News

Bruce Jenner keeps 'Kardashians' grounded (a bit)

Greg Braxton
Los Angeles Times (MCT)

LOS ANGELES — On many mornings, in a remote area near an upscale Southern California neighborhood, former Olympian Bruce Jenner can be found putting his top-of-the-line remote control helicopter through perilous dips and dives. He's most proud of mastering a particularly difficult trick — flying the chopper upside down inches from the ground without crashing.

"You have to be very, very careful doing this, but this is my new obsession," said the 60-year-old who gained international fame after winning an Olympic gold medal in the decathlon in 1976. "I try to do this everyday."

In the decades since his athletic triumph, Jenner has performed his own set of personal and professional acrobatics, managing to leap from Wheaties box cover boy to beleaguered reality TV Dad. The onetime "world's greatest athlete" is now the calm inside the blended family chaos on E!'s "Keeping Up With the Kardashians," which wraps up its fourth season Sunday as the cable's network's top-rated series.

Being the put-upon father figure is an unlikely turn for Jenner, who has spent more than 30 years in and out of the spotlight. Although he achieved post-Olympic success and financial security as a businessman and commercial spokesman, he has also experienced one of the downsides of celebrity, enduring ridicule for botched plastic surgery on his face and for his participation in questionable entertainment projects.

But even as the slings and arrows have flown, Jenner has nevertheless emerged as a valued voice of reason. In dispensing advice amid the dramas and self-promotion of Kim, Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian, he also has become more critical of the family's head-butting and self-absorption.

"A lot of mothers come to me and say the only reason why they watch the show is to see how I'm going to handle the situation," said Jenner while sitting in the Calabasas home he shares with his wife and their two teenage daughters, Kendall and Kylie. "I've always been the integrity of the show, the moral high road."

And he's pleased that the show not only demonstrates that families can remain strong and loving despite the clashes, but how the show has boosted the fortunes of his children. "I really don't think it's been this good for me since the Games," he said. "Throughout the years, there have been good times and bad times. But I don't think I've been in a better place than I am right now."

While the women are the E! show's main focus, Jenner is still one of the series' key draws, according to the cable network.

"Bruce is the heart of the show," said Lisa Berger, executive vice president of original programming for E!. "That's the beauty of this series. It's a true ensemble, and Bruce is the grounding point of view. He had the experience of being thrust in the spotlight, now he's dealing with his family being put in that position. He's seen it all."

Still, "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" has brought more than its share of awkward, uncomfortable moments for Jenner. Though he was the most famous member of the family when the show started, the once celebrated athlete has since been pushed to the background as his stepdaughters became more famous — and infamous — as staples of the Twitter generation.

Slights and embarrassments have piled up too. In one installment, Kris Jenner confiscated his ATM card, prompting him to do chores in his daughters' clothing store to score a little extra spending money. And, in another episode, he blew up in anger when he found out his wife was spiking his drinks with Viagra as a practical joke.

He was also upset at being the last to learn that Khloe was going to marry Los Angeles Laker forward Lamar Odom after knowing him only a few weeks and was hurt when none of the Kardashian daughters attended a charity dinner where he was being honored.

Even when the cameras aren't rolling at the Kardashian home, things can be volatile. While discussing Kourtney's unplanned pregnancy during a recent interview at the house, Kris Jenner suddenly burst into the room and berated her husband, saying he couldn't say "one word" about her because of an exclusive magazine deal.

"I'm not, I'm not. It's from my perspective!" he protested.

The heated exchange ended with Jenner saying: "Chill, honey, it was on the show already. Leave. Love you."

A short time later, Kris Jenner again interrupted the interview to ask Jenner to pick up the youngest daughters at the mall. "Sorry, the kids are waiting and need to be picked up," she said.

When Jenner asked her why she couldn't fetch them, she said, "I can't, I'm working."

"See what I deal with," Jenner said to others in the room with a smile. "She controls everything."

Still, family members seem increasingly impressed with his insight and wisdom, Jenner said. Kourtney's pregnancy is a good example, he added.

"Everyone here was saying how excited they were," he said. "I was the only one saying, 'Hey, wait a minute. You've got to get real here, girl. This isn't like having another puppy.'"

He's good natured about some of his past missteps after his Olympic victory, such as starring in the 1980 disco nonclassic "Can't Stop the Music" with the Village People. And he is forthright about his bungled plastic surgeries — his face, with his surreal, somewhat feminine features, served as fodder for years with comedians. He underwent more plastic surgery on the show to correct those mistakes.

Jenner places his highest priority on family, and wants to make sure that episodes of "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" end with a loving portrait of the family.

"There are problems with every family," he said. "But when every show ends, we're a tight unit."


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Music

Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?

Music

Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.

Music

IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.

Music

Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.

Film

NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.