Members of the Kardashian/Jenner TV-industrial complex don’t look like they consume a lot of extra calories. Yet when it comes to lamenting life in the public eye while exploiting it, they’re accomplished at having their cake and eating it too.
Enter “Life of Kylie,” the latest E! series to feature part of the family – in this case, 19-year-old model and entrepreneur Kylie Jenner. The first two episodes, which will premiere back to back, underscore a peculiar strain of faux-reluctant reality-TV players who combine self-pity with a lack of self-awareness, as Jenner insists that she hasn’t mastered “this fame thing” like her telegenic brood while inviting a camera crew to follow her around like a puppy.
Obviously, actors and other celebrities also seek attention and publicity on their terms while complaining when they feel the media crosses lines and invades their privacy. The main difference with personalities like the Kardashians or “The Bachelor’s” creations is that they are famous not for a special talent but rather merely for being famous. Fame, or notoriety, is their currency, the only product being marketed.
Given that, it’s amazing how much whining Jenner does, starting with the fact that she basically grew up on “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”
“I still feel like an outcast,” she says, adding that it’s “hard to do normal things when every single person knows who you are.”
But of course, nobody said she had to go into the family business, or define herself by boasting about those 100 million Instagram followers. After all, even Tony Soprano’s kids weren’t cut out for life in the mob.
Tellingly, the producers (a posse that again includes Ryan Seacrest) appear a tad flummoxed by how to build a show around Kylie’s life – how to make “Life of Kylie” (rhymes with “Riley,” a reference the target audience isn’t apt to remember) function as an actual series. Even her entourage – which includes fellow model and pal Jordyn Woods, as well as Jenner’s makeup artist and hairstylist – feels a tad generic in the early going.
As a result, the producers conspicuously concoct situations to bring moments of drama into the proceedings, such as Jenner following Woods on a blind date, complete with earpiece, to essentially heckle her throughout.
In the most questionable sequence, Jenner randomly picks a teenage boy and attends the prom with him. If the idea was to turn him into a hero – classmates chant his name – it’s hard not to dwell on the fact the program has shanghaied the event from every other kid in attendance by shifting the focus to her, all to fabricate a storyline.
A certain level of vacuity is clearly part of the shtick – especially for those expected to hate-watch the show – but “Kylie” pushes emptiness toward its limits even by reality-TV standards.
“This is like a therapy session,” Jenner says during her direct-to-camera confessionals, and later, goes to an actual therapist as if the idea just occurred to her.
While the therapist asks that her face be hidden due to ethical concerns, a little more face-obscuring wouldn’t be a bad suggestion in regard to something like “Life of Kylie.” At least, not until Jenner and some of her reality-TV ilk have mastered this “fame thing.”
“Life of Kylie” premieres Aug. 6 at 9 p.m. on E!