Finally, some reality TV worth discussing! Bravo gifted us with four premieres this week: Shahs of Sunset, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Vanderpump Rules, and Real Housewives of Atlanta, all of which mercifully added a little flair to the GRTFL’s DVR. Now, don’t misunderstand: I’m not going to, you know, actually write about these shows every week. That would be crazy; that would involve taking notes, and keeping score, and thinking, and stuff. Who has time for that when there's this much Bravo to watch? However, I do recognize that not everyone celebrates the release of four new seasons of Dumpster-dive TV, so I've decided to provide a quick summary of each programme (I love spelling it that way) so you can decide whether you'd like to dedicate the 44 minutes, countless brain cells, and lost self-respect that is the price of admission for entering the weird world of Bravo reality TV.
Before I get into the specifics, it's important to note that all four shows follow Andy Cohen & Co.'s simple television formula:
Plastic-surgery happy people living “glamorous” lifestyles + events for those people to attend and argue at + scenic montages set to shitty production music = a television network.
It'd be easy to sit here and make fun of the formula, but I watch five hours of this shit every week so who am I to judge? The thing is, the stars of these shows aren't good people. As much fun as it is to giggle at their quips, ogle their inflated upper lips, and bask in the schadenfreude of their delusional dreams, watching that all brings on a depressing feeling. The feeling comes from realizing that many viewers actually look up to these people. These shows are perpetuating an imbalanced value system that places the material over the moral. You can’t let that get into your head, though. In fact, having nothing in your head is the preferred state for digesting these programmes, because that's the best way to get in the same state of mind as the people on the shows.
Let’s break the shows down one by one, listed in order of enjoyment.
You know what? I’ve turned a corner. Week after week, this column is full of pun jokes, insults about physical appearances, and catty comments about the idiocy of the imbeciles of reality TV. I've had enough; this week the GRTFL goes heady. I'm going to intelligently tackle the complicated issues we face as a society and go straight New Yorker in this bitch. Time to show my range. Instead of breaking down the way Selma’s boobs turned on her and tried to strangle her while she was rock climbing, I'd rather address the complications she faces as a Muslim woman finding love in a modern American society. Instead of pointing and laughing at Yolanda for her dedication to domestic perfection, I'd rather use her marriage as a jumping-off point for an essay on how the new gender roles at home affect gender roles at the office. Oh, wait, just remembered, no I wouldn’t. Why fix what isn’t broke? Let’s make fun of these assholes ...
"I'm so excited I finally get to, like, hang pictures in my own house again."
Even if we hadn't seen the title card, in which she flips her hair and shrugs self-effacingly in a tight black dress as her name swooshes by, we'd know from the scrubby brown hills of the San Fernando Valley and the slightly off-kilter music that it was Kimmy Richards time on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Kim is hunched over, Gollum-like, on her living-room floor with her manservant Milton, surrounded by a volume of picture frames usually not seen outside an Aaron Brothers, deep in the kind of monomaniacal project mode that is all too familiar to us by now. She is organizing them by child. Milton isn't really helping so much as looking on, slowly realizing that this is not a group activity. "So this is Kimberly ... Whitney ... Kimberly ..." Kim recites each child's name slowly and deliberately, as if she's going through flash cards the night before a big exam.
I’m intimidated and a little nervous. When there is a The Challenge episode like the one on Wednesday night, I feel pressure to offer an appropriate GRTFL writeup. I mean, when you get the kind of violence, unbridled misogyny, and rampant lunacy this one episode provided, you owe it to the cast, crew, and audience to honor it. Look, nothing I can possibly write will be worthy of this episode of The Challenge. Nothing. But I will do my best.
OK, fine. I will do my kinda-best. Let’s get into it.
This week featured the best elimination challenge in the history of the GRTFL, the worst run-in with the law in the history of the GRTFL, the greatest T.J. Lavin performance in the history of T.J. Lavin performances, and the creepiest psychological breakdown of a former child star in the history of ... oh wait, creepy psychological breakdowns of former child stars happen, like, all the damn time. My bad. Let’s start with the elimination challenge.
Zach (The Challenge, Lisanti), 40 points: In one corner of the arena we have C.J. Koegel, eye-black wearer, punting instructor, MMA fighter, and crush-note writer. In the other we have Zach Nichols, crier (20 points), Saginaw Sting wide receiver, headband wearer, and exfoliater. Presiding over the arena we have T.J. Lavin, hoster, rapper, Friend of Grantlander, and well-documented hater of quitters. Many a Challenge cast member has felt the verbal wrath of T.J. for efforts he did not deem Challenge-worthy. However, on this day, after this effort, there would be no such chastising from the Teej. Let me take you through it.
“At least I don’t do crystal meth all night long in the bathroom, bitch.”
Ah yes, the return of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. That quote was from the “previously on” setup to this season’s Monday-night premiere and made me say to myself, “Oh yeah, I forgot that Kim was using hard drugs all last season!” And then, “Oh yeah, I forgot Taylor’s husband killed himself last season!” And then, “Oh yeah, Camille divorced Frasier last season!" And then, “Oh yeah, I totally have to add this show to the GRTFL.”
If you aren’t familiar with Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, here's a cheat sheet: