I was having a conversation with this guy while I was watching Real Housewives of Salt Lake City and he said he’d never seen it before.
That’s fine. There are a ton of things that I’ve never seen before because there’s just so much content out there. We find the things that speak to us.
He said he’d been at the circus when some NY Housewives were there and I jokingly said I want to be friends with one of them so I can become a big TV star.
He goes, “I would need more substance than they project on TV.”
My roommate loves anime. I do not. He watches a lot of anime. I do not. Does it speak to me as a genre? No, not really. Am I dismissive of it when someone else likes it? No, because that’s what they like. Can I find some entertainment value in it? Yeah, I can. There are a couple of his favorites that he’s had me watch and, while I wouldn’t sit down and choose to watch them alone, I enjoy them and I’m interested to see what happens next in the story.
My minor point here is, don’t yuck someone’s yum. If someone is telling you they like something, maybe you should err on the side of “Oh that’s not for me” as opposed to “That’s not worthy of my attention.”
And to piggyback: what are you watching exactly that’s so much better than the Real Housewives? Let me just give you a quick rundown of some of the current happenings across the franchises.
Orange County is Republican Trash, but let’s talk about it.
Those of us who live in liberal bubbles really can’t understand how the pandemic unfolded in Conservative areas, but there it is on Bravo. One of them is married to a Fox News reporter, says it’s just a flu, and refuses to wear a real mask while two of the cast members are laid up in the house with COVID and a husband is in the hospital. There’s a functioning alcoholic getting sober while coming to terms with her sexuality after 20 years of marriage and 7 kids; she’s now realizing she’s a lesbian. There’s a battered wife trying to decide whether to put her ex in jail because of what he did or let it go so their kids won’t miss their father. The new wife grew up in a religious cult where she was was beaten half to death and afraid she would be thrown under a bridge. You’re watching Meredith Grey die for the third time on ABC.
Salt Lake City is giving us a front seat to the usual dysfunction of rich ladies forced to interact with each other, but also a peek behind the Mormon curtain.
Quickly: name any other show on television giving you a crash course in Mormonism. The Church of Latter Day Saints is the fourth-largest Christian denomination in the country and I’ll bet the average person can’t tell you anything about it other than polygamy (no longer accurate) and Utah (it’s pretty much still a Mormon state). This cast has Mormons with lineage back to the founding of the church, a Jewish woman who converted to Mormonism, a Mormon woman converting to Islam, a Mormon woman who was kicked out of the church, and a Black Pentecostal prosperity preacher (a grifter for White Jesus). You’re watching an alcoholic Kaley Cuoco on HBO solve a murder mystery.
New York City is the only show on television where women over 50 (and Ramona is over 60) have the space to live full, sexual lives and not apologize for it.
Temptation Island has nothing on a night out with these women at Beautique. How do you even prevent hangovers after 30? I don’t know, but I’m trying to learn their ways. And they’re navigating real life as older women. What do you do as the poor (stay at home) ex-wife of a rich family when your husband runs off with your friend and you have to keep up a house and your kid in boarding school? How do you restart your life at 60 when you discover your husband in your home with another woman? And she’s gone from the show, but I have to remind everyone that the federal government did nothing for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria for months — Bethenny Frankel was the only one down there helping the residents and handing out supplies. What are you watching that’s so much more compelling? A redhead with wideset eyes playing chess for 8 hours?
Potomac, aka The Sisterhood of the Travelling Vanessa Williamses, is fascinating television, with a full roster of heroes, villains, and every shade in between.
A stay-at-home mom using her newfound notoriety to launch a business after saving her husband from the brink of bankruptcy. High school sweethearts remarrying after infidelity and financial ruin. First generation Nigerian-Americans reaching the pinnacle of educational achievement and setting examples for their children and the community. A new mom wrestling with (and avoiding the seriousness of) her sugar daddy’s repeated sexual harassments of men. A former First Lady of the Church rekindling a relationship with the pastor who cheated on her, is still cheating on her, and who her children do not like. And two women with volatile personalities coming to blows over rumors of infidelity, paternity, and betrayal. You’re watching a show that packed more than that into a season? I would love to see it. If it’s not Veneno, it’s not better than Potomac, I promise you.
