Friday, January 4, 2013

If you Can't say Anything Nice...And Something Nice About Bravo

We've all heard the advice; "If you can't say anything nice-don't say anything at all." Until the phenomena of Bravolebrities, and fame-whores, in general came to my attention, I never realized the COMPLETE meaning of the old-saying.
There is a series airing on the TLC network, (if it has not been completely canceled yet), and I won't even mention the name. Nope. I won't devote a single bold-letter to name the program, because I don't want to publicize them at all. I was planning-on waiting 'till the bitter end, but trust me, they are a goner.
What this has to do with Bravo, is that the show that I'm "not saying anything at all"-about, was produced by the same company that brought us The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, AND The Real Housewives of Orange County, according to TV Fishbowl.
IF this series would have been seen on Bravo-TV, it could have been called, "The Real Housewives of Las Vegas". But Bravo declined to add these people to their franchise, and although the formula looks very-close to what we're used-to seeing in Housewife-land, these women won't ever be sitting on a couch with Andy Cohen.
Has Bravo actually developed some morals? I think they have. I congratulate Bravo for not giving that particular cast a platform on their network. The show-that-will-not-be-named, is a flop. Earning less than half-a-million viewers, and less-than three-hundred-thousand in the "important" demographics in the most recent ratings, Bravo's decision to reject this group has earned some bottom-line validation, and spared their viewers and sponsors.
I've noticed something else that has become more of a standard than a trend for The Housewives series, and that is that our Housewives children, and more importantly the exploitation of Housewives children, is no longer "mandatory".
I cannot say for sure if it was EVER a requirement that Housewives kids be as available as the women need to be in-order to qualify a gal for "Housewife"-status. But I do recall that Dina Manzo  lost her spot when her young daughter was no longer available.
For me, that instance looks-like the dividing-line between the time that it appears that Real Housewives families developed the ability to choose whether or not the children were on camera, or not, without sacrificing the opportunity.
It was only after Dina and her daughter left the New Jersey cast, that the viewers became accustomed to seeing the ladies without their offspring.
No mention has been made of any policy changes, so whether this was an intentional decision, or just a gradual adjustment to different family dynamics, such-as with Tamra on the OC wives whose ex-husband Simon decided not to grant permission for their children to appear, I really do not know. But I'd have to imagine that there must have been some type of consensus to agree to lighten-up what was previously expected.
The death of Russel Armstrong is also a major milestone on the Housewives timeline.  I think that there have been policy changes behind-the-scenes that can be attributed to consideration of Armstrong's suicide.
Now if they, (Bravo), would only officially find a way to embrace some kind-of disclaimer that would give their reality-talent a way to save-face in their real lives! There is no doubt in my mind that there are some Real Housewives' children, who have had to explain to their real-life friends and acquaintances, that their mom is not really "crazy", or a "whore", or any other of the negative labels that us "haters", (or their cast-mates, or the editors...), might apply. I would just LOVE to see THAT scene played-out haha! Instead-of seeing Ashley telling us that her mom is a drama-queen/shit-stirrer; to see one-of Danielle Staub's daughters explaining that her mom is just playing-the-part of a villain, and bringing drama to the show-which has GOT to be what ANY family-member, or cast-member, who's been portrayed badly would do. Wouldn't they?
Using my imaginary remote-viewing of what logically HAS to be how a Bravoleb' deals-with after-episode embarrassment in real-life, doesn't go far-enough to protect cast-members and their families from the consequences.
As long as Bravo maintains the illusion of reality in the strictest sense of the word, by NOT applying a disclaimer to the entire franchise, Bravo, in my opinion, continues to harm their cast-members families.
 I DO think that Bravo has lightened-up on the explicit pronouncements of the ultimate "reality", that we are seeing in the episodes. But the facts that the word "Real", with a capital "r", is carried with the show, and that the Housewives remain "in character" outside of the production, for interviews, reunions etc. demand that the "fourth wall" has got to be addressed.
I'm not the first person who has equated the truth of reality-performers with professional wrestlers, but wrestling has been granted an exception when it comes to versimilistude. Magicians are another category of performer who require that we suspend disbelief, in order to enjoy the act. Pro-wrestling and Illusion are both ancient forms of entertainment, and the permission to deceive for the sake of entertainment was granted long-ago by our ancestors.
Television, and TV's grand-daddy, radio, in comparison is still in it's growing-stages. Reality television, the illegitimate-child of documentary journalism, is current. In comparison to all of the other forms of media and entertainment, reality-television, could still be considered to be developing. The boundary-line of "real" continues to change, and it is left up to the producers, the performers, and the viewers to decide, on a case-by-case instance. Bravo continues to hold-out for the "real"-label, with a weak connection to reality. Even the most dedicated bitch of Bravo, has heard-about instances of other networks reality series scripting and fakery being exposed. If they're going-to script & fake an auction, a weight-loss show, or a gold-mining expedition-if they can't even trust the American public to be entertained with something as un-sexy and dry as a house-hunt, or a program about Amish people, the Bravo-audience is not somehow immune from the cognitive dissonance that we willingly try to ignore.
Reality television has spawned parodies of itself. An upcoming program on BET Network bills itself as "The Fakest Reality Show Ever" . Maybe satire and parody will be the ultimate public comment on reality television as we now know it?
A paparazzo was killed this week while in pursuit of teen-age superstar Justin Beiber. Performers like Beiber are a different category of celebrity from Reality-performers in that there is an ostensible talent, that earns them their celebrity. Bravolebrities, on the other hand, are presented as real people inviting the viewers to watch and judge them in their on-screen dramas and off-screen real life story. Although Beiber is a celebrity who is in the public eye, and considered a public personality who has given-up some of his privacy in exchange for public consumption, his talent and his on-stage performance shields him in ways that people who are only "famous for being famous", are not protected. There is a risk that was taken by the photographer in pursuing Mr. Beiber's private life.
And that is where a Bravolebrity drags his/or her entire family, and their entire history, including anyone they have ever met, onto the stage with them. And there lies the dilemma. There should be no inherent danger involved in seeking the truth and/or judgement of reality. But people DO get hurt.
Even the most careful of Real Housewives, like Phaedra Parks for instance, can control her own image by what she chooses to present, yet past associates are free to claim a piece of Phaedra's reality.
Angela Stanton did just that to Phaedra in her book, "Lies of a Real Housewife: tell the Truth and Shame the Devil"

