June 28, 2011

Watch What Happens - Again and Again

Crazy Countess Luann (left) and not-Niclole Kidman, a.k.a. Alex
Reality television comes in several distinct flavors...  

One family of shows is the competition, which can be either audience-vote driven (American Idol, Dancing with the Stars) or a self-contained elimination show (Survivor, Top Chef). Personally, I much prefer the latter, when done well. 

However, the other family of shows is, sadly, far more prevalent. That's the "faux-documentary" cameras which follow the "stars" of the show 24/7 and showcase their "real lives." 

I use the adjective "faux" because on most of these shows, "real" is a very loose term. I don't dispute that these shows aren't scripted, but there's a big difference between sticking the cameras in a room to record what actually happens and sending your entire cast off to a luxury resort, getting them liquored up and then instructing them to discuss hot button issues. 

But here's what's different with the Real Housewives of New York. Yes, they do all of the same things that other programs of this ilk do. This season, for example, they shipped all the titular ladies off to Morocco for a three-episode adventure. And yes, the conversation seems very contrived... "Luann, I need to talk to you about what happened between us right before we left..." Cue convenient clip to refresh our memories of the prior confrontation.

Location: Morocco. The argument? About a year-old incident in the Caribbean. So been there.
Yet, there's no mistaking the reality of these conversations... because they go nowhere. A typical argument goes like this:

"You said A, B and C." 
"No, actually, I said D, then YOU said A and C, but then she said B." 
"That's not how I remember it... and frankly, I was very upset that you said B and C." 
"But I never said C. YOU said C."

And so on, until finally both combatants either agree to disagree, bury the hatchet and move on -- or one storms off, vowing that the friendship is irreparably damaged. 

Because we each remember our experiences from our own perspective, this sort of thing happens in real life all the time. It's very "real" - but ultimately tedious. 

We, the viewers have been shown the actual footage and therefore, we know with a high level of certainty as to who is in the right and who is in the wrong in these fights. Sure, in the heat of the moment, it's fascinating to see just how different each woman's view of the world may be (in some cases, the level of delusion is incredible -- and strangely compelling), but the failing of the show is that they rehash these same arguments over and over and over again, each time replaying the same incriminating sound bites "proving" to the audience who is the "villain" to be scorned. 
How dare you call me a drunk! And where is the waiter with more Pinot Grigio?
The story doesn't advance... and that's when inertia starts to set in and the remote control works its magic.

So, while I give props to this set of Real Housewives for trying to keep it real, where they succeed in doing so somehow (perhaps illogically) also ends up being the reason the show ultimately falls flat.

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