The Real Housewives of New York City
Hello, everyone! I hope you all had a patriotic and jubilant extended Independence Day celebration, because I think it’s time that you and I cut the shit and start speaking honestly. To be frank, we’re six episodes into the revamped RHONYC and I’m pretty sure the show sucks now.
I didn’t want to say it because I didn’t want to believe it. And of course I’ll continue to watch and hope for the best and enjoy the parts that are good and point those out so we can stave off another year of becoming grouchy cynics who only complain about things instead of celebrate those that bring us joy. But my fear that Bravo has ruined my favorite of the Real Housewives franchises seems to have come true. By recasting for season five, it seems, from the pudding-proof of the first six episodes, that the producers truly did futz with the series’ most essential parts, transforming an explosive social comedy into a milquetoast docu-series about narcissistic women who, for the most part, get along.
And really, isn’t that what this show is now? At least now that Heather and Ramona are on separate continents and the drama is nil to simmering? We’re reduced to subtitling “I love chicken curry” under the Countess’s room service order and setting up the cliff-hanger of whether Ramona will make it back from the ladies’ room in time to give her Learning Annex speech? This show used to be marvelous and psychotic — now it’s boring and, at best, not unpleasant. It’s like a shitty massage.
Is it time to call Jill Zarin and admit mistakes were made? Should we tweet Kelly? Round up Silex? Don’t even say a peep about Cindy — if only we could have Photoshopped her out of the season, Morocco-style. But truly — what’s there to do? They’ve already deprived three out of the six ladies of food and sleep by flying them across the ocean, and the best we get is some borderline passive-aggressive one-upping from Luann to Carole in her old neighborhood in Notting Hill? What’s going on? Is it a question of transitioning, as Burdy posited in her comment from episode one, from silly strivers to real-deal cast members? In other words, does this show suffer once we focus on women with actual money and real accomplishments? Have we traded in Sqweez for Yummie Tummie and I Can Make You Hot for What Remains, and are we currently reaping the consequences of first class? What if Luann’s song was really about Class Not Being Able to Buy You a Role on a Better TV Show? Or is this just a question of chemistry? Are these women not crazy enough? Are they too guarded when it comes to their personal lives? Where did we go wrong?
Most likely, it’s what Ramona criticized about Heather over wine made from the bitterest of grapes. It’s just not real.
And so, we begin again. Three of the ladies arrived in London after a red-eye flight, and at least one of them was dressed like Sam Slade.
Cool Carole left on her Ray-Bans in the limo and sipped coffee with hands in drivers’ gloves from behind her cape and otherwise acted the part of a rock star who can’t believe she ended up on a reality show. I like Carole a lot, but I have a feeling she’s a dud addition to this newfangled cast. It’s one thing to act the part of the aspirational Greek Chorus, connecting with the women who watch this stuff, rolling your eyes in sync with the couch crew, and otherwise kicking ass all the while wearing a child-size jean. Bethenny did that in the fifteen minutes of sleep she gets nightly. But Carole is too smart for this shit. She’s too self-aware and therefore removed to get her white turtleneck mucky with the gossip smegma these women collect on their nasio-labial folds during a standard scone run to Sarabeth’s. And meanwhile, in the towncar, Sonja and Luann filled the air with a bunch of well-meaning flirty nonsense, but it was all dishonest and none of it stung or stuck in my memory enough to repeat.
And meanwhile, in a board room across town, Heather justified the reason for the trip in the first place. It was a business trip, you see, and while she acted the part of your BFF CEO in front of a board meeting of some kind, she used vulgar slang like “Hollar” and “Yo” and other turns of phrase that Jesse Pinkman would eschew, even in a moment of passion. And her European colleagues stared at her, frozen with fear that if they didn’t sign the release for their boss’s reality show, their retail jobs would be European History. And they pointed at tank tops and took breaks from worshipping at the shrine of clothes with girdles built inside of them to cross themselves across the gunt in the shape of a Y, and then a T.
