The Kardashians’ endless screaming and slamming keep you from realising that nothing has, or is ever happening on the show, writes Annie Lord

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Kim Kardashian lounges on a grey corner sofa looking down at her iPhone through long, doll-like eyelashes. Her sister Kourtney asks Khloe to get her a T-shirt and a bra because she feels sick. Khloe walks off muttering, Does she just have servants who do everything for her? When she gets the T-shirt, Kourtney complains that its too small. I thought you were listening to me? In a few days, T-shirt gate will have its watershed moment when Kim and Kourtney have an actual fistfight that leaves Kim bleeding from the shoulder while Kourtney cries off her contour in the bathroom sink.
Exchanges like this are precisely what keep me coming back to the Kardashians, even when I know its reducing my brain to grey mulch. The E! reality shows appeal derives from a very precise formula. Small dramas occur say, Kylie reveals she’s had lip fillers, Kim briefly loses a diamond earring in the ocean while on holiday in Bora Bora and then the sisters vastly overreact. One of them storms off. The camera shakes as the crew follows the stormer out of the room. Intense music plays. A frenzied piece to camera sees one of them declare, Like, Im so over it. This two-step process is hard to tear yourself away from. Their endless screaming and slamming keeps you from realising that nothing has happened, or is ever happening, on the show.
Slower than a Bertolt Brecht play, Keeping Up with the Kardashians is meditation for my anxiety-addled mind. It allows me to switch off in ways that I never can in the bath or on a meditation app. Watching Kim describe her favourite constipation cure, or Khloe try to hit a golf ball, I begin to feel empty, unthinking, numb. I zone out, popping back in the room only when I realise I am hungry and it’s tea time.
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The Kardashians brand of junk food TV has been there to soothe me ever since my parents finally decided to get a Skybox. So you can imagine my concern when the trailer for the remaining episodes of season 18 (due to air in September) appeared to show actual drama. Under the caption KUWTK Goes into Quarantine, the family react to news of the coronavirus. The White House said that the coronavirus is serious, Kim says as she marches down a sidewalk in blackout sunglasses. Kylie appears glazed over when she says on a Zoom call: Its just scary when someone so close to home has tested positive. The concrete of an empty LA highway burns under the sun. I fear that now the delicate balance of non-events and women with glossy bobs screaming literally will be thrown off. That the show might actually ask me to think.
Season 18, or the six episodes they aired before lockdown rules delayed production, has gifted the tooth-grinding neurotic a wealth of non-dramas to help them unwind. Kourtney wants to take a selfie at the Armenian Genocide war memorial but there are too many photographers around. Kylie doesnt like wearing glasses so she gets laser eye surgery. Scott is worried about his talk on real estate because he thought it was only going to be four to five minutes but actually the organisers said 45 minutes. My girls WhatsApp chat has more narrative drive than this.
True, when Kourtney and Kim fight, it’s wild to see two Los Angeles princesses of 41 and 39 go all Ronda Rousey on each other. But the scene is milked out, replayed, analysed, recapped so much across the season’s six hours that in the end, its entirely eked free of any shock value. While it remains the main narrative thread for much of the series, even by the finale, I am still unsure what the actual issue is. Kourtney just keeps on referring to the toxic atmosphere she has to endure when spending time with the family. Kim resolves things by concluding: Lets just make a pact to be mindful of how everyone communicates now. Whats hurtful and shameful and all of the above. Other than lets be nice, which youd presume was a priority anyway, I have no idea what she means.
During the season, one is left moderately on edge when Kylie’s strep throat means she’s too ill to close the Balmain X Kylie fashion show for the line she designed. Kris offers Kim $300,000 in cash to walk for Kylie but Kim says no because it doesnt work with my brand. Inevitably, Oliver Rousteing is able to find another model to fill in at the last minute. The show is a success and Rousteing will no doubt recruit the Kardashians again because they are The Kardashians. Nothing ever goes wrong for America’s favourite capitalist matriarchy; they are cushioned by cash.
And since the show is so meticulously staged, the Kardashians never misfire or say anything you might disagree with. While in the real world, it was excruciatingly tone-deaf for Kendall to appear in an advert ending a protest by handing a Pepsi can to a policeman apparently now, they shut them down with tear gas and mass arrests on the show, the PR blunder is patched over via a weepy piece to camera: I trusted everyone. I trusted the teams. But after I saw the reaction and I read what people had to say about it, I most definitely saw what went wrong. They congregate at their beige Calabasas mega-mansions for a working day and then leave when producers have all the shots they need. Here in nothing-nowhere-land, mistakes arent made, they are erased, just like the pores that disappear with Facetunes blur function, or cellulite thats smoothed out by Spanx.
Im not sure if the same empty non-disclosures can be maintained now that the series is taking place during a pandemic. I worry that The Kardashians will no longer be non-drama meets dramatic reaction and instead, drama meets dramatic reaction. A formula that will no doubt prove too stressful. I can only hope their overwhelming privilege pushes them to find a way to be petty in all this. A surgeon cant come around to give cheek fillers. Kims vampire facial is delayed.
Thankfully, there is hope. From the trailer, it looks like they’re inside a horror film staged in Selfridges. Kris cries in a room of Birkin bags: I miss you Khloe, I want to hug you. Scott Disick wears Yeezy-style loungewear in front of a swimming pool as he admits: Im starting to go a little stir crazy. I keep the faith in how awful billionaires are, so that I might watch another series in another cosy amnesia haze. My legs up. Duvet brought down from the bedroom. My brain reassuringly dead.