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'The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' recap: This is going to sound so obnoxious!

October 15, 2010 |  8:47 am


“It’s so Beverly Hills…”

Taylor Armstrong, a member of the newest “Housewives” franchise ensemble, may have been describing her castmate’s miniature-sized dog, Jiggy, as the must-have accessory among the elite women of Beverly Hills, like handbags. Or, apparently, babies. But it could aptly sum up the show.

“The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” appears to be a throwback to the show's roots in a headier time -- a time before recessions, Auto-Tune “songs,” wig/weave-yanking scuffles and table-flipping shouts of “prostitution whore!”

Instead, it’s an opportunity to peer into the rarefied world behind the wrought-iron gates of the tony neighborhoods commoners wouldn’t see otherwise. It’s houses with the size and décor of a resort hotel. Girlfriend getaways. Facial injections at the plastic surgeon’s office. Awkward, emotionally distant interactions with entitled children who look like they came from central casting.

The premiere was light on drama -- or really any action at all, for that matter -- as it simply spent the hour trying to introduce the six housewives.

There’s the businesswoman: Adrienne Maloof, married to a plastic surgeon and has three sons. Her family owns the Sacramento Kings basketball team and is involved in various entertainment-related businesses. In a move that’s oh-so-Salahi, she drags the women to a getaway in Sacramento (woohoo!) for a basketball game, like it’s a grape stomp at a winery.

There’s the all-about-her-kids mom: Kim Richards, a former child actress who made a name for herself in “Escape to Witch Mountain” (1978), is the frenetic mother of four who says (again and again) she made a choice to make her life about her children. That makes her seem ill at ease away from her kids, but it’s clear that she still longs for the spotlight. Richards, who is Paris Hilton’s aunt, has an incredibly uncomfortable passive-aggressive moment, recounting a time when Richards had to inform Hilton that she was an “icon” well before her famous-for-no-good-reason niece was a twinkle in Kathy Hilton’s eye.

The sassy sages: Lisa Vanderpump, who by far has the coolest last name on the show, is the rare bright spot with a quick wit and a sexually-repressed husband with Rod Stewart hair. Vanderpump has an empty nest now that her two children, Pandora and Max, are gone, and has filled the void by mothering Jiggy, her furry baby who she constantly dotes on and always straddles in her arms -- you know, like an accessory. She also has a “permanent house guest” in Cedric, a buff, young gay man who seems closer to her than her husband. It’s clear that if, and hopefully when, the drama starts bubbling over, she’ll be the instigator.

Kyle Richards, sister of Kim, is the other bright spot. If anything, the crosstalk between her and Lisa will shine amid the rest of the low-watt cast. Lisa’s ribbing of Kyle about her fear of flying and her hypochondria was the only enjoyable part of the show. (“I thought I had a stroke,” Kyle admitted, “but it was my false eyelashes making one eye smaller than the other.”)

Kyle is also a former actress who gave up her career for her four daughters. Kyle, like Lisa, keeps it real (or about as real as possible for a reality show set in Beverly Hills): She scoffs when her unmarried sister whines about wanting another baby, and has the potential to bring a much-needed version of the eye-rolling riposte that made Bethenny Frankel the star in New York.

And then there are the robotic blonds who just want to escape their husband’s shadow. This role is filled jointly by Taylor Armstrong and Camille Grammer (as in, former wife of Kelsey Grammer).

Taylor is paranoid that her venture-capitalist husband will leave her for a younger woman. She tries to keep up her appearance -- it’s clear the visit to the plastic surgeon in this episode wasn’t her first -- and she runs her own business, which her husband casually waved off as “little.”

Camille wants to step out from behind the hulking shadow of her celebrity ex-husband, she says, over and over. (Did she mention that the celebrity is Kelsey Grammer? Why, yes, she did. Many, many times.) She has two children, who are tended to by a rotation of four nannies. The kids react to their father like he’s a creepy uncle who swooped in to give them a noogie. Their relationship with her seems just as awkward, and -- though I hate to say it -- staged.

Camille, more than the rest, shows how the “Housewives” franchise has evolved. With the other shows, it’s slightly reassuring to see delusional socialites tumble like everyone else in these austere times. Teresa Giudice of New Jersey had to file for bankruptcy with $11 million in debt; Lynn Curtin of Orange County was evicted several times and had to move in with her mother last season. Reality TV, in a sense, has become a proxy for socioeconomic revenge.

But then there’s Camille. “Gah, this is going to sound so obnoxious!” she says, before mentioning that she and Kelsey used to always fly charter. (They now fly commercial more often, she said, in an effort to be “green.”) And she says it again as a preface to a description of her massive sanctuary of an estate, with its pool and tennis court.

Oh, Camille! It doesn’t just sound obnoxious. For us looking in from outside the gates of your compound, it is really, really obnoxious.

-- Rick Rojas

Photo: "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" cast. Credit: Bravo