Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Real Headaches of Television


Once upon a time, there was an entertainment blogger who was infatuated with all things Bravo. Andy Cohen, the boyishly cocky face of the network that could do no wrong, was basically “bae,.” and always knew how to treat me right, especially when it came to anything related to the bitchy juggernaut known as the Real Housewives franchise.

Luckily for me (and for my previous blogging post over at TVOvermind), the Real Housewives was my bread and butter, which made it a helluva lot easier to focus on the exploits of NeNe Leakes, Sonja Morgan, Kim Richards, and Teresa Giudice when covering the show for that blog, because I simply couldn’t get enough the shady comebacks and whiplash inducing one-liners. “Addiction” would be putting my problem mildly at best. I wouldn’t even use “obsessed,” either. To be honest, there isn’t a word known to man to describe my crazed love for all things Housewives, but loyalty to the franchise (and Cohen) remained firm for many years despite some highly publicized departures (Adrienne Maloof among others) and cancellations (The Real Housewives of D.C.) that I sort of didn’t approve of.

With that said, as of late the luster of the diamond - crusted, catty exploits of the Real Housewives have left me just as dry and drained as NeNe Leakes’ He-Man wig from a couple of weeks ago. There are varying reasons to this sudden detachment from something that once brought joy in a rather dull world, but I’m only going to focus on a few, because just talking about them now is sucking the last light out of my life into a powerful black hole of dire exhaustion.

One problem is that The Real Housewives, or rather the producers of the various shows, don’t know when to quit when it comes to the never-ending drama of the ladies who bitch and lunch. A typical episode count of The Real Housewives used to remain in the teens, with nineteen episodes being the (reasonably) highest order, including the two-three part reunions. However as of late, Cohen and gang have extended the episode orders way past those of the standard episode count for a network TV drama, which is usually twenty-two episodes. Last season of The Real Housewives of Atlanta had a whopping twenty-seven hours under their belt (including the three part reunion special, a Secrets Revealed and Husbands Revealed special), which some fans thought was a bit much. The other shows in the franchise have yet to hit such a high number, but even the drama factor from those installments (as of late) doesn’t constitute the need for the excessive amount of hours being churned out lately.

Real Housewives clones such as the Love & Hip-Hop and Basketball Wives franchises have managed to keep their episode orders well below an average Real Housewives season. Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood, the latest iteration of Mona Scott Young’s highly successful (albeit a pale comparison to Bravo’s flagship franchise) Love & Hip Hop brand, clocked in at fourteen episodes, while Basketball Wives LA aired only eleven episodes this past year. One reason for that is there is never really a “dull moment” with the “ratchet” factor on those shows, which is a good and bad thing when you look at it. The Real Housewives franchise, on the other hand, has always prided itself in executing a classier demeanor with their brand. While the women on the shows have their share of fighting, we always see the positive sides of their lives as well, whether it is a wedding, an event they planned for their business, or just lighthearted family time. Some have said the very attributes that I just listed are some of the reasons that hinder the super long seasons, but I have to disagree wholeheartedly to this claim. For starters, less manipulation on the producers’ part there could lead to an equal balance of drama and positive drama in the editing department. Instead of creating instances for shit to hit the fan, let some incidents happen organically. I know that’s a far-fetched suggestion in the world of reality TV, but it’s becoming so blatant on The Real Housewives lately that I’ve lost count at how many times I’ve rolled my eyes at the TV in disgust. I would expect that type of manipulation from Love & Hip Hop, but not by beloved Real Housewives. Less producer manipulation, and more organic drama will cure the oversaturation of a Real Housewives show.

Secondly, as much as I love seeing Brandi, Phaedra, or Ramona go toe to toe with whichever frenemy they are battling with at the moment, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t completly over the same rivalries and unresolved issues from four seasons prior. We know that Housewife A doesn’t like Housewife B, so it shouldn’t take twenty-three episodes to tell the same tale if there isn’t a plausible reconciliation or viable solution in the horizon, and one that was not constructed by the producers, thank you very much. Granted, most of that withheld animosity drives some of the best reads known to man from the Housewives, but I can easily catch the latest barb from Dina Manzo from a meme or, better yet, Twitter.

To give Cohen and Bravo some credit, they tried giving us a fresh plate of drama with the revamping of The Real Housewives of New York City, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, and The Real Housewives of Miami. The latter failed miserably despite its vast improvement from the insanely lackluster first season, but the facelifts of RHONY and RHONJ managed to achieve a renewed spirit within both shows, despite the outcry from many fans who asked just for that brand of change. Admittedly, I didn’t stick with Dina Manzo’s return to RHONJ after being gone since season two, but I did notice that the show took a sharp detour from the darkness that was the battle between the Gorga/Giudice families that everyone (including the always shaming, but never dirty Manzos) had a say in. The show still focused on the Italian family angle, but at least the drama wasn’t churning within the family this go round.

As for RHONY, the almost complete overhaul of the cast was vastly needed and it worked wonders with they dynamics with the group. Season Five of RHONY was actually the last Real Housewives season that had me glued to my seat in a long time. Unfortunately, the cast demanded a raise in salaries afterwards, and in result Bravo postponed the sixth season for about over a year. By that time, my love meter for all things Housewives had dwindled past empty and is currently on life support. I still have RHONY season six on my DVR for later viewing, but I’m sure the next season will be two episodes in before I would even get a chance (or the urge) to return to the season. Although, with the announcement of original (and all around RH fan favorite) RHONY housewife Bethanny Frankel for season seven, there is hope that I might make a full recover to witness that comeback. But no one should hold his or her breath for that to come true.

The general consensus from someone reading this might be for me to just quit the Real Housewives cold turkey instead of writing an entire blog post on it. But it’s not that easy. The Real Housewives and I had a relationship. A strong, tumultuous relationship that lasted seven years amid casting and time slot changes, shifting loyalties, numerous spin-offs, and divorces. You can’t quit the Real Housewives cold turkey. It’s a gradual process.

And I’m only semi on step one of kicking the habit.







MARK O. ESTES
Male Media Mind