Everyone on The Valley Needs to Read Fair Play

The Valley - Season 1
Photo: Casey Durkin/Bravo

Tonight, one of reality TV’s seminal villains, Jax Taylor, returned to the small screen in Bravo’s Vanderpump Rules spinoff, The Valley. The show follows Taylor and his wife, Brittany Cartwright, as they handle parenting and other adult responsibilities in a black-and-white modern farmhouse in Valley Village. Spoiler: It’s not going very well! (Taylor and Cartwright recently announced they have separated.) But Taylor — the man famous for cheating on every girlfriend he’s ever had, fighting while shirtless in a strip-mall parking lot, stealing a pair of sunglasses in Hawaii, and taking sooo many shots in a row for some reason — looks like a prince compared to the other sorry husbands Bravo found to round out the cast of this show.

The Valley, it turns out, is the living embodiment of that study that shows marital satisfaction substantially decreases in the first two years after having a child. Alongside Taylor and Cartwright, all the other elder millennial couples on the show are in the same general stage of early parenthood — either trying to get pregnant, pregnant, or parenting babies and toddlers — and all of them seem miserable. This is not fizzy escapism; this is REAL LIFE, and it’s giving me a headache!

Take Jesse and Michelle Lally, for example. They are Taylor and Cartwright’s real-estate-agent friends (okay) who take pains to note they do not actually live in the Valley but in Hollywood behind the Chateau Marmont (whatever). They have a 3-year-old daughter, Isabella (the seventh-most-popular name for girls in 2020), and her very existence has brought their marriage to its breaking point. “We didn’t ask [each other] basic questions about how we wanted to raise our kids,” Michelle admits casually to the other moms at a county-fair-themed party in Taylor and Cartwright’s backyard. In another scene, she reveals that Jesse never woke up with their daughter once during the night when she was a baby, and that she stayed in a separate room with her for a year so as not to disrupt his sleep. This has led to some resentment, if you can believe it.

“She kind of evolved as a mom, and I wasn’t quite evolving as a dad, and that’s kinda where we’re at,” Jesse tells the camera in one of his talking-head interviews. Mm-hmm. (Us Weekly reports Jesse and Michelle have also now separated.)

No one else in the cast seems much happier. Former Pump Rules chaos agent Kristen Doute is on the show, too, and even though she is “40 now,” as she keeps telling the camera, she is still getting into categorically terrible relationships with men. This time, she is dating a guy named Luke, who actually lives in Colorado and is not at all committed to her, but they are trying to get pregnant anyway with no plan for what will happen if they succeed.

The couple on the show that appears to be treading water most successfully? That would be Nia and Danny Booko, a former Miss USA and Disney Channel actor, respectively. And they have a 2-year-old and 6-week-old TWINS. Perhaps they are too overwhelmed to argue with each other on-camera.

Photo: Felix Kunze/Gizelle Hernandez/Bravo

The Valley has been marketed as Taylor’s big return to TV, but his antics that made him so watchable on Pump Rules are absent from the show’s premiere (save for one incident in which he inexplicably pantses Danny at the aforementioned county-fair party, which makes Nia cry). Instead, The Valley is scene after scene of heterosexual misery, and no amount of couples therapy can save it.

Everyone on The Valley Needs to Read Fair Play