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I’m by no means an expert on the Real Housewives franchise. But I have to believe that an argument about where someone sits at a birthday dinner is scraping the bottom of the wineglass as far as plot points go.
Yet that is the crux of the issue in the series premiere of The Real Housewives of Potomac, the latest entry in Bravo’s women-behaving-badly oeuvre. Six African-American women, all allegedly friends before filming began, live in the tony suburb of Potomac, Maryland. Either legacy or money gets you into the very exclusive neighborhood, as they tell viewers many, many times.
Air date: Jan 17, 2016
The women almost immediately fall into the archetypes the show is so fond of portraying. Karen Huger is a diva. And, in case you don’t pick up on that point, all the other ladies call her a diva several times and Huger is fond of introducing herself as the “wife of the black Bill Gates.” Gizelle Bryant is the fun-loving one who doesn’t take societal rules too seriously. “When it comes to pleasing these etiquette-obsessed women of Potomac, I’m just not having it,” she says. Katie Rost announces that “I love the white boys and I love the Jewish boys.” She left her husband when she was four months pregnant with twins and now is desperate to marry her boyfriend. Ashley Darby is married to a real estate millionaire 29 years older than she is.
Early signs point to Charrisse Jackson Jordan, wife of former NBA player Eddie Jordan, as being the “hot mess” of the group. Jordan and her husband have lived in separate states for over three years and she doesn’t seem to mind. There’s also Robyn Dixon, who divorced her husband but still lives with him and even sleeps in the same bed with him.
As in the other entries in the franchise, everything that happens seems completely staged for the television show. Jordan throws Huger a birthday party and Bryant makes the major faux pas of sitting at the center of the table. Huger delights in telling her that her behavior was “totally inappropriate and unacceptable.” She gives Bryant a framed picture of the “five rules of etiquette when attending a birthday party.” Bryant is not amused. “I have a legacy and a pedigree. You grew up on a farm,” she says.
Huger actually loves telling everyone that whatever they’re doing is wrong. At Jordan’s crab boil (another event that seems utterly coordinated for the camera), guests have to leave their car and walk up the driveway. “I have to walk?” Huger says in horror. “I’ll talk to Charrisse about this. This is not acceptable.”
Seriously, who acts like this? But that is exactly the point. Like its predecessors, The Real Housewives of Potomac offers escapist TV at the highest level. You can watch with the comfort that you would never behave this way and delight in all the ridiculous shenanigans. And I think we’re all in on the joke that it’s highly unlikely that any of this is actually real. Maybe Huger is this obnoxious when the cameras aren’t around, but her whole shtick comes off as an act.
To its credit, the Real Housewives franchise is diverse, which something that other reality show franchises decidedly are not (twenty seasons later we’re still waiting for a person of color to be chosen as The Bachelor). At the very least, Real Housewives is aiming to be an equal-opportunity offender.
What I can’t quite figure out is why these women continue to participate. The show seems to bring more infamy than fame and traffics in the negative female stereotypes of cat-fighting, backstabbing and frivolity. Most of these participants have children. According to their bios, all of them have money. And they are all gorgeous. So why? Why? Why?
At the top of the hour, Rost says “If you don’t behave yourself in Potomac, you might be asked to leave.” If that’s true, I’m thinking these ladies might want to start hiring movers.
Premieres Sunday, January 17 at 9 p.m. on Bravo
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