The stars of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” are dashing away from their E! reality series after its 20th season, premiering Thursday (8 EDT/PDT). But their legacy will linger thanks to a whipsmart matriarch with a head (beneath her signature raven bob) made for business and the family’s ability to poosh themselves to be vulnerable in front of the cameras.
Thankfully, the KarJenner clan isn’t disappearing from TV forever. The stars will develop new shows for Hulu, in a new agreement that starts later this year. But this fan felt the need to mark the end of their beginning.
Nearly 14 years ago, E! – with the help of executive producer Ryan Seacrest – introduced Kim, Khloé, Kourtney and Rob Kardashian, their mother Kris Jenner and her children Kylie and Kendall, with gold medalist Caitlyn Jenner, who transitioned in 2015.
Athough Caitlyn gained notoriety as an athlete, and Robert Kardashian served as a member of friend O.J. Simpson’s defense team for his mid-1990s murder trial, most family members were unknowns, as evident in their very first episode. Viewers who tuned in Oct. 14, 2007, saw an excited but nervous Kim preparing for her very first talk-show appearance.
She didn’t want to discuss a sex tape made with her ex-boyfriend, singer Ray J, during her sitdown on “The Tyra Banks Show,” but it was a requirement of the interview. At the time, Kim was billing herself as a clothing store owner and wardrobe stylist. Her mom and stepdad were celebrating 16 years of marriage with a low-key pool party thrown in the backyard of their modest Calabasas home, as the youngest of the brood, Kendall and Kylie, made martinis behind the bar, to their mom’s dismay. (The girls were 11 and 10, respectively, when the show premiered.)
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Kim Kardashian, center, was introduced to the media as a sidekick to Paris Hilton, left. The two conversed with Justin Timberlake, at a party for his film "Alpha Dog" on Jan. 3, 2007 in Hollywood, Calif. (Photo: Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images)
That series premiere is ripe for the “How It Started Vs. How It’s Going” meme. The family has major had financial glow-ups, thanks to momager Kris Jenner’s guidance. (There’s a reason people say, “The devil works hard, but Kris Jenner works harder.”)
In 2018, Kendall topped Forbes’ list of Highest-paid Models at just 23, thanks to deals with Estée Lauder, Calvin Klein and Adidas. Kim and Kylie landed on Forbes’ 2020 list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women with reported net worths of $780 million and $700 million, respectively. Jenner also made the list with her $190 million fortune, amassed from her 10% manager fee and other ventures. Khloé, Kourtney and Rob run their own businesses. It’s not shabby for a family whose fame seemed perplexing to some.
“My job is to take my family’s 15 minutes of fame and turn it into 30,” Jenner told More magazine in 2011. “It’s a very rewarding feeling when I go to sleep every night knowing I did the best I could for my family.”
In a recent interview with USA TODAY, celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin reflected on what she’s learned from the persistent Jenner. “There’s a quote that she says, ‘If you’re being told no, ask someone else,'” says Atkin. “‘Don’t take no for an answer.'”
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The long-held argument is that the reality family lacked any true ability. Barbara Walters straight up told Kim, Khloé, Kourtney and Kris, “You don’t have any – forgive me – any talent,” when they made her list of “Most Fascinating People” in 2011.
“But we’re still entertaining people,” Khloé responded, highlighting the difficulty of making good television. Kim added: “I think it’s more of a challenge for you to go on a reality show and get people to fall in love with you for being you.” Several former reality stars and frustrated producers will tell her she’s not wrong.
And it hasn’t just been one show for 20 seasons: Over the years there have been several spin-offs focused on members of the family venturing to other cities like in “Kourtney & Kim Take New York” or that put a focus on their romantic relationships (“Khloé & Lamar,” featuring then-NBA star Lamar Odom).
The spin-offs have had considerably shorter runs than “Keeping Up,” which has drawn viewers in with close-ups of the stars’ private moments. Viewers have seen the highs – weddings of Khloé to Odom, Kim to NBA player Kris Humphries (in a wedding special) and her preparations for tying the knot with rapper Kanye West.
The family didn’t turn away from cameras when life knocked them down. Fans have seen Khloé divorce Odom, following his 2015 overdose and dealing with the infidelities of the father of her daughter, basketball player Tristan Thompson; Kim detailing a 2016 robbery at gunpoint in Paris; Scott Disick’s struggles with addiction, and Kendall’s anxiety.
“For the past 14 years, our family has invited cameras inside our homes to document our most personal moments,” Kim says in a trailer for the new season. “We have shared the ordinary and extraordinary, our triumphs, and our tragedies.” And it’s likely that continues in Season 20.
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Khloé Kardashian, far left, Kris Jenner, Kourtney Kardashian, Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner and Kendall Jenner pose for an image promoting Season 9 of their family reality series that wraps this year. (Photo: Brian Bowen Smith/E!)
It seems highly likely that Kim discusses her crumbling marriage on the new season. (News broke last month that she and West are divorcing after nearly seven years and four children.)
“I feel like a (expletive) loser,” Kim cries in the season preview, seemingly referencing her third failed marriage.
But sharing all the drama certainly benefits its stars beyond their pocketbooks. The show has provided a vessel for the celebrity family to frame (and time the revelation of) their biggest life events without relying on journalists or statements on social media.
In addition to the stars’ drama, “Keeping Up” at its root has always been about family, which is why I tune in weekly, even when Kim was taking selfies as Khloé headed to jail, or when she swung her purse at Khloé while ironically telling her, “Don’t be (expletive) rude.”
Like any family, they have their issues, which is comforting to those who identify with their hardships. As far as reality TV goes, they did amazing, sweeties!
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