By Josh Duboff. Photos: Getty Images.
Keeping Up with the Kardashians returns for its 13th season on E! this Sunday, and this marks an important moment for the Kardashian franchise. In certain ways, there has never been more curiosity about the family and their brand. Kim Kardashian West’s robbery in Paris in October was one of the biggest celebrity stories of the year in 2016, and her subsequent retreat from social media and gradual return has continued to fuel the story. Kendall Jenner has appeared on the cover of Vogue twice since September. Kanye West’s behavior—following his week-long hospitalization, subsequent meeting in New York with Donald Trump, and New York Fashion Week show —is about as closely monitored as it has ever been. Khloe, Kourtney, and Rob Kardashian are doing their part as well, knowing very well how to maximize interest in their lives and relationships with a well-timed, cryptic social-media post or a leaked item in a celebrity news blog.
But, and this is the case for any show 13 seasons in, there also seems to be some exhaustion setting in. How many narratives about Scott Disick and Kourtney Kardashian’s “Are they going to get back together or not?” relationship can we withstand? Is a story about Kendall or Kylie’s difficulty living in the public eye really going to resonate, given we have heard them express this challenge on nearly every season of the show? We have written before about the way the show can be extremely dynamic and intriguing when it showcases the smaller moments, the “real,” relatable interactions between family members that we are not privy to in mainstream coverage of the family, or even in their Instagram and Snapchat posts. But when the stakes are as outsize as they are now—robberies, hospitalizations, divorces—any lighthearted moments sprinkled throughout may have a diminished effect.
This season may represent the biggest challenge for the franchise yet. Viewers are surely going to be eager to see footage surrounding Kim’s robbery and Kanye’s hospitalization, but how much will the family actually be willing to show us? The new trailer promises quite a lot, while also feeling like one of the enigmatic “Next week on Mad Men . . .” previews, chock-full of dramatic non sequiturs (“It’s a lot of pressure,” “She’s the love of my life,” etc.).
If the footage related to these major stories feels in any way exploitative or staged, there will surely be cries of attention-seeking-ness, headlines about Kris Jenner’s plotting to maintain the show’s relevancy in leveraging these upsetting sagas. Of course, there is also a possibility that the show, as it has at its finest moments, presents a thoughtful, considered look at what went on during some of these very dark hours. (There were scenes in the aftermath of intense family experiences—such as Caitlyn Jenner’s transition, or the dissolution of Lamar Odom and Khloe's marriage—that were handled sensitively and sincerely.) Perhaps we will only feel closer, in some way, to the family—unlikely to be going anywhere any time soon—after this season airs. (E! did not make any episodes from the 13th season available to press in advance).
At the end of this new trailer for the season, Kris Jenner says, in voice-over, “At the end of the day, we have each other, and that means everything.” But it is hard to know whether or not she actually believes it.
This story originally appeared on Vanity Fair.
More from Vanity Fair: