Tom Gliatto reviews the series premiere of the E! docu-series

By Tom Gliatto
Updated July 21, 2015 10:20 PM
James White for E!

Caitlyn Jenner‘s debut, a slow media rollout that has been both enormously delicate and extremely well-managed, moves smoothly on and up with her new E! series, I Am Cait.

The premiere, at least, is closer in tone to a reality show on Oprah Winfrey‘s OWN than E!

It’s not that the themes are surprising – given what we know of Jenner’s struggle to transition from Bruce to Caitlyn, a show would be just flat-out revolting if it didn’t address the sense of isolation and despair that so many in the transgender community suffer (Caitlyn admits to having contemplated suicide), if it didn’t provide consolation and encouragement and promote tolerance.

But to find all this 1.) in a series on E!, which is also concurrently bringing out a dusty old bucket of Hollywood rhinestones called Stewarts & Hamiltons, but 2.) in a production of origins Kardashian-ian (the adjectival form of “Kardashian”) – well, Oprah, what do you think?

Although Kim and Kanye put in a brief appearance, the crux of the first hour is Caitlyn, 65, “presenting” herself to her mother, Esther. Esther asks an uncomfortable question about the Bible’s opinion on what used to be called gender-bending, but nothing has changed about her love for her child. Cait, she says, possesses not only the same personality as Bruce, but the same soul.

Metaphysical speculation – on E! Holy Seacrest!

Jenner, after decades before the camera (if as a male), is very, very good at both explaining her life and accepting the responsibilities that come with the unofficial job of trans spokeswoman. She talks with a lucidity and directness that are reassuring and winning – and never soppy or self-pitying.

She has that casual charisma one expects of an all-American.

RELATED VIDEO: Caitlyn Jenner’s Message to Transgender Youth: ‘We Are All Beautiful”

I Am Cait

premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on E!