The Real Reason Caitlyn Jenner's Reality Show Was Canceled

Caitlyn Jenner's reality show, I Am Cait, was groundbreaking television. The docu-series, which ran for only two seasons from 2015 to 2016, not only pulled back the curtain on Jenner's transgender transition, but it also brought the stories of many other members of the LGBTQ community to a wider, perhaps more mainstream audience than ever before.

Unfortunately, what made the show so unique may also have been the reason it was so short-lived. Consistently plunging ratings, an uneven tone, and controversy within the transgender community all plagued I Am Cait from its premiere. In the end, both Jenner and the show's parent company, E!, issued a statement (via Variety) claiming they "mutually decided" to shelve the show after Season 2. Was it really that simple, or is there more behind the abrupt end to this unprecedented series? This is the real reason Caitlyn Jenner's reality show was canceled.

The hit premiere quickly transitioned to a flop

In July 2015, Newsday declared I Am Cait "possibly among the most anticipated docuseries in cable history" just days ahead of its premiere. The show lived up to the hype, debuting with an impressive 2.7 million viewers, according to The Hollywood Reporter. From there, however, the sharp decline in ratings began.

The second episode saw just 1.3 million viewers — a more than 50 percent fall off from from the show's hopeful premiere numbers. By the time Season 2 hit the airwaves, viewership fell all the way to 745,000, earning only a "0.3 rating among adults 18-49," which is the key demographic virtually all TV shows try to engage.

Of course, TV is a numbers game, and regardless of how critically acclaimed a show is — which I Am Cait was throughout its run — it still needs to deliver big ratings to keep the ad dollars flowing. So, what was it about the show that sent viewers reaching for their remotes?

Some trans folks weren't feeling her

Though Caitlyn Jenner admitted throughout the series that she was still learning about transgender issues, she faced plenty of backlash from the very community to which she was attempting to reach out. According to transgender writer and Jenner fan Hannah Simpson of The Guardian, this was due in large part to Jenner's affluence and conservative views, such as her since-reversed opposition to same-sex marriage.  

The problem, Simpson writes, is that Jenner's experience doesn't resonate with the majority of the transgender community, who are still marginalized by society and disproportionately affected by poverty. The tensions between Jenner and the trans community were clearly on display during a benefit in Chicago, where Jenner reportedly faced a group of trans activists who shouted things like, "You are an insult to trans people, you are an insult to women."

Even the Season 2 overhaul that featured much more interaction with prominent transgender leaders, including author Kate Bornstein and professor Jenny Boylan, didn't offset the rift between Jenner and the trans community. Speaking with Cosmopolitan, Boylan stressed the need for rational Thanksgiving dinner-style debates surrounding trans issues. Perhaps I Am Cait viewers just weren't ready for a permanent seat at that contentious table.

I Am...Everyone But Cait

The first season of I Am Cait followed Jenner's physical and emotional transition and the complicated dynamics with her family. The show also attempted to address broader issues that plague transgender people, such as bullying. However, according to ArtsBeat, the show failed to address the serious stuff in a meaningful way and swung in a vastly different direction in Season 2.

Staging what was essentially a giant road trip, the second season shifted away from Jenner's journey to focus on the stories of her traveling companions. According to Reality Blurred, this allowed for a more broad and poignant perspective on the trans experience, but judging by the dismal ratings, it apparently wasn't nearly as exciting as rubbernecking on Jenner's big showdown with ex-wife and Kardashian momager Kris Jenner during Season 1.

At the end of that dramatic first season, Caitlyn and Kris both promised "to do better," but their struggle barely got any screen time in Season 2, which may have alienated audiences that were tuning in to, um, keep up the Kardashians. 

Pick a lane, Caitlyn

Another big issue with I Am Cait was that even though it was Jenner's reality show, she didn't come across all that great. The A.V. Club described Jenner as "aloof and unlikable," citing the climactic, yet somewhat tone-deaf "name-change ceremony" she threw for herself in the Season 1 finale. And this wasn't some unfounded critique — Jenner even recognized the issue.

In a 2017 interview on 20/20 (via USA Today), Jenner reflected on the attention she paid to the superficial aspects of her transition. "On some subjects, I think I was insensitive, honestly, because I just didn't know any better," she said. 

Featured guest Jenny Boylan also lamented this aspect of the series, telling Cosmopolitan, "For me, I can't stand the show when we fall into talking about boys and hairspray. I'm like, 'Really? Seriously? Can we talk about families? Can we talk about children? Can we talk about our spouses?'"

Ultimately, Jenner's attempt to blend Kardashian-style glam worship with serious trans issues like bullying, discrimination, and family estrangement just wasn't something that anyone could relate to.  

The clash over Caitlyn's conservatism

The elephant in the room for Jenner has always been her long-held conservative political views. Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but traditionally speaking, transgender folks and other members of the LGBT community tend to skew left on the political spectrum.

Jenner not only voted for Republican Donald Trump, but she also attacked Democrat Hillary Clinton, calling her "a f***ing liar" and a "political hack," according to Us Weekly. Jenner also caught flack over her muddled statements on same sex marriage and her support of Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who championed anti-trans legislation. To be fair, Jenner later condemned anti-trans measures promoted by President Trump, called Cruz "misguided," and said she now supports same-sex marriage.  

Speaking with Rolling Stone, Jenny Boylan defended Jenner. noting that the reality star's controversial political opinions are important "because the trans community is diverse, it's contentious, we have not come to any agreement on the discourse."

As far as how that fit into a reality show that also spent a lot of time on lingerie shopping, flirting, and beauty tricks? Well, perhaps the ratings answer that question.

Caitlyn goes to Washington?

Given her strong political leanings, it's no surprise that Jenner has considered a run for office. In Spring 2017, barely six months out from her show's cancellation, she started teasing a possible candidacy. Speaking at a community center in New York City (via CNN), she pondered if she would "be better working from the inside," adding, "If that is the case ... I would seriously look at a run."

Things sounded a bit more serious in July 2017, when Jenner told New York's AM 970 (via the Los Angeles Times) "I hope to change the perception of the Republican Party and make it the party of equality." She planned to meet with UN Ambassador Nikki Haley to "discuss the international ramifications for being involved with the LGBTQ community." That sounds like campaign language to us.

With her focus shifting from TV to politics, is it possible I Am Cait was a temporary vehicle quietly engineered to raise Jenner's profile for a viable bid for office?

Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby

With eight total spin-offs under its belt, Keeping up with the Kardashians' reality TV legacy is nothing to scoff at. However, upon closer inspection of said spin-offs, the reality is that only the original has had any kind of true staying power.

For starters, there were all of the [sister] and [sister] take [city] spinoffs that saw some combination of Kim, Kourtney, and Khloé temporarily moving to a city to set up one of their Dash boutiques. Obviously, those shows were designed as limited series. But Khloé & Lamar, Rob & Chyna, and Life of Kylie were all established to run indefinitely. We already know how the first two shows ended for those ill-fated lovers, and after reviewing the third, the Las Vegas Review-Journal pleaded: "Run, Kylie, run! As far and as fast as you can."

Of course, given the family's 2017 deal with E!, worth $150 million over five more years, it would be ludicrous to suggest that something like a Kardashian curse was the real reason Caitlyn Jenner's reality show was canceled. Although, something tells us Caitlyn may have discussed it over a few Kocktails with Khloé.