Corrie-lynn Dyson’s Reality, as Presented by Bravo [Fierce Anticipation]

Before having a baby, I was a voracious reader and something of a cinephile; now I watch reality TV.  I should start by mentioning I have never seen an episode of Survivor or The Bachelor.   The “reality” I want from my television is a bunch of people who don’t need to be on reality TV.  I like to see talented and successful people subjecting themselves to unnecessary humiliation.

Fiercely Anticipating

Top Chef

I will watch any incarnation of this show that Bravo chooses to put on the air.  Top Chef: All StarTop Chef:  MastersTop Chef: After Dark…  I will watch them all as long as the Bravo network sticks to their stay-at-home mom (SAHM)-friendly programming.

Why is the show so perfect for the SAHM? Because you, the viewer, don’t need to pay attention or retain any information from previous episodes.

Since the show is about talented and experienced chefs trying to further their careers, there’s little extraneous drama.  These aren’t people looking for a spread in Playboy or  their own show, they want to be chefs and work hard to succeed.  There’s the occasional “Did Alex steal Ed’s pea puree?” or the attempted shaving of a man’s Flock of Seagulls haircut but most of the drama stems from people getting mildly irritated with one another in a high stress situation.  When there is a feud on the show, it stems from a  pattern of behavior, not a specific event.

Further, it’s a cooking show.  It isn’t like American Idol where you can watch and judge the performance; you can only take the judges at their word.  You don’t need to remember how the “cheftestant” performed last week because you never really knew!  Anything you should know will be in the recap at the beginning of the show.

More important than the format of the show itself is the Bravo programming schedule; a new Top Chef episode generally runs three times in the same night.  This allows you to completely zone out through the first run of the show.  Then it comes on again immediately so you can pay attention for a while until you feel guilty and force yourself to do some housework (or pay your bills or communicate with your loved ones) and miss the end.  Then you can fall asleep on the couch while they show some other show and wake up just in time to watch the end of the third run-through.  Four hours well-wasted.

I’ve seen the season six finale a half dozen times and I still don’t know which Voltaggio brother wins.  The next time they show a season six marathon, maybe I’ll pay closer attention and finally figure it out (but probably not).  It doesn’t really matter who wins.  They’re all talented and they’ll all do just fine regardless.  While other “reality” shows manufacture drama, Top Chef lets a true human drama unfold.  The cheftestants have studied and worked and struggled through a terrifying economy in order to live out a dream.  The winner gets a chunk of money, the rest leave with nothing but their talent and the hope of being invited to Top Chef:  All Star.

Kind of Want to Watch

The Real Housewives of New York City, also on Bravo

It was my Top Chef obsession that led me to see the very end of multiple episodes of the New York edition and I was intrigued by housewife, Kelly.  Like most of the “housewives”, she isn’t actually a housewife or even married.  She’s a retired model formerly married to photographer, Gilles Bensimon.  It wasn’t her stunning looks or her bizarre belief that marrying a great photographer was a personal accomplishment that drew me in;  it was the fact that she seemed to actually be going crazy on national television.  While the other “housewives” shamelessly used the show to hawk their personal projects, Kelly gave rambling and confusing rants and turned self-contradiction into an art form.  She was annoying and unpleasant but she put the real in reality television.  Her fragility, narcissism and uncanny ability to view herself as a victim were all too familiar.  Her breakdown on the yacht was classic reality TV.  Kelly ranted and raved while her cast mates looked on, baffled.  It injected real feeling into a prefabricated scene.  In the moments when you are allowed to see the seams, when you are utterly aware of the staging that goes into the show, Housewives is at its most compelling.

We wouldn’t have had the epic meltdown without “housewife” Ramona.  She planned the exotic trip for her “friends” that led them to be trapped with a suddenly insane Kelly.   Ramona spent the whole season “renewing” herself;  renewing her vows to her husband of seventeen years and vowing to renew herself.  Coincidentally, she was also launching a skincare line called…wait for it… TruRenewal!   The synergy!

It was Kelly’s descent in to madness that sucked me in but it was the genuine Countess, LuAnn, who made me watch my first full episode.  She recorded a song last season that was so epically bad and embarrassing, I watched it through my fingers like a horror movie.  It’s one thing to watch young optimists belting their hearts out with no skill on American Idol, but a wealthy countess in her fifties?  Why would she humiliate herself like that?  Who cares?  It made for good TV.

Bethenny is no longer a ”Housewife” as she apparently warrants her own spin-off.  I’ll miss Bethenny.  She was the most shameless when it came to turning her scenes into infomercials.  She couldn’t have a conversation without mentioning every one of her current, past and upcoming projects.  Even as she went through a pregnancy and the loss of her estranged father, she never let real life drama overshadow her sales pitch.  She never missed a chance to mention the Skinnygirl margarita.

That leads me to…

You Couldn’t Pay Me to Watch

Bethenny Ever After

While I found her shameless self-promotion endearing as one of a half-dozen careerist faux-housewives, she is intolerable on her own.  Her rapid fire delivery of quasi-jokes are exhausting and she is simply too fake for reality television.

I will never watch The Real Housewives of Miami, Beverly Hills or Orange County.  This decision is not based on the quality of the show or the personalities of the cast, I just can’t tell them apart.  Peroxide and  silicone has rendered these women impossible to tell apart and while their interchangeability serves as a social commentary about our obsession with youth and impossible standards of beauty, I can’t be absorbed by a show if I’m only going to know the names of the one or two brunettes.  Even a SAHM needs more character

development than that.  I’m tired, not an idiot.

I also won’t be watching Pregnant in Heels.  I enjoy watching people waste their money as much as the next guy but the concept of a concierge to wealthy pregnant women is too much for even my jaded heart.