The Real Housewives of New York City
Ever since the global pandemic changed life as we know it this spring, the Real Housewives have been more of a balm than ever. Not only is there something comforting about the sameness of them, like the French fries you get from McDonalds that are always identical no matter where you are, they reminded us of the life we left behind. Here were people getting together and having dinner and going to parties, and not fighting in a Trader Joe’s about wearing masks. Here were high production values, gorgeous venues, women who were allowed to have their heads and faces touched by beauty professionals. When all of us had so little to get us through, the Housewives were there for us, like a bunch of screechy-mouthed Winston Churchills, goading us through the terror and sameness of our everyday lives.
That is now over. Officially.
Both the New York ladies and their less scruffy Beverly Hills counterparts took an unannounced several-week break, most likely so that editors, now working from home, could have some time to finish assembling episodes. I’m fine with that. Give the craftspeople all the time they need. Quality is worth waiting for. At least that’s what Grindr tricks tell me as they avoid hanging out with me for years and years and years.
The episode starts just like any other, but with a new introduction now that Tinsley Mortimer has left this mortal coil. (And by mortal coil I mean TV, because if you’re not on TV are you even alive?) There are even new taglines, and Ramona’s, “Who cares if I’m self-involved? Who else should I be involved with?” has already been printed on the cover of a giant, leather-bound tome and put in a place of prominence in the Library of Congress’s Richard Hatch Reading Room for the Reality Television Arts and Sciences. Okay, so far so good.
The action starts and Leah is in Halloween Adventure, my favorite store in all of Manhattan where you can buy costumes, props, and all sorts of ridiculous junk every day of the year. I’m into it. I’m into it. The ladies are back, yeah, I’m feeling good. Leah’s on the phone with her baby daddy Rob, asking him to come to a Halloween party. It cuts to her confessional and …
Tire screech. Needle skips off the record. A jaundiced baby cries out for comfort it will never receive. The ghost of Buster Keaton goes “Homina homina homina homina” for 17 hours straight. Swamp Thing motorboats the long-decayed toosh of the Lindbergh baby. Everything in the universe falls off a cliff and lands in a black hole made entirely of existential dread and Mitch McConnell’s neck fat.
What the hell? The confessional is Leah sitting in front of her bookcase at home in a nude sweatshirt with a few random letters across the chest and minimal hair and makeup. The audio sounds like the radio, but not the radio, but on talk radio when someone calls in and it sounds like crap and the rest of the radio sounds good and you’re like, “Please get back to the real radio because this sounds like it was recorded in a helicopter trying to take off out of an echo chamber.”
Then it goes away and, for a minute, I thought it was a fluke. I thought maybe I just dreamed that Leah beamed into the show from a Zoom call from hell. She joins Dorinda and Luann shopping, and then it cuts to Dorinda’s confessional — and there she is in her Berkshires living room wearing something that looks like a pajama top, but also with a half scarf connected to it. She is also being recorded from some sort of Tether radio station.
Next we see Ramona in her kitchen, also dressed down, and her background is the worst. It looks both like her kitchen and an illustration of her kitchen. In fact, all of the backgrounds look flat, as if the women took a picture of their living spaces and then that picture was hung as a backdrop behind them. I am convinced these are all two-dimensional images until the end of the episode, when Ramona’s daughter Avery actually walks through the kitchen and washes her hands in the sink while giving some commentary on the way by about Elyse, a party you put in your iCal and then forget about and then see two days after you were supposed to attend. This makes me question the way physics works, but also why we don’t have the Housewives teens interrupting all of their confessionals like they’re filming news reports for the BBC.
Eventually we see all the women, Luann upstate with the worst sound of anyone, and Sonja in what is definitely her pajamas and what is possibly the spa that she has trapped herself in for months and months doing nothing but glowing, apparently. Did they dry out Sonja Tremont Morgan of the Booty Tooch Loofa Brush Morgans at her spa? It is working!
These new confessionals don’t make much sense to me. I know that producers are filming interviews while also filming the seasons so that the women don’t forget what happened or how they were feeling. So, if the action is happening during Halloween, why are these confessionals being recorded sometime after lockdown started? Also, when Avery Singer traipsed through the frame, a camera either swiveled or pulled back, which I think means there was a technician in the house social distancing, which is fine, but if there were crew in Ramona’s apartment and it still looked like the set of a high school version of Bye, Bye Birdie, what is the crew even getting paid for? Maybe they can only have one person and he can’t do lighting and sound as perfectly as a normal crew? I don’t know. Just because I watch this show doesn’t mean I know how to make it, just like eating a donut doesn’t confer upon me the recipe. (Oh, if only!)
