In the wake of Bruce Jenner’s Friday night interview with Diane Sawyer, E! network will publish and air unprecedented news coverage of its own talent, and face a unique challenge with reality series “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” two insiders with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap.
Since the unscripted show’s debut in 2007, the network’s entertainment news broadcast “E! News” and official site Eonline.com had been under strict mandate to only cover the Kardashian family favorably, as well as avoid thorough coverage of stories relevant to their core audience such as longtime speculation over Jenner’s transition.
But according to multiple present and past staffers who spoke to TheWrap anonymously, that mandate will change Friday as the network prepares to “go all-in on Bruce’s big news.”
“They will be covering it,” one insider said of the “20/20” special, where Jenner is expected to confirm his transition to female and use the interview as a reintroduction to the world.
“There are no rules [from the network] and such. Will they be buying long-lens paparazzi shots of Bruce in a dress? No. But that’s because it’s the decent thing to do,” the insider told TheWrap.
An E! spokesperson denied such restrictions exist, and told TheWrap that E! is a news organization that has never operated under such a mandate.
E!’s protection has long extended to Bruce, ex-wife Kris Jenner and their two daughters Kendall and Kylie, as well as Kardashian half-siblings led by the ubiquitous Kim Kardashian West.
E!’s reality series documenting the Kardashian and Jenner clan has been a major ratings performer for the network, especially in repeat viewing blocks. While it was recently renewed for three more seasons without Bruce for a reported price tag of $100 million (though the network has denied this figure), the show has consistently declined year-to-year.
Silence is not a virtue in the Calabasas, Ca. mansions of the Kardashians, as the family is staunchly in favor of oversharing on the series — whether it be Kim’s reproductive issues, footage of Kourtney’s births or Khloe lamenting the size of her genetalia. Unless, of course, the information at hand is unfavorable.
Instances such as Kim’s 72-day marriage to NBA player Kris Humphries and its subsequent media firestorm and two addiction battles within the clan were not subject to the same real-time scrutiny that other Hollywood stars have endured on E!’s news show or website. Insiders have long pointed out E!’s curious double standard for this group of reality TV stars whose very profession is opening up their personal lives in exchange for lucrative TV and endorsements dollars.
In step with the network’s news coverage guidelines regarding the Kardashians, E!’s reality show has suffered a similar content loss due to a “kind of tunnel vision,” one insider said. For instance, the show barely features Kim’s husband Kanye West or their daughter North, both major points that keep the family relevant to consumers in the celebrity sphere. Though it’s been reported this exclusion is at Kim’s request, who is arguably the star of the series.
Plot lines tend to revolve around the sisters’ franchise of Dash clothing stores, which don’t generate nearly as much income as the family’s deals with fragrance and beauty products, capsule collections at discount superstores and smartphone apps — all hinged on the Kardashian’s brand and marketability as reality TV personalities. But with the advent of Bruce’s revelation the network could find new hope for “Keeping Up With…”
In the show’s opening segment on April 19, Kim, Kourtney and Disick discussed recent paparazzi photos of Bruce sporting longer hair. “The extension-ator,” Disick called Jenner, making an obvious reference to Bruce’s evolving look that the show has up until now ignored. The clip plays as a move to potentially soften the ground for Friday’s “Bruce Jenner: The Interview.”
It’s unclear at this time whether the Kardashians will seek their own payment to divulge feelings about patriarch Jenner coming into his true gender, but insiders are quick point to the hours and hours of unaired footage E! owns from tracking the family on a daily basis. “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”may catch up in the race to share Bruce’s journey.
A spokesperson from E!’s programming department overseeing the series declined to comment, only telling TheWrap that “the show will continue to air.” Personal publicists for the Kardashian family have also not yet returned numerous emails and phone calls.