The Dirty Secrets of the Real Housewives
It’s an overwhelming time to be a Real Housewives fan. At the moment, three different installments of the franchise are airing simultaneously, and two just wrapped.
Viewers are still reeling from the news of Real Housewives of Salt Lake City star Jen Shah’s arrest. Libidos still haven’t cooled after the infamous Real Housewives of Atlanta bachelorette party featuring a male stripper named Bolo. The Real Housewives of New Jersey, with entire storylines centering around what an “analogy” is and the difference between the definitions of “mistress” and “concubine,” could double as an adult-rated replacement for Sesame Street.
Then there’s the Erika Jayne saga, which is beginning to be dramatized on the just-launched new season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills but has been unfolding in scandalous headlines for months. Her husband, Tom Girardi, from whom she has filed for divorce, is the subject of several lawsuits that allege he has stolen millions of dollars from clients, some of whom are the families of people who died in a plane crash. Just how entangled Erika Jayne is in the financial and legal drama—and what she may owe the victims—is the subject of several continuing investigations.
That is to say that it is a hell of a time to be taking part in a reality show in which your entire persona revolves around flaunting your wealth and outrageous lifestyle, which includes a $40,000-a-month glam squad. This week’s RHOBH premiere features Jayne recounting her boredom while pacing the sprawling halls of her Pasadena estate during the pandemic shutdown, and organizing her designer closet.
The obtuse ickiness of it all, on the other hand, may be one of the darker components of what makes this show so appealing to voyeuristic fans: the way these women often miscalculate their conspicuous consumption as aspirational fabulousness, when often those who are watching are doing so in judgement and disgust.
That’s one of the epiphanies I had while reading the dishy new book, The Housewives: The Real Story Behind the Real Housewives by longtime Housewives recapper Brian Moylan, which is out on Tuesday.
Unlike other showbiz oral histories, the book is light on on-the-record interviews but heavy on the dish. The effect is that it reads like Housewives fans gossiping together, told with the pettiness and admiration for these women that may not make sense to others, but which truly devoted Housewives lovers know exactly.
Enough tea is spilled to rival a table after Teresa Giudice has flipped it: Teddi Mellencamp’s job may have been invented by Bravo, there are women like Heather Locklear who are on forever “no” casting lists, Ramona Singer wanted a Bravo assistant fired for not knowing who she was, Andy Cohen once allegedly blew up and insulted the cast of Real Housewives of New York City after they banded together to complain about the Boat Trip From Hell, and Marlo Hampton will not ever get a peach (be promoted to a full-time cast member) because of alleged past sex work.
As detailed in this excerpt that ran on Vulture, currently new Housewives are paid $60,000 for their first season. Kandi Burruss is currently the highest-paid Housewife across the network at $2 million, though NeNe Leakes made $2.85 million for her 12th season. Bethenny Frankel has said she made $7,250 for her first season. By the time she left, she was making about $1 million.
But whatever juicy revelations you mine the book for, it really hones in on the idea of Real Housewives as a cultural institution and what it is about the franchise and its fans that got it to that point. I recommend it…assuming you can find time in between the near-constant airings of new episodes to read it.
Dear Evan Hansen Is About What Now?
This week, while I was mulling my offer to join half of Hollywood in the cast of Knives Out 2, the Dear Evan Hansen trailer was released and briefly took over my life. (Kate Hudson was then announced in the KO2 cast, and my thoughts then returned to their rightful preoccupation.)
The occasion of the trailer dropping for a filmed adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical meant a flurry of shocked reactions from the majority of the world who had heard of its Broadway popularity but not seen it: That’s what that show is about?!?
And what is that, exactly? A sad and lonely teenage boy lies about having been best friends with a classmate who committed suicide, escalating in his gaslighting as time goes by because he enjoys the attention, likes spending time in the mourning family’s fancy house, and develops a crush on the dead kid’s sister. Oh, and you’re supposed to feel bad for Evan, duh.
The narrative of Dear Evan Hansen’s Broadway rise is that teen fans became obsessed with it the way they would mobilize an army behind a pop superstar. Only after a few critics pointed out, “Hey, isn’t that plot deeply problematic?” was there a backlash, albeit an intense one.
The truth is, I saw the show several times on Broadway, thought the storyline was fairly offensive, and yet still sobbed uncontrollably each time and continue to listen to the music constantly. Which is to say, when this film comes out, I will see it and I will cry.
The Dear Evan Hansen trailer also got a lot of attention for logging itself as the next entry in the hallowed pop-culture canon of movies and TV shows that cast adult actors who are way too old to play teens, with 27-year-old Ben Platt reprising his Tony-winning role. So I give you: memes!
A Cher Movie!!!
It’s been a very important week in the lives of Cher and also all gay men. Not only did the icon turn 75 on Thursday, earlier this week she announced that Universal will be making a Cher biopic, to which we say: finally!
There is so much opportunity for something fun and exciting and creatively audacious, or even amazingly campy and silly, like the Broadway musical based on her life and music, The Cher Show. Of course, this being Hollywood, it’s probably going to just be a standard biopic titled Believe and starring Margot Robbie or something.
That’s all just fine. We all know what the juiciest role is going to be anyway, the casting of which I’m most excited to see: That of the dearly departed Ms. Brenda Webb, famously murdered via tweet.
Lara Croft, Beehive Raider
To commemorate World Bee Day, Angelina Jolie released a photo of herself covered in bees, which is awkward since we all were thinking of doing the exact same thing to celebrate World Bee Day and now have to scrap our plans.
What to watch this week:
The Me You Can’t See: Prince Harry and Oprah’s mental health docuseries is a monumental and surprisingly emotional (not to mention juicy) undertaking. (Fri. on Apple TV+)
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