Keeping up with the Mullenses

Sunday, February 14, 2010

This season's final episode of "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" is nearing. If you have no idea who the Kardashians are and have missed each and every episode of their 3-year-old reality show, welcome to my world. I asked a teenager to tell me why they were famous but tuned out the answer. Turns out they are famous because they are on TV, which leads to being on more TV because they are famous.

I still don't know who they are, but the good news is that I don't care. Any time a program promotes itself by saying there will be breaking news about the Kardashians or that a Kardashian will actually be on the show, I know that I can miss it and save a few IQ points in the bargain. Remember when home movies used to be the code word for a boring evening? Now they are your ticket to the big time.

Back in the bad old days of television, when there were only three channels and you couldn't say the word "pregnant" on the air, I could walk into work the next day feeling confident that I knew what my co-workers were talking about. Now I stand clueless next to the break-room microwave, as people tell me what they watched last night.

"I never miss 'A Bunch of Divorcees Go Shopping.' Why can't I find somebody to divorce?"

"'Are You Smarter Than a Bucket of Chum?' was fantastic! Two out of three contestants won!"

"Did you see last night's 'Men Cut Down Trees'?"

"Wasn't 'Don't Stick Anything Smaller Than Your Elbow in Your Ear' exciting? Somebody always thinks their elbow is much smaller than it really is. That's gotta hurt."

"Don't spoil it for me. I DVRed it so I could watch 'Half-Naked Teens Giggling.' It's so much better than it was last year."

It seems no two people watched the same show last night. Bob watched "Strangers Rooting Around Your Attic," Suzanne caught "Celebrity Knife Fights" and Carol spent the evening absorbed in "The World's Longest Car Chases." I watched some special that I taped before Christmas.

Back when Ed Sullivan and dinosaurs roamed the earth it would be almost unthinkable that someone could be the star of a television show and you wouldn't have heard of them. Even the hated shows you couldn't help but see by accident every now and then. The stars would turn up on "What's My Line?" or Mike Douglas or Dean Martin or "Password." In those days, if a prime-time show only got 20 million viewers it would be canceled. Now a cable show with half a million viewers can win its time slot and be a "hit." I think more people saw my last colonoscopy video than have seen the Kardashians, yet I suspect if one of them burped in their limousine on the way home tonight I would hear about it on "Infotainment Tonight."

We all have people in our own families that shop, have boyfriends, get married, have babies, start businesses, have problems, don't get along, are best friends, get sick, get healthy and live a life. If you think your own family isn't as dramatic as the Kardashians, you haven't been paying attention. Turn off the TV and watch your own reality show.

Jim Mullen is the author of "It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life" and "Baby's First Tattoo." You can reach him at

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