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Wonderfully Awful: Desperate for the Real Housewives


a blogumn by Robin Rosenzweig

I am a big television fan, and have been for years. My two – yes, two – TiVos are always busy keeping track of the shows I follow. Before that miraculous piece of technology was invented, I used 2-3 VCRs to ensure I didn’t miss a moment of my favorite shows. With the advent of TV on DVD, I can even follow premium cable shows I don’t normally get to watch (I’m looking at you, Dexter!). I really can’t get enough of really great, high-quality television shows.

Oh, and I also love the Real Housewives of Orange County on Bravo. Yeah, I said it.

the-real-housewives-of-orange-countyIf memory serves, The Real Housewives of Orange County was conceived as a way to capitalize on the wild success of Desperate Housewives a few years back. The show generally focuses on five ultra-rich women and their families. These women are generally very self-obsessed, have very spoiled children, and are very tan and botoxed. Most have augmented breasts, and I suspect some have had other various plastic surgeries (usually as evidenced in old photos that appear on the show periodically and show the women in a former, now relatively unrecognizable state). Through the show we have met Vicki, an insurance titan who considers herself to be classy and sophisticated, though she is not above downing well product-placed cans of Coors Light at wild houseboat parties in Lake Havasu. This season we have the inclusion of new “housewife” Gretchen, who first appeared on the show as the apparent gold digging fiancée of a much older man battling leukemia. And although I do still think her original intentions were of a gold-digging nature, she has been shown spending a great deal of time focusing her energy on the care of her increasingly ill fiancé. As a result, despite my better judgment, it turns out I have found her to be rather likeable.

Unfortunately, I missed out on the show’s first spinoff – The Real Housewives of New York City. But I did get into the second spinoff – The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

With rare exception and perhaps due to location, these women have the distinction of mostly being athletes’ wives or ex-wives. They are rolling in money that their husbands have earned, and use this money to either start clothing lines (whether or not they know a lick about fashion), or start charitable foundations – not because they necessarily care about the issue they’re supporting – but more because it seems to be what the athlete’s wife is supposed to do. One Atlanta cast member, Kim, even had the ill-conceived desire to become a country singer, and we followed her as she collaborated with famous producer (and “close, personal friend”) Dallas Austin as she worked toward achieving her dream. It was hard to tell if Dallas Austin was really a friend, or if he was looking to do a little self-promotion, but I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him as Kim warbled her way through the process, and refused to accept any constructive criticism along the way. To put it bluntly, money can buy a lot of things, but musical talent is not among them.

So are The Real Housewives lowering my IQ with every viewing? I don’t doubt it. But at the same time, I continue to be endlessly fascinated, so I will keep watching. Additionally, Bravo makes things easy by airing marathons pretty much every other day. So I can keep up without burdening either of my TiVos with even a minute of these shows, saving plenty of room for the good stuff.