Thursday, December 8, 2011

Real Housewives, Real Nice

I remember when Bravo was artsy-fartsy and the Actor’s Studio was something to really get excited about.  Then something happened.  Since I refuse to do some real research here, this is all from memory, so forgive me if my chronological recount is inaccurate.

So what happened?  Bravo switched to the unofficial gay cable network.  At least that was the vibe with Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (2003, I did Google it).  I loved the show and got hooked on Bravo programming.  At some point (this is where I get lazy), content really shifted to reality.  I am foggy about which came first, but I believe Project Runway and Top Chef hit around the same time.  Both shows were riveting to me.  I would watch each episode with such attention, and even watch them again and again during marathons over a weekend.  Then they introduced reunion shows with a host named Andy Cohen.

Andy Cohen.  I DID NOT understand where Bravo found this guy (again, an aversion to just using the Internet) and even wrote Bravo complaining about him.  I thought his on-camera style was horrible and amateur.  I soon realized this guy was the PRODUCER of the shows…and for a while after having this epiphany, still didn’t like him.

At some point, a new franchise was introduced…The Real Housewives of Orange County.  It was fantastic.  A show with “wealthy” women in Orange County, CA.  It was perfect programming for caddy gay viewers to relish some ridiculous women and their silly lives and issues.  I did, and still do, thought it was brilliant to see these women want to display their lives for our enjoyment.  The joke to me is that they liked (and still do) the attention.  When most viewers judge their existence and woes, they think they are building brands and self-importance.

So, this is where I may be wrong.  The Orange County show spurred a spin-off – the Real Housewives of New York.  I thought everyone would run from this show as the women in California were displayed in such a negative light.  No, they found some reasonably wealthy women in New York who ALSO craved this weird notoriety.

Orange County Pioneers
From New York, we then patiently awaited the ladies from New Jersey.  Then the franchise becomes an epidemic with casts in Atlanta, Washington DC, Miami and Beverly Hills.  Seriously, what are these women thinking?

The question, however, is, what I am thinking?  I have seen EVERY episode from every season with EVERY cast….even Miami.  My TiVo is programmed to capture all of the shows, including the reunions.

Andy Cohen.  Now I like him.  He has created an empire with this franchise and other shows and I even watch HIS show…Watch What Happens Live.  He is much better in front of the camera and the viewer has a friend in him.  He personifies the viewer of these shows and inserts his opinions and prods honest and bad behavior.  In other words, he’s stirring the pot to entice viewer interest and spark enjoyable television.

Why do I like the shows?  They are glued together well and it’s amazing to see these women (who think they are posh) act so poorly and immaturely.  I would NEVER buy any of their products and I don’t care to follow them on Twitter.  I just like to escape in their weird worlds for an hour and wonder how they will humiliate themselves next.  I don’t aim to sound snarky…I get sucked in and take sides, but at the end of the day, these ladies are not helping themselves (or their families).

I think the grand prize for any of these ladies has been taken already.  Bethenny Frankel started on New York and now is a multi-millionaire because her drive for brand building worked.  Her story is special and I don’t think will be repeated by any of the ladies, so good for her.
I could go on for days about the various casts and the impact of these shows on society (and celebrity), but in general, it is what it is.  The shows are well produced and very entertaining.

So, in pure candy-coated form, here’s a list of my favorite ladies from each show:

Lisa Vanderpump
Orange County – Slade
New York – Ramona and Alex (was Bethany)
New Jersey – Melissa
Atlanta – Candy, Phaedra is a close second “everybody knows”
DC – who cares
Miami – who cares
Beverly Hills – Lisa

My real favorite Bravo character is Jeff Lewis.  He deserves his own entry.

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