There is no denying it; reality television has been on a downward spiral for the past 10 years. The innovation is gone, it’s completely formulaic, and there is nothing you haven’t seen before.
Or is there?
Bravo’s multi-city reality series, Real Housewives is a shining example of what reality television could be if producers would lay off the gimmicks and contrived situations and just let people be. So what is it that this show gets right?
1. The participants aren’t cloistered: Instead of being put in a special house or castle the Real Housewives cast members stay home with their families. This puts a special strain on them which gives the show an added edge and gives us a legitimate insight into how private life is for other people. Naturally the shows are edited but you still get a surprisingly realistic look at their daily lives.
2. It’s a family affair: With the all-out invasiveness of the camera crew, Real
Housewives is a true family affair. Not only do we see the cast members’ reactions to their family but we see their family’s reactions to them. We can observe the contrast between how they act with friends and how they act with loved ones, we get to see how annoying and insecure some of the husbands are, how superficial some of the relationships are, how real and enduring others are, and we get to see all the little cracks in the armor. In short, we get past the “perfect family” front that many people try to present to the world.
3. It’s no game: There is no prize, no dimwitted bachelor or bachelorette to win, no money, no roses, no competitions… nothing but normal, everyday, rich people life–which does sometimes include roses, competitions, dimwitted bachelors and bachelorettes.
4. These chicks are catty… and they’re neighbors: Having the primary cast consist entirely of women is interesting because women are different than most men in terms of social interaction. At the risk of sounding like a self-hating chick, I have noticed that women tend to gossip more than men, they are often very judgmental about other women. They also seem to talk behind backs more often. At least, that is what the women on Real Housewives do. While this same type of interaction can happen on other reality shows with many female cast members, Real Housewives is special because these women actually know each other socially and are real-life neighbors. Talk about after-the-show awkwardness.
5. They are (almost) all over 30: Except for Kim Zolciak, the supposedly 29 year old Atlanta housewife, all the housewives are over thirty—and all of them look it. No matter how much plastic surgery these women have or how sexy some of them are, none of them look a day younger than 35, and that doesn’t mean they are not hot. Of course, the benefit to being in your thirties is also shown which is that many of them are successful professionals in their own right and they are confident in a way 20-somethings usually aren’t. These women also show how sex appeal doesn’t have to be the exclusive domain of the young and unwrinkled.
Hopefully producers will take note of the popularity and differences in this Bravo series and reality show addicts everywhere will benefit by seeing some improvement in future reality television shows.