Reality TV is clearly falling out of favor with audiences. It can be hard to ignore great, well-written television series in favor of watching the self-destruction of reality “stars.” Bravo has been on the bleeding edge of sensationalized television and even it has broadened into scripted series to cover its ass.
The network also seems to be cleaning house. “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” (RHOA) was one of the first series to completely abandon the affluent cougar formula in favor of fighting, often physically, and general ratchet behavior, but the series’ new cast members seem to be heralding in a new tone for the franchise.
There seems to be a problem affecting the real lives of these “Real” housewives. Like hosts of some demonic parasite, their lives soon implode under the weight of their own egos. Forget keeping up with the Joneses — these women have to compete with, and top, themselves:
Teresa Giudice of the New Jersey franchise was arrested for stupidly trying to defraud the government while spending money on television. Then she documented she and her husband’s inevitable arrests on the series. Ramona Singer (New York City), Bethenny Frankel (New York City), Lisa Wu (Atlanta) and Phaedra Parks (Atlanta) all went from being happily married to miserably divorced.
It seems longtime “RHOA” cast member NeNe Leakes might be suffering from this Toxic Housewife Syndrome mostly due to the over-douching of her mouth. Her meteoric rise from sassy comedian to star of the series to ego-driven drama queen have put a bad taste in the NeNe Kool-Aid. It’s clear she tries to dictate the trajectory of the series, and it just feels forced.
This season of “RHOA” includes the addition of new cast members Claudia Jordan and Demetria McKinney. These women are actually stars in their own right. McKinney is a working actress (“Tyler Perry’s House of Payne”), and Jordan is a television host and model who honed her reality-TV skills on “Celebrity Apprentice.” This cast shakeup also seems to be a departure from a lot of the typical BS of the series. There is a clear division as these lovely ladies bring class with their sass.
They’ve joined castmates Kenya Moore and Cynthia Bailey in a herd of gazelle-legged model-types who know how to bring entertainment without going to the gutter level. In a recent episode, Leakes tried her usual internal-directing of the series. She manufactures fights in hopes of clocking sound-bytes. However, Jordan was prepared and confidently and eloquently questioned Leakes’ deplorable behavior, hair choices and generally shitty attitude. She read her like a lonely housewife reads “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and yet, she’s in the right. Leakes has become a parody of herself. She used to be an approachable talking head, but has morphed into a Muppet saying nonsensical phrases as she clings to her last 50 seconds of fame.
The original appeal of the “Real Housewives” franchise was a group of crazy cougars showing off their lavish lifestyles and snarkily bickering over trivial things. However, with these women trying to manufacture their own reality appeal, you stop caring. As viewers get tired of reality TV, the prospect of watching people about to go to jail, desperately seeking employment or struggling financially might be a little too real. Here’s hoping that Bravo and “Real Housewives” executive producer (and the network’s former longtime head of development) Andy Cohen are cleaning house and trying to find a new angle to keep this franchise entertaining. After all, as people get tired of reality TV, they will be tired of the antics and cookie-cutter series that made Cohen a successful network head in the first place.
Whether it’s a conscious choice or just serendipitous casting, “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” seem to be dispensing with some of the drama that made them a household name. Here’s hoping that they find a happy medium so there is some entertainment value without having to watch the slow degradation and ratchet-makeovers of otherwise happy people.
“The Real Housewives of Atlanta” airs on Bravo Sundays at 8 p.m.
Christian Cintron is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.