Review: ‘The D’Amelio Show’ is a surprisingly humble look at TikTok’s most famous family

In its pilot, “The D’Amelio Show” steers clear of cheap drama and the other hallmarks of typical reality television.

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Susan Behrends Valenzuela

The D’Amelio Show offers a look into the everyday life of the internet-famous D’Amelio family. Following the lives of teenage influencers Charli and Dixie, it explores the challenges their fame brings. (Staff Illustration by Susan Behrends Valenzuela)

By Mariana Trimble, Contributing Writer

When you don’t want to think, reality shows are the easiest kind of television to watch, but the current preponderance of shows these days that just reuse the same tired tropes can be exhausting. With the announcement of “The D’Amelio Show,” I was skeptical as to whether the show would be any different from its contemporaries. I wasn’t sure that the D’Amelio family — who gained their fame off of their 17-year-old daughter and TikTok star Charli — would be an entertaining subject. Nor was I convinced that the family’s status as victims of internet hate was a substantial enough premise for a television show.

However, I was pleased to stream the Hulu show and see the D’Amelio family acting surprisingly ordinary. There was no drama, no lavish backdrops — aside from their $5 million home. The show captures a family going through their day-to-day lives and recounts the exponential success they stumbled upon.

The show chronicles the plights that follow the D’Amelio sisters as young celebrities. Charli is the most notable of the family, with over 100 million TikTok followers thanks to her short and amusing dance videos. Until August, she was the only person on the platform to reach that milestone and is hailed by her fans as the queen of TikTok. Her 20-year-old sister Dixie is also famous on the platform, although she does derive her own popularity from her sister’s fame.

The signature reality TV confessionals are used in the show, but leave behind the dramaticized monologues given by the person speaking. They function as interviews, allowing the girls to talk freely about their experiences being teenagers in the limelight. Viewers see the effects of the online negativity behind the glitz and glamour of the overnight success that these young women are still unsure how to handle. 

Heidi and Marc D’Amelio function as their daughters’ main — and sometimes only — support. They become the sole comfort for Dixie during her emotional breakdown at the end of episode one, a culmination of the frustration she felt toward online hate. Dixie’s reaction is raw, leading viewers to realize that someone her age may be undeserving of the vitriol she receives. 

While watching, you get a real glimpse at young stardom and the perils that come with it. Charli tries to juggle her career with high school while attempting to maintain a semblance of a childhood. Dixie struggles as an emerging pop artist, and the viewers watch as she fearfully performs for an audience that will rip her to shreds no matter what she does. The show trades cheap drama for an honest look at fame while letting the viewers decide whether these girls are deserving of criticism or just overworked teens who have no choice but to cater to the masses. 

Avoiding needless drama, however, can make the show seem dull at times, especially when it comes to the family’s relationships with one another. There’s no doubt that the family loves each other, but much of their banter is, for lack of a better word, boring. The girls’ personalities don’t provoke much curiosity, and the low-key cinematography — a welcome departure from the pomp and frills of standard reality television, to be sure — doesn’t do them any favors either.

The editing leaves much to be desired as well. Throughout the show, there are pop-ups of negative comments aimed towards the sisters, especially when Dixie is onscreen. The editors were clearly trying to show the barrage of unprompted comments the girls get, but the execution comes off as cheesy and on-the-nose. With the girls already having explained their issues with hate comments and the stress they put on their mental health, seeing hate comments on the screen evokes a cheap anti-bullying PSA rather than garnering a genuine emotional reaction. 

“The D’Amelio Show” is a subdued take on the reality TV genre that authentically embraces its stars’ hardships rather than focusing on petty drama. You may be shocked to find that you have more in common with celebrities than you thought.

A version of this story appeared in the Sept. 27, 2021, e-print edition. Contact Mariana Trimble at [email protected]