Stanton struck a blow at Park's carefully crafted "reality", and that kind of response has to be expected as long as Bravo withholds a disclaimer or statement that speaks to the truth of what is presented. MTV didn't even use words when they broke the fourth wall to let viewers know the truth about The Hills. The final scene answered all of the questions that viewers had waited years to learn. (yes, it was scripted)
"The curtain closed, or rather, the veil was lifted on MTV's "The Hills" last night in the final moments of its series finale. As Kristin Cavallari pulled away, off to Europe to "find" herself, pal and former flame Brody Jenner stood on an empty LA street to watch her go. It was a bittersweet, emotional moment. But then the backdrop rolled away, the cameras panned out, and we saw that Jenner was now standing on a Hollywood lot, surrounded by crews, and that Cavallari's car was parked just a few feet away. She got out, they hugged, and that was that".-NY Daily News 2010

Bravo has left viewers and cast-members in a limbo of sorts with The Real Housewives. Years of un-written, and un-said rules, leave it up to all of US to decide what to do with all of it. Maybe 2013 will be the year that Bravo brings some clarity to the situation. Or maybe we will all just have to wait 'till the franchise ends. Maybe it will all be seen as an experiment with reality itself, with all of the players contributing to the outcome. Like a story that is still being written, we just may not know for sure until the end.