The Real Housewives of New York City
Ever since Luann called herself “the Samantha,” I’ve been spiraling down a rabbit hole of possibilities to flesh out this Sex and the City–ization of The Real Housewives of New York City.
Yes, as self-proclaimed last week, Luann is the Samantha. This week she asks Carole, “What, are you the narrator?” I initially thought Bethenny would be the narrator — the Carrie, if you will — as she’s certainly the most authoritative in the confessionals, but now it’s clear that she’s the Miranda. If that doesn’t translate for you, I’ll put it in Golden Girls terms: Bethenny is the Dorothy. She’s the hard-edged, smart one — the Julia Sugarbaker, the Regina George, the Rizzo. I suppose Carole also makes sense as the Carrie; she is a writer, after all. And Ramona is a good choice for Charlotte, or perhaps more to the point, the Rose (Charlene/Karen/Sandy). Of course, everybody’s the Carrie on reality TV, and everybody’s the slutty one on Real Housewives, so it’s hard to narrow down.
One thing’s certain, though: Bethenny is in charge, and she’s using her power to take down Luann. She even admits that her rage against Luann was due to the buildup of a long period of frustration with Luann’s behavior. Oh, that behavior from several months ago? Luann is incredulous that she would be held accountable for anything prior to the “previously on” montage. And she clearly believes she can erase all damage by merely saying sorry, no matter how callously — or impersonally, via text message. This notion could not be further from the truth. These ladies won’t give Luann an inch. (No puns please, we’re moving away from the slut-shaming.)
Yes, Luann was a hypocrite to Carole. Yes, she ought to make some serious amends. Nevertheless, Carole ought to give her a chance. Did anyone really believe Luann was trying to take credit for Skinnygirl? Maybe in her grandiose “Countess” way, she took a somewhat proprietary tone discussing Bethenny and her accomplishments, but it obviously came from a place of love. She was there with Bethenny at the beginning — maybe not at the exact counter where Bethenny took those first profound steps toward lowering the carbohydrates in cocktails, but back in the early days of season one, when Bethenny stood out as real, but not as a housewife. She was not just a Skinnygirl, but a Singlegirl with a small apartment. As Lu watched her become an empire, she’s been nothing but supportive. If anything, she’s been overly supportive, like so many of the other Housewives as they clamor to kiss Bethenny’s Skinnyass. (More on Ramona, Sonja, and Dorinda later.) Luann oversells it, like when she tears up talking about Sonja. Still, this is not the bad side of Luann. This is the fabulous, larger-than-life Auntie Mame Countess.
Bethenny does momentarily pause her stream of criticism to acknowledge what she does like about Luann — she’s “intellectual and smart compared to the other girls” — which is not that much of a compliment when you think about it. The Countess claims that she’s Teflon and that insults don’t get to her, but I suspect she’s got a heart. I worry about her opening up so completely to this shooting gallery. On the other hand, when she’s called a barracuda and a Venus flytrap, Luann seems positively delighted, like she’s thrust into an out-of-body experience planning her next album cover and lyrics.
Bethenny knows what she’s doing. She acknowledges it several times, even going so far as to say, “Dorinda throws a good party, and I shit all over it.” Indeed, things get so testy and alcohol becomes such a necessary social lubricant that Bethenny muses about “Skinnygirl enemas” for quicker absorption. The next day, Bethenny feels hung-over from wine and cruelty, joking that she needs a morning-after pill. It’s these quick-fire quips that keep us on Bethenny’s side, even when she’s just not nice at all. She’s good television. The other ladies, with their malapropisms and mispronunciations, can barely speak an original sentence, let alone crack a joke. Dorinda describes Bethenny as “hijacking” her way out of the Berkshires, when what she really means is hightailing. Anyone who watched Bethenny and Carole load up their car — without even a pit stop in the breakfast nook! — knows Carole was hardly held hostage. But still, Dorinda is sweet to the Queen B on her exit.
All through that drama, Dorinda and Jules mostly keep to themselves in the other room, making inane conversation, understanding their responsibility to stay quieter than the sounds of important people arguing in the other room. They play Twister, make kosher lasagna — typical slumber-party stuff, at least where I grew up — and they’re basically innocuous. We see none of Dorinda’s dark side this week. Jules is pretty much sweet and cute. They’ve been declawed, as well they should be. All new Housewives need to spend a season or two on good behavior, staying out of the big girls’ fights until they’ve earned their stripes.
There’s a brief cutaway to Sonja back in the city being silly with her interns, as she sends her daughter a care package of used makeup removers and half-eaten ramen. (Actually, she saves the ramen for herself — it is the last packet.) She doesn’t understand the point of doing this for her daughter anyway: “She has Amazon Prime!”
As with every Real Housewives weekend getaway, it’s time for the inevitable first party back in town. It’s Ramona’s holiday bash, and she looks like a million bucks. I have to give her that. Other girls may follow the seasonal trends of jumpsuits and prints, but Ramona sticks to the classics, and she looks like a princess. (She’s basically a princess in Bethenny’s court, isn’t she?) Aside from a few stray butt-inski comments in the Luann debacle, Ramona’s behavior is mostly exemplary. She knows she’s no match for the big fish, but she’s an OG Housewife, so she rests comfortably in that security. In a rare moment of wisdom, she advises Luann just to “zip it” and stop being defensive. And Bethenny rewards Ramona’s reverence with a bit of respect: When Bethenny is ready to leave Ramona’s party (after maybe five minutes), she goes through the motions of asking Ramona if that’s okay. Obviously, Ramona says yes — and unlike Dorinda, she toes that line after Bethenny has gone. She’s getting better and better at playing Bethenny’s game, and that is the key to this season. Luann knows it, too, but she’s tripping over her attempts. Same with Sonja. (Note how sternly Ramona and Luann both warn Sonja to drop the Tipsygirl idea: “IT’S REALLY UPSETTING BETHENNY!”) But Sonja doesn’t have Luann’s patience or strength. She’s not going to just stand there and face Bethenny’s barrage, much less a secondhand tirade delivered by Bethenny’s ogres after her exit. Sonja flies down the emergency stairwell, shrieking that she can’t stay at this party any longer. I only hope that’s not emblematic of her tenure on the show.