Across the pond, in the absence of any of the other cast members, Ramona agreed to go shoe shopping with Aviva in a rainstorm and used the opportunity to quiz her one-legged friend about everything concerning her prosthesis she could think of without filtering her reflexes through a system of social graces. At no point during Aviva’s answers did Ramona tone down her delight, shock, and general sense of marvel at the anatomical anomaly before her enormous eyes, and, I must admit, that was some vintage, Sweet Ramotion. That was a good scene. We all enjoyed it. Ramona acted a fool and Aviva played along, and by proxy of an ass, we all learned that she keeps a waterproof leg and can’t wear slingbacks. Well done, everyone! Aren’t you glad you stayed in New York, Aviva? Where does your fear of rude weirdos fall on your phobia list? Under elevators but over subway gratings? Well, recalibrate that Excel document between now and Miami, kiddo. Or don’t — I’ll be watching either way. I’m paid to!
And around this time, Luann, Sonja, and Carole were keeping themselves busy, running around London on fumes and shopping for feathered items best worn bralessly when they weren’t accompanying Cool Carole to her old digs for a dose of Reminiscin’. Turns out Carole made a bucket list when her husband died, and one of those items was either “Move to London” or “Fuck an English Guy.” Either outcome landed her years ago in a sweet-as-Cadbury-Fingers Notting Hill flat. And as she spoke of this quasi-boho though well-financed stage of her recent life, you could see Countess Luann twitch with involuntary jealousy, which was healthy, since Luann has been trying harder than usual to maintain her façade this season, whether it had to do with pretending to pal around with Heather at that art gallery, or pretending to yell at her son for flunking French in front of Jacques and a camera crew. Luann has developed a personality callus and I want to see the bitch under the big jewelry again. Come on, Countess — let us in, she’s fascinating.
And meanwhile, Carole, the woman who called Luann “Pumpkinhead” on the flight then turned it into a compliment, was spinning a yarn about how, a few years back, she’d take her tea with her HobNob whats-its down the lane while trying to learn how to fuck another man as a widow, and Luann piped in about her own experience during that time in Switzerland or some shit. So, in her bookending testimonial, Carole tried her best to voice her frustration with Luann’s tendencies to bring the conversation around to herself. Which isn’t completely fair, first of all, because of course Luann does that. Don’t all Housewives do that? And furthermore, what else is she supposed to say? Aren’t conversations about connection? At a certain point you need to step back from calling everything one-upmanship with these topics. I’m not defending Luann as much as I’m bemoaning the lack of any other kind of dramatic seeds from which the producers have yet to draw. I get the Princess versus the Countess thing they established, but where does that battle lead if the Princess won’t play along? This wasn’t “I got a producer to make my book into a TV show”/ “They’re selling my wine at Target!” This was “I used to live here”/ “I visited here around that time.” Either way, it’s a yawn, mate.
And soon after, Heather had a business dinner that she invited the other Housewives to crash. Sonja wore her most feathery feather-dress and Heather seemed gracious enough in traversing the business-friendship awkward divide insofar as she established the whole affair as quid pro quo. In other words, she’d be a bubbly, Yummie CEO-stess who picks up the check as long as everybody around the table — employees and pals alike — sang her praises. Carole smelled a rat, Sonja was hungry, and Luann made a nice speech after putting down the Princess for not standing up to say something nice about Heather’s shapewear. Heather didn’t seem to mind either way and promptly made an idiotic toilet humor comment about the egg-shaped bathroom pods upstairs. I really do not care for Heather. I know I say it every week, but she keeps blistering my freckled skin more and more each time I’m exposed to her face, body, hair, and personality.
Then there was some cruel contrasting between Heather’s British TV appearance and Ramona’s Stateside Learning Annex talk. We came in with Ramona and a beleaguered/not-giving-a-fuck Mario and got to see her in pre-lecture mode, which is even more on-edge and unpleasant than Usual Ramona. She called people “Sir” in that loud voice you use when you’ve asked for your check five times and got her way when it came to the “water on the table” placement, but not in the “picture in the lobby” department. And the name of the talk Ramona gave was “how to have it all,” a phenomenon that I am concerned survived the eighties in time to make an ugly little comeback in Atlantic-article-aware lady circles. As a side note: Please tell me this “Have It All” trend is not the next Happiness Project, okay? I can’t bear this talk; I’ll end my own life and “have it all,” if it means death.
