NBCUniversal, the masters of so-called “symphony” promotions in which its various media properties scratch each others’ backs, appears to be walking up to two big TV events: Super Bowl XLIX today — and The Bruce Jenner Story.
Serious students of tabloid journalism have spent months poring over coyly worded posts in the blathersphere about the patriarch of the Kardashians, the most important franchise on NBCU’s E! network. Those reports have kept us up to date on the shaving down of Jenner’s Adam’s apple, the growing out of his hair, the manicuring and painting of his fingernails, the possible plumping of his lips and use of lip gloss. Yes, lip gloss.
The Jenner story is huge for NBCU. Did I mention that he’s the patriarch of the most important franchise on the Comcast-owned media conglom’s E! Network – the Kardashians. But Jenner’s also the 1976 Summer Olympics decathlon gold medal winner/record-setter. And NBC is the broadcast network of the Olympics.
Word that a discussion of Jenner’s changing appearance would be had in the upcoming season of Keeping Up With The Kardashians led to ugly confrontations in newsrooms around the country, as editors raked whatever is the 2015 equivalent of ink-stained wretches over the coals for missing the Big Story, while the ISW’s droned wearily that it’s only news when Kardashians DON’T discuss a family matter on KUWTK.
Same scenario got played out again when tabloids – the newsletters of the Kardashian family, regularly putting out updates on their weddings, annulments, divorces, baby birthings, haircuts, and body-morphing measures – reported that a Kardashian show spinoff would focus on Jenner. It would have been news had the family decided to not to give the storyline its own show. The Kardashians sprout spinoffs like old men sprout ear hair: Kourtney And Khloe Take Miami (later renamed Kourtney And Kim Take Miami, but who’s counting), Kourtney And Kim Take New York, Khloé & Lamar, Kourtney & Khloe Take The Hamptons, Dash Dolls, etc.
But the media’s screaming about Jenner rose a couple octaves in the walk-up to today’s Super Bowl, which is being broadcast on NBC and other NBCU platforms, suggesting that the Jenner story is about to pop.
Friday’s release of US Weekly’s cover, with headlines “Bruce’s Brave Announcement” and “Finally, The Truth,” and promising a “shocking new interview,” was widely construed as confirmation the Kardashians would not ignore the gorilla in the room when KUWTK made its way back to E!, and that Jenner would get his own program of some sort. E!’s rep went into decline-to-comment, which in these interesting journalistic days is considered in some circles to be a sort of confirmation.
Even GLAAD, with whom E! reportedly was set to map out the unfolding of Jenner’s story, refused to comment or discuss – which hardly ever happens. That is, GLAAD remained silent, except to re-issue a statement it had issued days earlier, when In Touch had run an image of Jenner that allegedly combined a photo of Jenner with one of Dynasty actress Stephanie Beacham. In that statement, GLAAD scolded the publication, saying “speculating about a person’s gender identity only inflames the invasive and gross scrutiny that transgender people face every day at school, at work, or even when just walking down the street. It’s long past time that media outlets stop gossiping about Bruce Jenner’s gender.”
In the midst of the madness, it was Kim Kardashin who emerged as the voice of maturity and reason. Yes, seriously. “I think everyone goes through things in life,” Kim K advised Entertainment Tonight a few days ago, adding, “I think Bruce should tell his story his way” and that he would “share, whenever he thinks the time is right.”
Among the big questions is which of NBCU’s various properties would get first crack at a Jenner sit-down. NBC’s Today would benefit most. The morning show which has been struggling in the ratings and is being given a big Super Bowl push – just like it did at the Sochi Olympics. Today already has weighed in on the Jenner story, reporting online when he turned 65 that he “evidently got himself a manicure” to celebrate, adding, “And we know this because every move the reality star makes these days is ripe for a new photograph. So, you should also know, his nails were red, or maybe dark pink.”
And, back in October, Today’s Hoda Kotb asked Jenner’s ex-wife Kris to address the ongoing “gender-reassignment rumors” in the tabs, when Kris stopped by to sell copies of her new cookbook. “It’s silly,” said Kris, who filed for divorce from her husband of 23 years in September. “[The tabloids have] been saying that since the ’70s, so you think it’d like, be cooked by now. … They just keep regurgitating the same old stuff.”
The subject is a hot one these days in TV circles, since Amazon’s series Transparent won the Golden Globe Award for best comedy series and star Jeffrey Tambor was named best actor, marking the first TV actor to win for a transgender role.
“This is big. This is much bigger than me,” Tambor said as he picked up his trophy. He thanked show creator Jill Soloway for giving him “the responsibility of Maura Pfefferman of Pacific Palisades.”
He also thanked three of the trans artists on the show’s creative team, for “[leading] me through the steps to find more of Jeffrey than I’ve ever known in my entire life,” and the transgender community, for its “courage… inspiration…patience” and “for letting us be part of the change.”
Leading up to those two Globe wins, Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox had scored a Time magazine cover, and Jared Leto won an Oscar for his role as a trans woman in the movie Dallas Buyer’s Club.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.