Turns Out It’s Pretty Good: Reality TV

Photo-Illustration: The Cut, Photo: Courtesy of Bravo

Why are we so skeptical of the things right in front of us? “Turns Out It’s Pretty Good” is a series that examines the path from resisting the well-known to wholeheartedly endorsing it.

If you’d asked me eight months ago, “Who is Lisa Vanderpump?” I’d have guessed she was the heiress to a shoe fortune. If you’d asked me, “What is Scary Island?” I’d have said it was the name of a haunted amusement park from Scooby Doo. If someone had thrown the phrase “turtle time” at me, I’d have sworn it was uttered by a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

But no longer! I can now state with confidence that, though I was tardy for the party, I’m completely invested in the Housewives. “Tardy for the Party,” in fact, is a pop single performed by Kim Zolciak on The Real Housewives of Atlanta. It originally started out as a country song because Kim wanted to be a country singer — but she refused to stop smoking cigarettes or, you know, learn how to sing. I can relate! For instance, I call myself a writer, but I also sit on Twitter all day and don’t even open a word document.

Before this year, I had never watched a single episode of any Housewives franchise. It’s not because I didn’t want to. It’s more that it never made it onto my radar — most of my time was spent either watching comedies or old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. My girlfriend, on the other hand, calls herself a “Bravo Dyke.” I did not know what this meant, but I thought it sounded beautifully celebratory, as if she deserved a standing ovation for lesbianism.

Once we were in quarantine together, she would watch The Real Housewives on our shared television, and I’d overhear delightful snippets. For instance, there was something about people peeing in the middle of a cornfield and a vibrator left behind in a bowl of chicken? I once saw a woman make out with a dog dressed in a miniature tuxedo (that was the aforementioned Lisa Vanderpump, who also stars in Vanderpump Rules). On a different day, someone drunkenly yelled that they’d “raised millions for the LGBT.” Who were these women? And why did they bring their own bottles of white wine to upscale charity events?

In the thick of quarantine, I was unable to read or work on any of my writing, but the one thing I could do was consume a million episodes of The Real Housewives. I quickly found myself hooked. The character development! The editing! The continuous stream of conflict! “I will never in my life write a story this good,” I announced as we watched Sonja Morgan pull sex toys from her dishwasher and declare herself an international lifestyle brand. I was outraged when Sheree Whitfield invited Nene Leakes to her birthday party and then “forgot” to put her on the guest list. I shrieked with joy as Kyle Richards yelled, “You’re such a fucking liar, Camille!” at Kelsey Grammer’s ex-wife. Did I gasp when Bethenny Frankel announced, “It’s about Tom” over the topic of Countess LuAnn’s cheating fiancé? You bet your ass I did, even though I’d already seen clips of it 47827398 times on the internet. I gasped because it was fun to gasp. I laughed because it was funny! I watched The Real Housewives because, if only for a moment, the silly drama of their lives took me out of the hopelessness of our current situation.

It’s great TV, and I’m furious with myself that I didn’t start watching The Real Housewives sooner. It has definitely broadened my joke repertoire online, which is both a blessing and a curse. The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City just started, and it’s already promising to be the wildest series yet (in the very first episode, someone claimed another woman “smelled like hospital” — you cannot make this shit up). And Bravo? If you wanna team up, I’ve got a lot of great marketing ideas for new franchises. Real Housewines of Olive Garden, for starters. Who knows, maybe they’ll even let us serve some Ramona Pinot Grigio. Call Andy Cohen. We’ll make it nice.

In all seriousness, though, watching the Housewives behave badly in public had benefits beyond escapism — it genuinely wound up boosting my writing production. Ingesting back-to-back episodes of a show where people yelled at each other in fancy restaurants or argued over which extremely expensive room they got to choose at a luxury villa was beautifully, disgustingly human. It reminded me of times when I’d holed up at bars and listened in on strangers having awkward first Tinder dates. The woman next to me who once asked the bartender for a glass of “Peanut Grigio”? That could’ve been Ramona Singer! The Housewives are a reminder that, with enough money and privilege, you can achieve your dream — even if your dream is to create a line of toaster ovens and then never actually sell them anywhere. Listen, if the Countess can reinvent herself from an actual Countess schooling people on etiquette to a fake Countess starring in her own cabaret show, then goddamn it, I can write another novel.

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Turns Out It’s Pretty Good: The Real Housewives