This is not Keeping Up With the Kardashians -- or any incarnation of the long-running reality series and its several spinoffs and specials.
Framed as a docuseries, I Am Cait is about understanding who Caitlyn Jenner is as she discovers her own self. While members of the Kardashian family -- Kim, Kanye West, and Kylie Jenner in person, Rob on the phone -- do appear in the first episode, the cameras never take focus off Caitlyn. Instead, they are just moments -- sometimes canned -- in Caitlyn’s journey.
The journey starts at 4:32 a.m. in Caitlyn’s bedroom as she’s looking into a handheld camera. The Vanity Fair cover has already come out. Her interview with Diane Sawyer seems like a distant memory. There’s no package about who Bruce was or a look back at Caitlyn’s achievements during the Olympics. That story is behind her.
From what press was allowed to see in the first episode, Caitlyn is ready to move forward as Caitlyn, who presents herself for the first time to her mother, Esther, and two sisters, Pam and Lisa. She spends time with Kylie, wearing her daughter’s hair extensions. She digs through her closet, which is filled with brands like Tom Ford and Diane von Furstenberg and jokes about wearing the same outfit as her ex-wife, Kris Jenner.
There is very little drama, especially when compared to her portrayal as a disgruntled father for nearly 10 years on KUWTK. The heightened moments feel forced, like, when her mother walks into Caitlyn’s house for the first time. In fact, the show is filled with a lot of laughter as Caitlyn lets her personality shine through. It’s a welcome, fresh perspective.
But the show also -- in earnest -- mirrors Caitlyn’s ups and downs with other transgender stories not normally exposed to film crews, let alone displayed on a network like E!
In the premiere, Caitlyn visits the family of a transgender teen who committed suicide. She talks with the mother, trying to connect her own story to the late teenager. Caitlyn has previously confessed to past suicidal feelings. It’s an all-too-brief glimpse into the issues that the community faces every day.
“I'm clear with my responsibility in going forward: to tell my story the right way, for me, to keep learning, to do whatever I can to reshape the landscape of how trans issues are viewed, how trans people are treated,” Caitlyn said when accepting the ESPY Arthur Ashe Award for Courage earlier this month.
One thing is clear: Caitlyn is attempting to honor that commitment with the show.
I Am Cait premieres on Sunday, July 26 at 8 p.m. on E!