The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
Well, here we are. It’s been a long and winding road of what Bravo is, perhaps cynically in its promos, calling “the most emotional season ever” of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Which I think is gilding the lily, at least. For example, here are some honest adjectives that describe this season of RHOBH: Batshit. Dark. Insane. Never-boring. Borderline-exploitative. ACTUALLY exploitative. But “emotional”? While not wholly dishonest, that adjective just seemed a bit lifted-from-one-of-Kyle’s-blogs to ring entirely true. Are we calling it “emotional” because a man died? And death brings out emotions, as does a sister’s addiction? The same addiction we’ve been laughing and cringing at all season, after being gifted with a healthy dosage of Kim footage from the producers, who know that it’s okay to, because she ends up being not-dead, unlike, ahem, others? Well, based on last night’s finale, the patina of “emotionality” Bravo slapped onto this season’s identity in the promos informed the season two finale. The final episode of the season was manipulative, cynical, and completely out of line with the rest of season two. And I’m only saying this because I’ve had a chance to wipe my tears since I first watched Lisa react to her daughter in a wedding dress.
Yes, I am a human being! I feel and hurt and empathize with others and cry when people get married or die, even when they are TV people who live on the inside of my magical picture box. But to give loyal viewers of this show — and not just loyal, but committed, as in, there are plenty of unlike-us Housewives fans who abandoned ship Italian-captain-style once they got a whiff of how dark this season would become — a finale mired in sentimentality and distraction was not in keeping with the gritty honesty of the rest of the season. Just compare this week’s show to last week’s. Remember how we left these ladies? Mauricio’s mother and the mercifully vanishing Dana-Pam had pried Kim out of the Sur bathroom — lip-gloss vibrator, hysterical pregnancy, limo coke-bag trash, and all. Taylor, with her creepy shrink’s help, had asked for — and gotten — flimsy forgiveness from her bevy of co-stars, one of whom her now-late husband had threatened to sue. Cedric the Deceiver had appeared, then vanished. And Rock Biter Ken, the murky lurker, was haplessly following his beloved’s crack scent around a restaurant, unaware that she was looking to dump him when he least expected. Drama seeds were sown! And then, Bravo built a gigantic, gaudy wedding tent over the whole garden. What a shame. Even voyeurs need closure.
This week’s episode may as well have started with an infrared flashy thing from Men in Black, based on how little of its past it addressed. We started with Pandora’s wedding and ended at an ersatz, saccharine memorial bruncheon. But not before a detour into the fanciful domain of colonoscopies and how funny farting is!
Yikes. It’s almost as though Bravo were canvassing for entirely new viewers with this finale outing. Did they think people would confuse this show with a daffy bride-themed reality show, with a funny butt doctor intro? Or did the producers take a cue from theatrical conventional wisdom and decide to retroactively brand the entire season as a comedy, just by ending it with a wedding?
But back to Paul Nassif’s colonoscopy. Basically, he got one, and we got what felt like 45 minutes of enema and fart jokes. Which, again — I am a human being — I’m usually in favor of ass whimsy. But the extended fart montage seemed not only obligatorily distracting — like a clown nose on a doctor — but completely off-game in terms of what the Malooves’ arc has been until now. They’re the Bickersons, sure, but they’ve also proven this season that they’re grown-ups — the outliers who have intervened during every instance in which Taylor has tried to work her sociopathic voodoo magic on her fellow ladyfriends, to say nothing of Paul’s medicinal interrogation of Kim, pre-face injections. But … oh, wait! Look, guys! Farting! Hahaha! What’s suicide?
After the colonoscopy diversion, we were in for an hour or so of wedding footage so flattering to the Vanderpump estate, it was as though we were watching something they’d paid a videographer to capture for posterity. Which is not to take anything away from Lisa, who gave the performance of a lifetime this season as the loving mother of the bride, nor to Pandora, who looked beautiful. But I guess, given the direction of this distraction-ale, I’m just not in the mood to pick apart the lighting fixtures or comment on whether Lisa’s gown was age appropriate, or Gay-sian Kevin’s lateness or the heat or whether tiaras should ever appear outside of child beauty pageants and Buckingham palace. It is what it is, and it was what it was — a beautiful wedding given to somebody whose family loves her. Let the record show — I am in favor of those!
