In the beginning, it was this half-hour reality show about a family in southern California whose most famous member, 25-year-old Kim, had lately been in and out of the tabloid headlines -- most recently for a sex tape that went public.
Just shy of 14 years later, this family -- the Kardashians -- is a global phenomenon. And while their worldwide fame and earning power has grown in parallel with the rise of social media since the premiere of their TV show in 2007, their show, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” is the origination point of it all.
This week marks the beginning of the end of this family’s remarkable run with their history-making TV show. The show’s 20th and final season starts this Thursday on E!
History-making? Yes. Deride them if you want to, but it does take a certain genius to make so much hay out of a show that seemed to be about nothing -- or at least next to nothing -- and then have it run for 20 seasons in 14 years.
The fact is, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” represents a great achievement in the history of television. It entertained millions, spawned numerous spinoff brands -- TV shows, cosmetics, apparel -- and earned billions.
It is doubtful that any of the Kardashians -- not even the family’s savvy matriarch, Kris Jenner -- could foresee what their show would turn into.
When I asked Kim Kardashian in a 2007 phone interview what made her family uniquely qualified to have their own show, she gave an answer that could have applied to any number of families the world over.
“I think what’s really interesting about our family is there are so many of us,” she said. “It’s very chaotic at all times, but at the end of the day, we love each other so much and we are each other’s best friends.”
She even described her family as “normal.” “What sets us apart is that even though we grew up with privilege, we all work,” she said. “I am so stereotyped into being this Hollywood girl. … I’m excited for people to see how normal we are.”
The Kardashians might have been “normal” or somewhere close to it when their show started, but there was nothing normal about the attention they attracted in the ensuing 14 years.
Of course, for them, being rich and famous and surrounded by luxury is “normal.” For example, in this week’s season premiere, which the TV Blog previewed this week, the family convenes for a vacation at a spectacular cliffside estate on a high bluff in Malibu overlooking the Pacific Ocean that they have rented for the entire summer.
This is portrayed in the show as the family’s antidote for the confinement and isolation they have been experiencing in the era of COVID-19.
And while it is true that this “getaway” rental house is even more luxurious than their own homes, any one of their houses would be spectacular places for most of us to spend a pandemic.
In the final-season premiere of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” it does not seem as if the Kardashians have suffered very much from COVID.
As a matter of fact, this episode unfolds in pretty much the same way that most of the previous episodes have done, at least to a viewer who has followed this series as casually as I have.
Basically, these family members sit around a lot and talk to each other -- most often while sunbathing around various swimming pools.
While it might seem as if very little happens in the lives of these Kardashians, much has occurred in their 14 years in the public eye of cable television. There have been marriages and divorces, a number of babies, and the birth of business empires.
And lest anyone has forgotten, when the show began in 2007, it was filmed principally at the home of Bruce and Kris Jenner. So, in addition to all of the above events that transpired, we also witnessed the transformation of Bruce to Caitlyn, and reality television has never been the same.
The 20th and final season of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” starts Thursday (March 18) at 8 p.m. Eastern on E!