Listen. You can say what you want about Nene or the lack of Nene, but The Real Housewives of Atlanta will always be compelling television. Beautiful, successful, engaging, intelligent, BLACK women on my screen will always be compelling television. Also, other than the Love & Hip-Hop franchises, where else are Black women so open and casual about their bisexual experiences? Have we seen Black women go through the fertility struggle and surrogacy process? Have we seen Black women (from the South no less!) treading the thin line between respecting your toxic mother and respecting your husband? Have we been able to ignore the Black people who acted like selfish assholes during the pandemic, throwing (potentially) superspreader events because white people were the ones who went viral for it? When we see Black women dealing with an emotionally abusive husband and navigating that relationship for the sake of her child, doesn’t Tyler Perry always write in a man to save her? And Porsha Luther King Williams. Nobody else on television got arrested multiple times this summer putting their body on the line for Breonna Taylor and protesting against police brutality. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is not better than this just because Amy Sherman Palladino packs 20 pages worth of dialogue into 5 pages worth of script.
The Real Housewives isn’t a documentary. It isn’t reality TV the way The Real World was reality TV 30 years ago. It’s “reality” TV. It’s a heightened reality. It’s a stylized presentation of real life. It’s real life that has been manipulated for entertainment value. Would you normally throw a glass of wine at someone? Probably not — you’d walk away. Would you have the same argument with someone you don’t like for weeks? Probably not — you’d stop hanging out with them. It’s a manufactured experience engineered to capture authentic reactions to slightly manipulated real life situations because it makes for better TV. But Ashley’s husband gropes men. Ramona’s husband cheated on her. Shannon’s kids do have COVID. Braunwyn is a lesbian. Karen is starting a business. Whitney got kicked out of the church. Mary is married to her grandfather. And Porsha did get arrested.
What are you watching that’s so much better?
Sexy Beasts is another “blind dating” show full of hot people.
And that’s okay! I don’t need to see ugly people get rejected on TV.
We’ll save the debate over whether your Netflix subscription is worth it anymore for another day. For now, let’s just focus on this trailer for Sexy Beasts and the obvious criticism of it.
Rightfully so, responses have largely been about the fact that it isn’t really a blind dating show when you can see someone’s body type, and we can see that production has picked conventionally attractive people anyway.
The same was said about Love is Blind which, to this day, featured my absolute favorite dating show couple of all time — Lauren and Cameron.
On Love is Blind, the contestants are sequestered by gender with the men in one camp and the women in another. They have dates with each other through a screen, and their connection is built through personality alone. It is actually a blind dating show because they can’t see anything about each other until they decide they want to be together. We the audience however know the stakes are low because we can see them: they’re all conventionally attractive, able bodied, slim to fit young people. Still, one woman who made a “connection” with two men behind the screens preferred the other guy once she saw them all together, because the one she ultimately picked was short.
Mark and Matt are two attractive guys.
Yet, she still regretted picking the guy on the left, Mark, once she saw the guy on the right, Matt.
Switch gears to another kind of blind dating show — Married at First Sight. I’ve only seen one season of this show so I’m not sure if the couples usually work out or usually crash and burn in tremendous fashion the way Paige and Chris did.
Paige is an accomplished, successful, nurturing, God-fearing woman, and exactly what Chris requested on paper. What he didn’t add was that he needed her to be a light-skinned music video type of girl. His face dropped when she walked down the aisle, he told her friends at the wedding that she wasn’t the type of woman he would physically be attracted to, and by the end of the experiment, he was explaining to one of the marriage counselors that it just didn’t work out because he wasn’t attracted to her face. Paige spent three months with a man she just got married to who was saying to her, verbally and through his actions, that she wasn’t attractive enough for him. When she watched it back, she had to sit through +15 episodes of a man calling her unattractive.
Imagine if she was overweight. Or had terrible acne. Or her nose was too big for her face. Or any number of ways a potential romantic partner decides someone is “average” as opposed to attractive. Do people really want to watch that dating show? I’ve never been more uncomfortable watching an episode of television as I was when Paige was sitting on the reunion couch watching playback of Chris telling the counselor that it didn’t work because he wasn’t attracted to her face, and that he was upset with production for picking Paige as opposed to all of the white queens and Latina queens and (he finally threw in) Black queens around Atlanta that were more to his standards.
Mark is a conventionally attractive guy with an athletic body. Paige is a conventionally attractive woman with an athletic body. They both ended up with people who said they couldn’t develop chemistry because the attraction wasn’t there, and it was uncomfortable to watch. Still, these are attractive people who are more likely to come with Attractive People Self Esteem. Mark has no shortage of women who find him hot. Paige can walk into any bar and walk out with a man. Yeah, it stings to be told on national television that someone doesn’t find you attractive, but that opinion of one person can quickly be forgotten after a lap around the club. I never want to see that kind of criticism and rejection happen to a less conventionally attractive person who likely has less confidence. I don’t need to see ugly people get rejected (or rejecting each other!) for drama. I don’t watch brainless dating shows to be stressed out. This should be mindless entertainment to have on in the background while I cook or fold hand towels. This is social media fodder to sent tweets about, not dramatic human interest material to delve into the psyche of man.
