You expect outrageousness. You expect hot messes. You expect tabloid headlines come to life when the Kardashian family circus comes to town. But when Kim, Khloé, and Kourtney show up for one in what seems like a lifetime full of photo shoots, the riotous stars of E!’s Keeping Up With the Kardashians are all business. After five hours of meticulous grooming behind closed doors, 29-year-old Kim emerges, packed in a button-down shirt and snug gray skirt — the pinup vixen as CEO. She sticks around to cheer her younger sister Khloé, 26, through her shots. ”You look beautiful,” she coos. Khloé returns the favor for the oldest of the three girls, Kourtney, 31, albeit in her typically Khloé-like way, barking, ”YOU LOOK LIKE A SEX GODDESS!” An E! camera crew captures the action for a future episode, though all things considered, this photo shoot is a comparatively respectable manifestation of Kardashimania — which may not make for good TV, but that’s fine with 54-year-old mom and manager Kris Jenner. ”I’m just passing through,” says the momager as she wraps up a brief visit. ”Just making sure everyone is doing their job!”
Such is the business of being a Kardashian — and right now, business is very good. Keeping Up With the Kardashians has become the most-watched series in E! history, and launched its fifth season on Aug. 22 with nearly 4.7 million viewers. Credit the bump to the emergence of Khloé (The Drunk-Driving One Who Married the Basketball Star) and Kourtney (The One With the Baby and Badly Behaving Boyfriend) as legit stars — and tabloid darlings/entertainment-news fodder — in their own right next to Playboy Bunny middle sister Kim. Indeed, the Aug. 15 finale of their summertime spin-off, Kourtney & Khloé Take Miami, scored 3.7 million viewers, trumping Sunday-night basic-cable rivals Mad Men and Army Wives while also beating super-buzzy True Blood in women 18-34.
If you only know the Kardashians from the newsstands and TMZ, then you’re probably inclined to think the worst about them. Trashy celebutantes. Famous-for-being-famous party girls. A trio of down-market Paris Hiltons living large on a stimulus package of gossip-rag notoriety. But not all reality stars should be judged by the number of tabloid covers trumpeting their personal woes, or even by the size of their much-gabbed-about asses (Cynthia McFadden of Nightline — yes, Nightline! — asked Kim to address rumors of butt implants). The truly shocking thing about Keeping Up With the Kardashians? It’s essentially a conventional family sitcom (once you get past the booze, bleeped language, and bawdy sex talk), filled with one-to-grow-on life lessons that even Bill Cosby might endorse. ”It’s the modern-day Eight Is Enough,” says Ted Harbert, president and CEO of E! parent Comcast Entertainment Group. ”Just with more swearing and hitting.”