Kourtney & Kim Take New York
TV Series Review
The Kardashians may be the most famous set of sisters since the Brontës. It's fitting, then, that 21st-century celebs Kourtney, Kim and Khloé share similarities with Victorian-era authors Charlotte, Emily and Anne: Both sets of sisters were raised comfortably, if not glamorously. They both managed to rub elbows with their age's well-to-do. Both found enough leisure time to put pen to paper—the Brontës to write acclaimed literature, the Kardashians to sign lucrative endorsement deals.
And both have a knack for bringing private, intimate moments to the world. The Brontës did it through their sparkling wit and wordcraft. The Kardashians have to make do with their ever-present television cameras and the occasional sex tape.
Kourtney, Kim and Khloé have been in so many self-themed reality shows that E! should rename itself K! From Keeping Up With the Kardashians to Kim's blowout wedding to NBA star Kris Humphries shown on Kim's Fairytale Wedding: A Kardashian Event, the Kardashian clan measures success by Nielsen numbers and marks time by commercial breaks.
Kourtney & Kim Take New York—a title with a suitably martial vibe to it—is the Kardashians' latest attempt to divide and conquer the media world as we know it. And, given the events that surround the show's second season, it may be both its most successful and most controversial. It was filmed, after all, during Kim's tumultuous marriage to Kris—a bond that blew apart after a mere 72 days. E! probably came close to documenting every second of those 72 days, which means we're being given the strange, horrible opportunity to watch a relationship swiftly disintegrate before our unblinking eyes.
This is a saga with the spoiler already in place. We know that Kim and Kris will not live happily ever after. We know that any signs of affection they show now will slowly devolve into something else entirely. We know that in this strange, fame-obsessed world we live in—a world epitomized in many ways by Kim herself—the next Kardashian-themed E! special might well be titled Kim & Kris Do Divorce Court: Who Gets the Wii?
Of course, viewers have to wonder a bit about just how "real" these reality shows are. Does Kim always register anger, despair and joy with identical blank expressions? Does Kris really believe he can throw a massive party and keep it a secret from Kim … when the entire party is being filmed for a national cable network?! In a recent episode, Kourtney makes fun of live-in boyfriend Scott Disick for his weeklong "fads." After watching Scott in action, though, I'm wondering whether the guy's as much flighty as he is savvy … conjuring up convenient plot points for each and every episode. In some ways, the Scott we see seems less a real person and more a sitcom character: Kramer with better hair and a more extravagant clothing budget.
My take? Kourtney & Kim Take New York is less faithful to reality than the likes of Lost. We don't watch the Kardashians to find commonalities, but differences. Their lives aren't just foreign: They're extraterrestrial. Each episode is a study in living vicariously, but through lives most of us wouldn't want, lived by people most of us wouldn't want to be. Sure, the Maybachs and jewel-encrusted laptops and on-demand emergency cleaning services would be nice, I suppose … but the life of a Kardashian feels so far removed from my own that it neither holds my interest nor rouses my envy.
It does hold at least its share of content problems. We're exposed to exposing outfits. We see people drinking and hear them swear. We watch as the Kardashians and their satellites make social missteps you'd expect from middle schoolers: People misinterpret texts (and not the Brontë kind), jump to conclusions and have knock-down-drag-outs over something that he said that she said that he said. If these people actually talked to one another instead of spewing hurt and anger to Twitter followers and television crews, well, then there wouldn't be a show at all.
No one turns to E! to watch a breakout of civility. But hey, at least the real lives of the stars might improve, right? Perhaps they'd learn and grow into better, more mature human beings. Perhaps Scott would start concentrating on something that really interested him, instead of deciding to become a rapper for sweeps week. Maybe—just maybe—Kim and Kris might've had a chance to salvage their star-crossed love affair.
After all, that's what real life's about: Learning from our mistakes, growing with each other, enjoying and treasuring family and friends … the sort of relationships that the Brontë sisters wrote about ever so long ago. When all is said and done, reality—real reality—is more important than any ol' reality show, right?