What’s the biggest story of the year? It’s only half over but I think 2015 will end up being The Year of Caitlyn. The conversation surrounding the newly-minted celeb/ style-icon –the most famous transgender person ever– have gotten all sorts of media attention. Caitlyn Jenner joined Twitter the same day of her Vanity Fair cover premiere and promptly beat President Obama’s record as the fastest user to reach 1 million followers. Her interview with Diane Sawyer drew a whopping 17 million viewers.
All of this as an intro to her E! reality series I Am Cait, which premiered just three weeks ago. I Am Cait is fantastic. It’s the kind of reality TV show everyone claims to want. But no one is watching.
Well, not NO ONE, but a lot less than expected. I Am Cait debuted to a respectable 2.73 million viewers. Just over a third of those that tuned in to her ESPY awards speech. Many expected much bigger numbers, especially as the glowing reviews started to come in. But the ratings fell by half for Episode Two.
Some might argue that there was “Caitylyn fatigue” by the time I Am Cait premiered. For one, the traditional means of promoting a new TV show weren’t there. Usually on TV series launch, you’d see the show’s stars on talk shows, magazine covers, and featured in entertainment website Q&As in the months leading up to its release. While so many new TV stars risk overexposure, Jenner’s chosen to stay out of the press—at least mostly. She wants the show to speak for itself.
Even The New York Times has called I Am Cait a “gamble” for the network, saying that E! hoped…
“to benefit from the attention surrounding Ms. Jenner while also delivering a series that doesn’t feel exploitative.”
Sometimes a network will continue to “float” a show for years because of the critical praise it gets, awards it might receive, or because it’s good for the brand, even if no one’s watching it. I Am Cait is one of the rare instances in which that exposure is being taken as a responsibility and the star’s platform is actually a benefit to our society at large.
Episodes Two and Three had Jenner meeting with other trans women, where they not only talked about the differences in their own transitions and relationships with gender identity—Jenner’s own insecurity about her voice takes center stage—but also things like discrimination, bias, and real stories of being attacked or forced into sex work for survival. Great socially conscious stuff –and entertaining, as well as informative as hell. It’s necessary stuff for a society that is woefully unfamiliar with the reality of trans life; the public needs a mainstream outlet in order to get educated and empathize, accept, and change the status quo.
“Responsible” and “powerful” make great headlines for a TV review, but it apparently isn’t translating to viewers that expect teary shouting matches followed by tearful emotional awakenings. But last night’s episode had Kim Kardashian West saying to Caitlyn;
“I think there are some things that you said that you might not realize are hurtful. You look amazing, it’s your time, but you don’t have to bash us on your way up.
You’ve got the fame, but you’re losing your family.”
In an upcoming preview, we see that Caitlyn and Kris Jenner will sit down together on camera, and it will include tears. Kris says to Cait;
“You’re sensitive and amazing to all these new people in your life, you’re just not so sensitive and amazing to the family that you left behind.”
So it’s getting juicier, with the focus back on the family and relationships with a splash of Kardashian drama. But in the end, it might just be that the show is too good for its own good. I’m still tuning in. If this isn’t “must-see” TV, I really don’t know WHAT is?
(via Daily Beast)