The dirty little secret with a lot of reality TV is that, far from being scandalous or liable to rot the brain, it is merely dull. That is true of Love Island, in which the occasional moment of banter, heartache or gaslighting is padded out with an eternity of people dozing by the pool. And of I’m a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!, where moments of genuine excitement are strewn among campfire chitchat and Ant and Dec non-gags.
A pall of tedium likewise hangs over The Kardashians (Disney+, Thursday), a navel-gazing series that has returned for its second season (and which takes up the torch from the long-running Keeping Up With the Kardashians).
An hour-long opening instalment swings from soporific to snoozy. The only time it threatens to develop a pulse is when the Kardashian matriarch, Kris, suggests chucking a bag of rubbish out of an apartment window rather than bring it down for recycling.
We’ve all been there. Though we probably haven’t forgotten that we owned an apartment in Beverly Hills, as Kris does. The bolt-hole, she explains is her pre-Christmas “gift-wrapping station”. “I kind of forget it was there,” she adds with a shrug.
She isn’t the only one with an unreliable memory. Season one of the series concluded with Khloé Kardashian and her partner at the time, the basketball star Tristan Thompson, deciding to have a baby via surrogacy. What Khloé didn’t know was that Tristan was already expecting a child with someone else. Khloé, in the new season, reveals she is going to go ahead and have the child anyway. “I want to protect my mental wellbeing,” she says. “As well as the surrogate’s and all of that. It’s a lot to go through.”
The temptation with The Kardashians is to dismiss its stars as vacuous byproducts of the celebrity-industrial complex. Yet Khloé's pain is very real, as is the support she receives from her mother, her sister Kim and the rest of the clan. (“We’re going to make this the most amazing experience for her,” Kim says at the baby shower.)
No, the real issue is that The Kardashians focuses so tightly on presenting the family as the ultimate role models that there’s no room for any grit or messiness. This is the TV equivalent of an expensive manicure or a visit to a lip-filler clinic that serves cheap prosecco while you wait: it has all the trappings of a luxury experience but ultimately is merely dull and tacky.
Which makes it a disappointment on all fronts. Kardashian fans — are there such things? — will come away none the wiser about what makes the family tick. And there is nothing into which the hate-watchers can sink their teeth. Perhaps it’s time Disney cashed out on the Kardashians.