What we learned about Kanye, Pete Davidson and more from the Kardashians' new show

Yvonne Villarreal
Los Angeles Times (TNS)

It's up for debate whether the Kardashian-Jenner family's brief absence from reality TV has made the heart grow fonder, especially since  their flagship E! series began to fizzle near the end. But one thing's for certain: There's still plenty of keeping up to do with the headlines they inspire.

When it was announced the family (matriarch Kris and daughters Kourtney, Kim , Khloé, Kylie and Kendall) would be transferring fish bowls — moving from E!, their TV home base since 2007, to Hulu — one had to wonder how the new iteration of their reality TV series would reignite our curiosity with the once marginally famous family that have become titans of pop culture.

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Premiering Thursday, with new episodes released every Thursday, "The Kardashians" quickly reminds viewers how much the family's status has changed since their unpolished TV debut, with a production style to match. The opening moments of the premiere  feature sweeping drone shots that swerve in and out of each family member's  location (sprawling homes,  swanky offices) as they prepare to visit Kim's home for a "BBQ" (a.k.a. a catered lunch of hamburgers, chicken fingers, French fries, macaroni and cheese in chafing dishes). While a pregnant Kylie makes a solo appearance at the family gathering — still managing to keep a low profile — Kendall is mostly absent from the big debut because she had COVID-19 at the time.

"Guys, can you believe this is Day One (of shooting)?" Kim asks her family.

"I know, I have a little anxiety about it," Khloé says. "Just like: What the f— are we doing again?"

If you're asking the same question as Khloé, we saw the first two episodes made available to press. Here's what stood out:

Kim Kardashian in "The Kardashians." (Hulu/TNS)

1. Cleaning up with the Kardashians? Yes, please: On the first day of filming, while Kim is awaiting the arrival of her family for the "BBQ" at her home, she talks about what her priorities have been as of late: studying for the bar and law school, her shapewear line Skims and being a mom.

"To me, that's so exciting, is just that side of our lives," she says. "People don't see, like, I cleaned out the play room today — like, that kind of stuff makes me horny, to literally clean out my f— playroom. I'm insane. Like, any mom will get that."

But there's no footage of Kim cleaning the playroom. And  those of us who are also avid viewers of "Get Organized With the Home Edit"  want the deep cut.

2. Sex tape deja vu: A few minutes in, the new series quickly  echoes  "Keeping Up With the Kardashians'" first episode.

Nearly 15 years ago, in the season premiere of their E! series, Kim worried about having to answer questions about a 2002 sex tape she made with then-boyfriend Ray J, which had leaked just months prior, during  an upcoming appearance on "The Tyra Banks Show."  When Kourtney mock-interviews Kim  and asks why she made the tape, Kim playfully, if honestly, responds: "Because I was horny and I felt like it."

Fast-forward to present day (well,  last fall), as Kim's son, Saint, approaches her with his tablet.  While playing a Roblox game, an animated image of her famous crying face has appeared in a pop-up ad. Looking it over, Kim learns it's advertising alleged unseen footage from  the sex tape.

While trying to pack for her upcoming "Saturday Night Live" hosting appearance, Kim's gathered in her closet with mom, Kris, and sisters Khloé and Kourtney while she connects by phone with her team, including lawyer Marty Singer, to figure out how to handle the matter.

"I'll sue for nominal damages. The message is more important than the dollars, at this point," Kim says to Singer over the phone.  "I don't want it to be copied. I have four kids. I can't go through this again. This was like 20 years ago. I'm not going to go through this again. I know the right attorneys this time. I know exactly what to do this time. ... I have all the time, all the money, and all of the resources to burn them all to the ground."

"Didn't we deal with this the first season of 'Keeping Up...'?" Khloé says while Kim is on the phone. "This is a good omen, you guys ... talking about your sex tape in the first season. I feel like we're back to Day One."

