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'The Kardashians’ return to reality TV — their best publicity tool

Less than a year after they ended their hit E! series, the Kardashian-Jenner family are back with a new Hulu show to sell the world their best product of all: their lives.
Image: Kim Kardashian in the first episode of Hulu's "“The Kardashians.”
Kim Kardashian in the first episode of Hulu's “The Kardashians.” Hulu

Weddings, divorces, childbirths, a sex tape and so much more — the Kardashian-Jenner family bared it all to the world before they ended their former reality series, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”

Now, less than a year after the finale aired, the entrepreneurial family are back to sell their best product of all: their lives. 

To know the Kardashians is to know the headlines that surround their lives, a symbiotic relationship that helped keep their original E! reality series on the air for 14 years. But Khloe, Kourtney and Kim Kardashian came together during season 20 and decided not to renew their contracts for the show. 

“In order to figure out what our next journey will be like, we have to say goodbye to ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians,’’ Kim said in a confessional during the show’s final season. 

It took less than two years before they began filming for a new reality series for Hulu, “The Kardashians.” Hulu did not respond to requests for interviews with members the family.

It’s hardly surprising that the Kardashians and the Jenners would take such a long hiatus from a national platform that allows them to mold their narrative or show off their companies, said Danny Deraney, the CEO of Deraney PR. And all the while, Hulu pays for their time to film them doing it.

“Look, it’s 100 percent a machine to sell. To sell them,” Deraney said. “It’s 100 percent that. I mean, look, you got a show that you can sponsor yourself.” 

Reality TV show as a 'perfect cash cow'

While the show certainly offered a behind-the-curtain view of controversies, such as the fallout of Kim Kardashian’s sex tape in the first season or how the family navigated Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out as a transgender woman, it was also without question a vehicle for their business ventures.

The sisters displayed their now-defunct boutique, DASH, in the early seasons, created apps with exclusive content and later went on to show glimpses into the development of perfume lines and cosmetic brands. 

That’s the “genius” of reality television, Deraney said.

“It’s a perfect cash cow, to get all these people to come on board and to be shown,” Deraney said. “You know, it’s to have your own company boosted. … It’s the ultimate PR machine. I’m sure there’s some kind of organic stuff in there, but it’s like a lot of these reality shows.” 

Image: Kourtney and Travis in Hulu's "The Kardashians."
Kourtney and Travis in Hulu's "The Kardashians."Hulu

But not every reality show goes on for 20 seasons just to revive months later. Love them or hate them, the Kardashian-Jenner clan know how to keep eyes on them, said Gerrick Kennedy, a culture critic and author. 

“That idea of, you know, this backlash that we get of ‘why are these people famous?’ or … ‘they’re talentless’ or all of these things — to have the general public across the globe be fascinated and intrigued enough to follow the entire family for almost two decades now, that is a talent on its own,” Kennedy said. 

I see the show as both a promotional arm but also the sort of unvarnished glimpse. 

-Gerrick Kennedy, culture critic and author

As someone who watched Kardashians over the years on E!, Kennedy said there was a very real shift in how the family presented themselves in the premiere of the Hulu show. Moving their lives to a streaming platform most likely demands a lesser time commitment than nearly two dozen episodes a season while boosting the production value and offering tighter storytelling.

“I see the show as both a promotional arm but also the sort of unvarnished glimpse,” Kennedy said. “What I really love about what they’re doing with the Hulu series is sort of going back to basics and just letting it be a show of following their lives.” 

“The Kardashians” is slightly more in the moment, offering glimpses into how the Kardashian sisters are navigating new loves, co-parenting and learning more about themselves in the new phase of their lives, Kennedy said.

“There’s these real-world moments where it feels like, ‘oh, this is, you know, this is a good show,’ right?” Kennedy said. “It makes you feel something, the same way even reality is going to make you feel something.”