Television, and entertainment in general, needs a wider range of representation. Not everyone is 28 and pretty with a gym membership. I would like to see more average looking people in a wider variety of roles, but not on dating shows. Not on reality shows. Not thrown into environments where the unknown variable is whether or not someone will be mean to them. The world does that enough already. Why would we want to watch it happen to some nice person who just wanted to find love?
Hot Takes: The Housewife & The Hustler
This is a good True Crime Documentary for anybody, not just Housewives fans.
1. Imagine sitting at home with a bowl of popcorn watching a documentary about how your co-worker funds her hobby with money her husband stole from burn victims and families of plane crash victims? What is it like being on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills right now?!
2. You don’t need to like, watch, or even be remotely familiar with The Real Housewives (of Beverly Hills or anywhere else) to enjoy this quick little documentary. If you like true crime and/or you enjoy that feeling of outrage you get watching grifters grift, this is just another documentary about rich people stealing money.
3. For backstory: Erika Girardi was a young, struggling actress who married a mega-wealthy lawyer 40ish years her senior, Tom Girardi (of Erin Brockovich fame). She then decided she wanted to become a popstar and Tom funded her career, spending millions of dollars to turn her into a bonafide artist (she had nine consecutive number one hits on the Billboard Dance/Club chart, before she was ever on Real Housewives. Only Katy Perry, JLo, and Madonna have longer unbroken strings of hits.) Now she’s divorcing him because he’s a grifter and she’s pretending she didn’t know about it.
4. The fact that the first person we see in this documentary is Danielle ProstitutionWhore Staub absolutely sent me to the moon.
5. I’m ready to fight when somebody owes me $50. If I gave you money, but then I see you on Instagram at the club, I’m ready to fight, because you are drinking the money you should be giving back to me. I cannot imagine the amount of rage in my spirit if I knew you owed me millions and millions of dollars and I see your wife on TV spending my money on hair and makeup and clothes. I would be in jail right now.
6. The fact that Erika is still filming the show is beyond my powers of comprehension. Your husband, who stole money from his clients to fund your career and your image because you wanted to be a celebrity and you wanted to be on a reality TV show, is giving depositions about being broke….and you are still letting the cameras follow you and your $2,000 a day glam squad? Are you joking?
7. She absolutely knew. I think Tom was a grifter long before Erika came into the picture and she genuinely had no knowledge of his business when they got married. I think she was young and saw a meal ticket, which isn’t a judgement of her character. Tom saw youth, beauty, vitality. Erika saw money and stability. And they both like each other. Great partnership. But you cannot convince me that she didn’t put the pieces together over the years and she was just sitting in the dark about everything her husband was doing.
8. And she divorced him so she could shelter his ill-gotten assets under her own corporation.
9. Tom Girardi is going to jail. I don’t know what would make a crook want to go on national television and risk being exposed, but we saw the same thing with Russell Armstrong (and he eventually committed suicide because of the light shown on his shady business due to his wife’s visibility on this same franchise.)
10. This is so dark. I just be trynna watch Housewives for petty arguments and fashions. It feels so dirty watching Erika walk around in Chanel now…
Vanity Fair: A Different World: Cast Members and Crew Tell the Oral History
In 1987, one of television’s most influential shows was born. The stars, writers, and producers look back on their years at Hillman College.
This is faaaannnnntastic!
Random things I did not know:
Meg Ryan was almost cast as Marisa Tomei’s character.
Dawnn Lewis wrote the theme song for A Different World — is that common knowledge?? Am I late?
Jasmine Guy got the role of Whitley and 20 minutes later was sitting at a table read.
A Different World was the #2 show, between Cosby and Cheers. I didn’t realize it had been so big.
Yvette Lee Bowser fought for a job on that show. It was her first one and she was a glorified intern for awhile. And look at her now!
This wasn’t in the article but I just looked it up: A Different World still holds the record for the highest rated premiere pilot.
Simone Biles and the Twisties.
Adventures in rehab.
99% of COVID deaths in the US are unvaccinated.
Take this Jim Crow era literacy test for Black people.
99% of COVID deaths in the US are unvaccinated.
A long weekend.
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