But this having-it-all thing seems, as of last week’s episode, to be Ramona’s pet cause for now. And, for cash or attention, she’ll go on and on about how she’s lived compromise-free for some time and so can you. And I will say that I know one thing about having it all: not only does that not exist, but that people who talk about how they do ESPECIALLY don’t have it all. That doesn’t mean you’re not killing it, Ramona. It just means take a breath.
At the same time, Heather plugged her shit on TV and we somehow had to trail her. Carole was really the audience stand-in when it came to the case of a media professional forcing us to watch her shill her crapola for an audience of Breakfast-Telly Watchers and try not to mention her brand name twice in the process. In the Princess’s own words, we all could have stayed in bed for that scene.
Finally, the episode ended with contrasting scenes in London and New York — one city the host of the dullest game of Truth or Dare I’ve borne witness to since grade six, when I watched Samira Ginter do a hula dance on wall-to-wall carpet; the other, the site of a bitterness-fueled double date featuring Ramona, Mario, Reid, and Aviva.
As the London ladies tried on Heather’s stupid glasses and took each others’ Polaroids wearing wife beaters and pigtails (somewhere, Dov Charney couldn’t get hard), they agreed in record time that fucking somebody you’re not attracted to in order to get what you want is basically a synonym for fucking.
And meanwhile, over dinner with her husband and the Dreschers, Ramona stewed like a prune.
“We’re probably having more fun than those women in London because Heather’s not real,” Ramona offered to Aviva, like she was shaking a bag of cat treats in order to administer eye drops to the poor snack-ravenous critter her medicine method would eventually attract. “Remember how she interrupts people?” She shook the foil bag of Temptations under Aviva’s nose, and poor Aviva had no other choice but to crawl toward the noise, with her husband in tow. “Maybe she’s jealous of you,” Reid offered, and Ramona deferred. “I think she’s just insecure.” What was wrong with Heather consumed the imagination of Ramona and the dinner conversation of three others for at least how long it took for Aviva to invite them to “the Upper East Side of Miami,” which (1) is where they keep a house and (2) could not be a less appealing description of a place I know is already riddled with Cuban food and humidity. Mario agreed to go and Ramona choked on her water. We were done here.
Back in London, when the Pinot-Peddling Elephant in the Penthouse Suite was mentioned, only once but still in ominous Beetlejuice-y tones, Heather sputtered on about why she only didn’t invite Ramona because she doesn’t like her. And Sonja defended her friend while Luann tried fanning the flames inside the “fishtank without water” where fires in hotel suites live. Carole didn’t seem invested in anything besides getting along with the women in front of her and looking cute sitting on the floor, and Heather and Luann tried transcending the fact that they have nothing in common and really should hate each other by bonding over the fact that Polaroid cameras are old and that Ramona sucks. It was not a fun scene to watch and I was relieved when the show wrapped up.
Hopefully next week will bring with it more inflammatory travails or at least more absurd one-liners. Kelly was so good at those. She didn’t even need to bring a jellybean-fueled breakdown to a trip in order to inspire the whole series. Tonight, I’m pouring out a signed Learning Annex wine bottle for the fallen RHONYC. I’ll still watch, but I can’t say I don’t miss what once was.
Other things to discuss in the comments below:
- Was Carole right in calling bullshit on Heather’s “Go Around the Table and say why you love my shapewear” pimp-out? Was she right, but was Sonja perfect in her delivery? I mean, that’s what you say, right? “I haven’t worn the schmattes, but I enjoy this company”? I would have just been like, “GIVE ME MY STEAK NOW.”
- How much was that Notting Hill flat actually worth? Not to be a label whore, but yikes! Expensivo, sí?
- Luann proclaiming that Heather is so gangsta-chic she might have to record a new song about it is a more potent threat than anything ever ignored by Condeleeza Rice, Y/Y?
- Am I Sonja’ing out a bit or is that tour guide hot as Earl Grey? As in Fifty Shades of? Mmm-Hmmm.
- Sex on a Ping-Pong Table? Is this Andy Cohen’s way of courting Susan Sarandon to be a new cast member in a second RHONYC reboot?