There are also some confessionals talking about the scenes that were filmed BC (Before Corona) and those are intermixed with the new confessionals. What exactly is going on? The same goes for Ramona’s friend Missy, who is the woman that Luann’s Tom dated right after he divorced Luann. We see her called Missy several times at the bottom of our screens, but only once is she called Melissa. Which is it?
This is so unlike Bravo. They often talk about their shows having the “Bravo sheen.” They need to look glossy and expensive and like something we probably couldn’t afford even though we can. They want it to look like a gilded indulgence, like the shiny golden inside of a Magnum bar wrapper. Now they just look like a mess. What happened? Did they rip apart all the episodes and add a bunch more confessionals and other content so that they could get more episodes out of the season since there is nothing currently in production? Did someone just botch the whole job? Did the gypsy woman that made Andy Cohen famous finally come to collect her due and it is that his shows will look like wadded up Wet Wipes for the rest of eternity?
I get it. It’s a tough time. We all need to make sacrifices. I just was hoping it wouldn’t come to my Housewives. Or, even if it did, I would appreciate it if Bravo leveled with us. I wish they could have said, “Hey, listen. Here’s what we had to do. We know it’s not up to our usual standards, but please bear with us.” But no. They couldn’t even plop a “Pardon Our Dust” notice up on their website. They just soldiered on hoping that none of us would notice.
Uh, guys. We noticed.
As for the episode itself, the main event is that everyone goes to a Halloween dinner that Luann arranged and it actually looks pretty cool. Ramona has some other parties she wants to go to, so she texted everyone that they should have the dinner an hour early and when no one responded she assumed that meant her wish was granted, so she shows up an hour early and then has to sit around and just wait to be excused to go to Omar’s.
Sonja shows up so blasted that she’s just basically bashing some plastic dolls together and telling Ramona that she always brings the topic of their conversations back to her. Ah doy! She has known Ramona 20 years (Sonja Sonj always omits the “for” before the number of years), doesn’t she know that’s how she rolls? But I will always love my favorite floozy for saying things like, “What was I doing before the party? Hello, I was getting lit with my hair and makeup team.” Bless her so hard. She also looks the best of everyone, dressed as a voodoo priestess in Indiana Jones and the Cultural Appropriation of Terror.
Well, Leah looks pretty darn good too with her Dia de los Muertos makeup and her sheer bodysuit with sparkles all over it. My girl Jill Zarin shows up to the party, dressed like a French maid who dyed her outfit red in the wash by mistake. She looks great, though, and already has a new fiancé, so at least Jill has love in her life and some coin in her bank account.
Dorinda looks good, but is once again behaving badly. She’s part of the group that piles on Ramona for being a dingus at the party. Dorinda’s beef is that she thought it would be a good idea for Ramona to throw her birthday party with Sonja. However, Ramona didn’t like that idea, and so now Dorinda is mad about something that she totally created out of nothing. When they talk about this at the party, Ramona says Dorinda is probably mad because she’s drunk. Good guess. A broken clock is still right twice a day, unless that clock says that Dorinda is probably drunk, then that clock is in MENSA.
Dorinda then retaliates by interrupting Luann’s speech, tapping her glass with a knife, and saying, “I’d like to get a consensus as a woman in power. Who thinks it’s right if you show up and your good girlfriend, when they doesn’t like something you say, says, ‘Are you drunk?’ And she had been here an hour and a half boozing up. Something something something. Schadenfreude. Mumble mumble. I’m done.”
Ramona just sits there. She is stony-faced and seething because Dorinda couldn’t say this just to her face or in a small group, she had to say it in front of everyone and absolutely humiliate herself. Jill Zarin says, “Is this what happens now? Dorinda just walks into a room and attacks someone.” That’s the recap of every episode now, Jill. Thanks for doing my job. Also, boy has the show changed.
Speaking of that redhead, she’s currently sitting at home on the Upper East Side in front of a ring light with her phone plugged into a tripod she bought on Amazon Prime. She’s going to film herself as long as the producer calls and starts asking her questions about her episode. It’s going to happen any moment now. They must have tons of things to ask. Oh, where are they? What’s keeping them? Is this thing on? Ally, will you check the phone? Is it working? Is it? Is it?