3. The ebbs and flows of Kim and Kanye's relationship: The series arrives after a tumultuous stretch of headlines involving the dynamic between Kim and Kanye West, who has legally changed his name to Ye. Kim filed for divorce last year after nearly seven years of marriage. (The divorce was finalized in March.) West has, in recent weeks, voiced his displeasure with his ex-wife's new relationship with "Saturday Night Live" star Pete Davidson. Last month, West made headlines when he released a music video for his song "Eazy," which included scenes of him kidnapping and beheading a claymation lookalike of Davidson. The video's lyrics read, "God saved me from that crash, just so I could beat Pete Davidson's ass."

In the first two episodes of "The Kardashians," Kim and Kanye are on good terms. (While West doesn't appear in the first two episodes, he's mentioned and communicates with Kim over the phone.) With her "Saturday Night Live" duties on the horizon, Kim muses that it might be fun if Kanye was the musical guest to promote his new album, but then ponders: "Do I want my own moment?"

Travis Barker and and Kourtney Kardashian in "The Kardashians." (Hulu/TNS)

"Kanye and I are still going through a divorce now," she says in a confessional interview. "We're just trying to figure it out — how to be good parents to our kids together, of how to be good friends to each other. Ultimate goal, no matter what, is just happiness and following that, whatever that looks like ... this is my first time (hosting 'SNL') and I kind of want this to be about me, and not about 'How are they going to react to each other?'"

Ultimately, Kim does it on her own, while still seeking Kanye's input. As Kim works on crafting her "SNL" monologue, West puts her in touch with friend Dave Chappelle, who also connects Kim with comedian Michelle Wolf. (Kim solicits help from others, including Amy Schumer.)

"Kanye is in New York to support me, but we also have, like, set some serious boundaries," she says. "Kanye and I are staying in separate hotels. I've been really clear with him, as far as like where we stand in our relationship — just super drama-free is the vibe for this week."

4. Pete Davidson: The trailer for the new series teases the developing relationship between Kim and Davidson, but the episodes made available to press don't delve into the pair much. The first mention of Davidson comes half-way through the first episode, before romance was in the air. Kim says she ran into him at last fall's Met Gala and expressed her anxiety about hosting "SNL," to which he offered her some assurance: "Can you read cue cards? You're good," she recalled him saying.

5. Kourtney and Travis: Kourtney may have grown tired of living her life in front of the cameras on "Keeping Up With the Kardashians," but she seems to be putting in the work for the new series. Her romance with Travis Barker — particularly, the handsy moments — is on full display, just as it has been on their respective social media accounts in the time since their relationship began last year.  At one point, during a viewing of a potential future home together, Kourtney straddles Travis on a patio sofa as the real estate agent awkwardly tries to remove himself from the situation.

"I'm actually grateful that my kids can see a loving, affectionate relationship because they haven't seen that their whole lives," Kourtney says of their penchant for PDA.

Aside from their alfresco loving, the couple will be sharing their IVF process as they try to have a child. Kourtney talks about her frustrations with the medications she's been put on: "Every single person on social media is always like, 'Kourtney's pregnant,' 'Kourtney's pregnant,' 'Kourtney's gained so much weight.' And I'm like, it's so rude to comment on people when you have no idea what they're actually going through." Meanwhile, Travis' elaborate, secret plan to propose to Kourtney along the Santa Barbara shore will get plenty of airtime — which seems like a distant memory following this week's news that the couple visited a wedding chapel in Las Vegas in a practice ceremony of sorts. (There is no wedding license.)

6. Khloé and Tristan: The on-again, off-again pair are on friendly, co-parenting terms as the season opens — though Thompson voices his hope at repairing their romantic relationship. In one exchange between the two at Thompson's home, he acknowledges that he has to work at regaining her trust. (In December, Thompson fathered a child with another woman.)

And that's just two episodes! At least we can count on the story moving faster than it did in the last days of "Keeping Up."