Last week, sometime between the end of “Revenge” and the second or third showing of “Top Chef – Texas”, I must have dozed off. When I woke up, the cheftestants were no longer in Texas, but were cooking food in gondolas over snow-covered mountains in Vancouver, British Columbia. As if that wasn’t enough to confuse my already sleep-addled self, Sarah and Beverly had entered the Winter Olympics as competitors in the biathlon – shooting and skiing their way to a finalist’s spot. Someone tell me what any of this has to do with being a top chef. I like the timed challenges and exotic ingredients – oh, never mind, that’s an episode of “Chopped”.
Bravo is losing a lot of loyal viewers and they don’t seem to care. Many of us have expressed our frustration with all of the Housewives franchises. It gets harder and harder to find something to write about when you have no interest in their shenanigans. I spent a good part of the time that “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” was on this past Sunday, downloading software for my tax returns and actually found it more entertaining.
In what BravoTV thinks is a clever move, they are creating more and more drama where none really exists. I looked forward to seeing Bethenny again, only to watch her becoming more unhappy, and maybe even a little more manic, by the minute. The newly married couple who were expecting a baby with all of the joy that such things bring were not there. Instead, we are watching two people who don’t seem to know the first thing about each other. Whatever Dr. Amador is doing isn’t working. In fact, it looks like Bethenny has slipped even deeper into her insecurity, paranoia and need to control.
The Housewives, in all of their various locales, are turning into cartoon characters. Nearly everything they say or do looks like they are working it for the cameras. I know it’s hard to be yourself when your every word and movement is being recorded, but it all appears to be a whole lot of smoke and mirrors now. You just can’t be that mad or jealous or petty, and still want to hang out together. We know that we are being played and we don’t like it. Entertainment shouldn’t make us angry or anxious or disgusted. That’s what politicians are for.
I, for one, expected something entirely different from what I am watching now. Watching women screaming, fighting, getting drunk, using drugs and playing with sex toys is not fun or funny. We’re finding out that there is much more going on in these women’s lives than they would have us believe. Most of them are not smart or rich or successful. Most of them are liars – about everything – from their alleged wealth to the status of their relationships, and sometimes they’re not even good at that. The fact that we are seeing these episodes months after they are filmed doesn’t help, either. The tabloids follow these people constantly, and we are made aware of things, happening in the present, that make us look at our screens in utter disbelief. That little Google thing is a powerful tool, and it’s hard to keep up the facade when we already know how some of these stories are going to end.
In my very first post on this blog, I talked about the Bravo executives and how the new Bravo came about. I opened my post today with comments about “Top Chef” because of a portion of the New York Times article that I had mentioned in my first post. It stuck in my head because I thought it best described how the folks at Bravo viewed their future cast members and contestants.
“Andy Cohen, the head of original programming and development at Bravo, floated a proposal for “Top Chef” that would involve, early on in the new season, a surprise challenge and the swift elimination of a contestant. Zalaznick and company wouldn’t allow me to give away what is known in the genre as “the reveal” — the unexpected dramatic twist — but suffice it to say, the challenge was an otherwise mundane cooking task that, when performed under pressure, would thoroughly unnerve the chefs. “I really like it,” Zalaznick said. For her, the idea neatly captured the ruthless way in which the big city can chew up and spit out even the best provincial talents: “It’s like, you’ve really arrived in New York — it’s where you fight for your terrible pot-washing job after you’ve been executive chef back in wherever, and then you get fired for washing your pot wrong.”
“You don’t think it’s a little gratuitous?” asked Frances Berwick, the general manager for Bravo.
“Guess what?” Zalaznick said. “It’s the toughest city in the country.” She and Cohen tossed around a few ways they could ramp up the drama even more. Berwick laughed and shook her head. “That’s terrible.”*
Those very same executives haven’t caught up to the realization that we’re already looking for other programs to fill our time. Many of us watch “Revenge”, “Downton Abbey”, “Sons of Anarchy”, “Mad Men” and “The Voice”. I’d rather cheer on my favorite serial killer, “Dexter”, than watch most of the nonsense Bravo is feeding us. “Top Chef” has lost over 1 million viewers in the past three years, from a high of 3.9 million for Season 6, to 2.8 million during Season 9. Bravo, you’re going to lose more of us if you don’t wise up.
I think that I hang in there because I keep hoping that Bravo will bring us something new and better. Perhaps the new cast members of the Real Housewives of New York will breathe some life into this tired franchise. I want to believe that the new matchmaker will be the polar opposite of Patti Stanger. I look forward to seeing Jeff Lewis, Jenni and Zoila. I can take it when Jeff is his OCD self with his ever-changing rules of the game, because I think that these people, deep down, really care about one another. However, if Bravo suddenly decides that the Jeff Lewis design team should be renovating houses after jumping out of a plane, well, then I guess we’ll abandon all hope and change the channel.
My husband says that I should do recaps of his favorite shows – things like “Swamp People”, “Gold Rush” and “Deadliest Catch”. He tells me that there are never any arguments about shoes and designer labels. Sometimes someone punches someone else, but that usually ends the disagreement and everyone goes back to their jobs. Maybe he’s got a point, after all.