stops collecting these women just to play dress-up.
For once, Tristan and Khloé are providing us with the least drama. They’re amicably co-parenting, although she sometimes goes to therapy with him, which feels like a trap. When the pair begin fondly reminiscing about Tristan cheating on Khloé when she was nine months pregnant, he tries to change the subject by saying, “It’s 2021; we can’t be talking about 2018,” as if 2018 was his last cheating scandal.
The odd man out is Scott Disick, whose exclusion from the barbecue provides us with a vintage plot point that will have you questioning what year it is. Luckily Kourtney springs into a confessional to confirm that it has, in fact, been seven years since they broke up, so how is this still a story line? Something new that Scott brings to the table is his claim that he doesn’t want to date teenagers anymore, which is understandable, because it must feel like they’re just using him to see R-rated movies after a while.
But things didn’t seem so splintered with Kourtney and Scott at the end of Keeping Up — so what changed? Well, at lunch between the three sisters who actually film for the show, Kourtney explains the rift that occurred after Scott DM’d her ex (Younes) about her PDA, an offense Kourtney calls “despicable” — which Khloé deems a big word. It’s worth noting that this conversation happens immediately after Khloé requests a Skims redesign, given that she has a “bigger vagina than most.” See, Kimberly’s criminal justice reform isn’t the only activism happening on this show!
The episode’s drama mounts with Kim on the phone with celebrity lawyer Marty Singer when she’s joined by Kris, Khloé, and goth Polly Pocket (Kourtney). It turns out that Roblox was just the beginning and there’s a looming threat of additional sex-tape footage from 20 years ago being released. It’s an eerily full-circle moment that even Khloé can’t help but point out (with the positive spin of it being a good omen for the new show). In KUWTK episode one, Kim had to deal with a sex tape as she prepares to fly to New York to go on The Tyra Banks Show. Today, she does the same as she prepares to go on an equally important television institution, Saturday Night Live.
As horrible as it is, the tape’s reentry into the conversation makes for a fascinating and powerful look at the changing way our culture frames these situations — and how different that is from 20 years ago. Kim is careful in her wording, pointedly (and correctly) removing any semblance of blame from herself by refusing to call the tape a mistake. “It’s not the most scandalous thing, and I’m not going to be made to feel that way,” she says, firmly taking control of a narrative that has been put upon her for all these years.
But unlike in 2007, she now has four kids to think about, but she’s also got all the money, resources, and power to put up a fight. And in true reality television fashion, as a fight bubbles up, in comes those three magic words: To be continued.