The super-wealthy love monochromatic white—white couches, white walls, white pantsuits. My theory is that this is because it’s a way for them to signal they have ample staff to take care of the filth that even people who look like statues can’t help but accumulate over the course of their lives. As a status symbol, it’s pretty effective. But it makes a really fucking awful color palette for TV. All of which is to say, I watched the premiere of the 18th season of Keeping Up With the Kardashians on Thursday night—my first-ever episode of the show—and I’m somewhat disappointed in the muted and robotic antics of these nearly identical siblings, people who exist exclusively in a non-threatening landscape of off-whites and rose pinks and subtle nudes and can’t even get into physical altercations in a convincing way.
My previous knowledge of the Kardashians is basically that they are very wealthy—to be honest, I’m not entirely sure why—and some, if not all, of their names, begin with K. I’m also aware that one of them was an athlete of some kind, and the other the long-suffering spouse of Kanye West. In the establishing shot, perhaps a recurring gag, a person I’ve identified through Google as Kris Jenner sits in front of a fire reading a fairytale about the family, referring to them as “princes” and “princesses” and royalty. I suppose it’s appropriate that the American monarchs anointed by whatever extractive industry made them all that money would have excruciatingly banal and stupid lives.
Keeping Up doesn’t seem to be much about keeping up with the family as it is letting the Kardashians wash over you in an endless and inconsequential stream: I’m sorry to report that most of the family, an ageless cluster of equine faces with arched eyebrows and hair that appears rendered in CGI, looks exactly the same to me. It doesn’t help that they also all have microphones clipped to their low-rise pants and that the producers use a spooky echo effect on their voices occasionally to signify an important moment. I was grateful for the aural cue, actually, since Keeping Up With the Kardashians has so few moments in which even its stars appear to believe their actions have meaning. A sequence of non-events is met with an escalating series of scenes in which the event is unpacked: A man named Tristan comes to dinner. The dinner goes better than expected, considering this Tristan had caused one of the Kardashians, or perhaps the broader Kardashian hive mind, difficulty in the past.
The event—which, again, went well—is discussed at length in a confessional in front of the camera, and then discussed by the dinner-goers, and then discussed again over FaceTime in the cab, and further discussed by a few of the family members. I suppose this is really what it’s like to be that rich, every minor moment of potential discomfort refracted endlessly until it seems like a catastrophe. But I do wish that the people being paid nearly $1 million an episode would do their jobs with a little more flair.
The other strands that could be referred to, generously, as plotlines include a sister complaining about having to “get glam” for the television show she’s participating in, but also saying she couldn’t possibly be in front of a camera without being “glam”; a “collab” in Paris gone wrong when the interchangeable sisters appear to believe they are not, in fact, interchangeable; and a very sad lunch where a regular-looking guy has to sit across from a Kardashian being offered $500,000 by her mother as a bribe. Most of this takes place in softly lit spaces decorated in blushes and tans, giving the impression that the entire world is being rendered through a pair of nude pantyhose. I think this would be a good show to watch if Qualludes were still around.
In the final act, some Kardashians [Ed’s Note: and a Jenner] lounge on a white couch and fight about who works the hardest. This, I imagine, was scripted to inspire some sort of gleeful rage in viewers, but even I, someone who makes everything about class war, couldn’t bring myself to care. The version of drama the Kardashians are telegraphing is lethargic and sort of auto-piloted, which I imagine has to do with them being on TV and trying to make their lives look interesting for more than a decade. When two of the sisters get into a physical altercation, they barely touch each other. One of them can’t even muster the energy to kick her sister properly; she just sort of raises her knee and taps it in her sibling’s general direction. But I suppose that’s what happens when you live in those white houses long enough and try to manufacture it into interesting TV: Even your sense of drama atrophies. Truthfully, my number one impression after watching this show is that we should leave the Kardashians alone and let them take a nap.