But once the glitter had settled, and we were into the third act of what was not only the episode least in tune with the rest of the season but also the dullest by far, the producers had to remind themselves of Taylor and Kim’s unresolved story lines, because, no matter how grand a wedding, a show cannot go out on a shot of Giggy in a tuxedo.
So three weeks later, we got a scene at Kyle’s, catered by her heavyset party planner with spicy tuna things. But, as the music tipped us off, this was no White Party. No confrontations between Kim and Brandi would be sloppily executed next to stairs. No grifters would be messily turned away by adults on the lawn while Kyle bawled, without a scintilla of self-awareness, in the background. In fact, Faye Resnick wasn’t even coming.
Instead, all of the original cast members of RHOBH, minus Kim, sat around and talked about how pretty Pandora looked in her wedding photos, and how lucky Taylor is that her daughter is young enough to be able to grow up not fully remembering the time her dad committed suicide. And there were some lighthearted remarks about how big Camille’s new boyfriend’s penis is, and those were fun. Plus some talk around the excellent qualities of Judaism, which I cannot deny. But otherwise, it was a wash. A fade. A watercolor finish to a season boldly rendered in oils. And beyond the ladies complimenting Taylor for “looking good” and filling out, and Kyle acknowledging that her relationship with her sister would always be tough, we got a cookie and a kiss on the forehead good night from a show that, until now, was unsparing in its telling of the darkness inherent to all good fairy tales.
And, I’m afraid that’s it. There were some “cute jokes” in the updates over the screenshots of the ladies. Camille is hot and heavy, Kim went to rehab and isn’t pregnant, Taylor’s coping with the tragedy, Kyle has some stupid book out that you’d have to pay me cash money to read, Adrienne is still flawless, so is Lisa, mostly. Brandi and Dana are fighting on Twitter. Russell is still dead.
But it was all so pat — so rose-colored and glib. Like that chocolate lab Bill Clinton got when the Lewinsky scandal went down. Remember Buddy? The living canine distraction that went on, in an unparalleled feat of pet martyrdom, to be hit by a car? So, too, seems the reunion, based on the clips they teased. And how could the reunion be anything but a fluffy veneer, a cut-rate sideshow, when they didn’t have Kim there to answer to Andy Cohen and invested viewers like us? To update us on her progress? To tell us about Ken in her own words? To reveal exactly what she was addicted to? It’s a shame, it really is.
Think about the show Intervention, which I, last week, posited that this series had become. Can you imagine an instance in which a character on Intervention — whom we had followed not just for an episode, but for an entire season — was not given an update that felt as honest and satisfying as the rest of her arc? Imagine following a cocaine addict or a victim of bulimia — seeing every line of blow she did in a fixed amount of time, every purge and how it impacted her bizarre behavior over the course of what producers deigned, in their infinite wisdom, was enough to cause you to become invested in her fate. Then, think about how you’d feel if, during the last episode out of twenty that you watched in the series, the producers devoted an hour of time to her friend’s daughter’s beautiful wedding? I’d draw out a Taylor-centric example, too, using Inside Edition instead of Intervention, but you’d get bored reading it and you’d get up to find a snack, and I wouldn’t blame you, because I’d be thinking about the Triscuits in my pantry, too, and how good they are — just plain.
I just hope I’m wrong about the reunion. Which, by the way, I will be recapping — so no separation-anxiety-fueled tears yet! Believe me, dear readers, I will miss you, too. Not to pull any condescending Lady Gaga “Little Monsters” shit, but your investment in this series has made this gig so satisfying for me; it’s going to be hard to say good-bye when that time comes. But I assure you that, when I do, it will be a more satisfying and less cynical farewell than last night’s episode.
Until then, friends, please tell me, in the comments below, what you think was worth talking about from last night’s show, and how you see this season from top to bottom in terms of its “emotionality.” And, if you have some time or some extra money, please consider donating it to any of these reputable domestic violence charities.
Or go to http://www.womenshelters.org/ to find a battered women’s shelter in your neighborhood, and donate locally.
I thank you, I love you, and I will see you next week.