Why We Watch: Real Housewives of [Any City] (Bravo)

The Real Housewives of New York just had its fourth season premiere. There are now seven women shown in the opening credits and we don't even get to meet all the new arrivals in the season opener. The focus is on the growing tension between Jill, Ramona, and Alex. Jill, in season 3, lorded a minor offense over her fellow cast mates the entire season, refusing to admit any fault in it until she realized how horribly she would be edited on the show. Alex was the only person willing to call her out and now, in Season 4, has made it a hobby to call out the self-proclaimed "Queen of Accountability." Ramona loves to stir things up. I wouldn't be surprised if she's gearing up to find a way to stuff Alex in Jill's front impact airbags to pop out the next time Jill gets caught not telling the truth. I had to stop the tape and ask myself an important question: why am I watching this? No, really. It's a bunch of grown women acting like elementary school kids. They call someone a name then go run and tattle on that person for being a big meanie. The only thing that can calm them down is a shiny new toy or a special juice box. They're obsessed with appearances and say whatever crosses their minds. The behavior on all of these shows is despicable, yet I, like many other Americans, can't turn away. Why?

It's probably because Bravo has a great editing and production team. They turn the petty problems of rich people into the melodrama of daytime soaps. With reality TV, all it takes is just the right confessional interview placed before a high-pressure event to cause the subjects to act like monkeys at the zoo. You don't really think that these women are remembering the time that someone didn't smile when they met them at a wedding in August five months later, do you? No. Someone is feeding them the line to go off of right before they meet them again.

Are we watching just to see that rich people have problems too? I doubt that. The problems on these shows are arguing over which five-figure wristwatch they should get their husbands to buy for their birthday, not whether it's better to buy 2% or Non-Fat Milk at the grocery store. One particularly laughable incident involved Alex's husband Simon trying to surprise her on her birthday. He planned an elaborate maze route through Manhattan and Brooklyn to trick her into her final destination. When the limo driver made a wrong turn, he freaked out because it ruined everything. This was after he poured out the finest champagne and treated her to custom-made diamond jewelry at her favorite store. Nothing was going to ruin that evening except a four-year-old-level temper tantrum.

Maybe we're watching for the alcohol abuse and psychological problems? I doubt that. If I hear one more housewife claim out of the blue they have a severe anxiety problem and can't possibly fly from NYC to Sydney in a private jet, I'm going to scream. If I see one more person play armchair psychologist and diagnose someone under a lot of stress as a "sociopath" or "schizophrenic," I'll rip my hair out. Do I think these people have issues? Yes. Yes I do. Do I think they should be using them as ammunition on national television against each other? No. Especially since we don't know whether or not housewife A confided in housewife B that she has Bipolar Disorder only for B to mock A for it whenever A's not in the room. That's disgusting.

So if all this behavior is disgusting, childish, and completely out of touch with reality, why do we watch? It is ultimately entertaining because of the editing. There will be these awful fights and moments of self-absorption, but they're broken up by funny stunts, a five minute conversation consisting of nothing but puns, and the housewives hanging out and having a great time. There's a balance to this type of reality show that Bravo is doing better than any other network right now. That's why people keep watching.

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