The real housewives
The original sin of reality television was to predicate it on the eternal battle between moral and immoral. There was a writers’ strike in hollywood in 1988, so Fox had the bright idea of stepping away from scripted shows to instead film police officers chasing petty thugs around Broward County, Florida. There had been other reality programs, but gimmicky ones, game shows. Cops was real in the sense that it seemed like something that might really happen, though of course it was real only in as much as we now understand reality shows to be.
since reality shows and television studios are both cheap, the shows proliferated. it took a while for the apex of the genre to be achieved, but it has been, in The Real
Housewives. This is my guilty pleasure— which, to be honest, is neither guilty nor always a pleasure.
i began watching with my wife. she was already up to speed on The Real Housewives
of Orange County, patiently explaining why, exactly, the execrable vicki Gunvalson was being so petulant about whatever thing vicki was petulant about that day. There’s a small investment you make at the front end when you start watching to learn who’s who, but it pays off better than being a
construction worker pays off for the stars of The Real Housewives of New Jersey.
The joy of a Real Housewives series lies in the relationships that viewers form with the characters over time, the annual tradition of rehashing petty gripes and wantonly forging new ones. a new Housewives franchise is never as good as an established one, in the way that beer only becomes better as you keep enjoying beer—though at any point it can make you sick.
The Real Housewives is, at its best, an exploration of human psychology. sincerely. it’s got nearly as much horrible behavior as Cops, but it spends hours showing the guilty characters rationalizing and attempting to distract from what they did. alliances form and break. i spend most of my life analyzing politics as a national correspondent for the Washington Post; watching The Real Housewives for me is like what a classical pianist must feel when he gets to play “sweet Child o’ Mine” just for kicks.
where the guilt comes in? That original sin. we aren’t supposed to like reality Tv, even bourgeois reality Tv like
The Real Housewives. it’s trashy, we are told, reno versus Monte Carlo. But that’s wrong. The people on it are often trashy. But it itself is pristine.
philip Bump is a national correspondent for the washington post.