Bravo TV, Reality TV, Vanderpump Rules

#PumpRules: Interview with Sur Manager Peter Madrigal (plus his Buttered Pop podcast debut)

My colleagues at the Buttered Pop podcast conducted a fantastic interview with Peter Madrigal from Vanderpump Rules, a measured and commanding presence as compared to his raucous cast mates. As the manager of Sur, Madrigal made a resolution to stop dating coworkers after a turbulent romance with Stassi Schroeder and a hookup with Katie Maloney – all of which went down before there was even this godsend of a show. Iconic American writer, novelist, professor and commentator Roxane Gay has admitted to the show being a favorite of hers, and at age 44, I too enjoy this franchise more than the Real Housewives ones.

A few years ago, I predicted I would outgrow what I jokingly called “Vapid Rules.” I even shared that term with Tom Schwartz, Katie Maloney, Stassi Schroeder and Jax Taylor when I interviewed them for a series of articles in the Huffington Post. Stassi took it in stride and tweeted out “#VapidRules AF!” I recently shared my love of Vanderpump Rules with Alex Baskin of Evolution Media (“It’s the best show on TV now!”), who I was introduced to through Reality of Reality podcast host Aliza Rosen. Evolution is the company that produces all the vapid, wild and touching moments that make for the perfect reality TV ingredients. Commentators agree that Vanderpump Rules is the gift that keeps on giving, with sharp turns and surprises to keep viewers entertained and riveted. It is the small screen favorite of many and amasses new viewers seasonally. Evolution Media also produces E!’s Botched, Bravo’s Real Housewives of Orange County, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Sweet Home.

Being in the film production business his self, Peter Madrigal knew early on that it made sense to feature his fellow Survers. He saw the ingredients and the blueprints. He recognized that his coworkers antics and complex, interconnected social lives (particularly, hookups) made for great drama, that the men – or boys – had charm (or smarm) and the women, dynamic personalities.

I spoke with Madrigal this past Tuesday to get more insight about him, a man who seems to be the calmest of his crew, and who viewers don’t necessarily know so well. As the restaurant manager, he tries to “keep things professional,” which may be why some of his scenes don’t make the final cut. However, he is always at Sur when the cameras are rolling and in many ways, as he tells Buttered Pop, the crew has come to rely on him.

Following is our discussion:

I’m so excited to speak with you, Peter. I used to be a Contributor to Huffington Post and interviewed Jax, Stassi, Brittany, Katie and Schwartz. I know your style from listening to several interviews that you did, and I do realize that you WON’T give away things that happened on the show.

However, I wanted to start with how Guillermo Zapata approached you when you worked at Club Monaco and said to come work for him. You had a roommate working there who may have put in a good word and you were hired on the spot when you arrived at Sur. It seemed to me that he was scouting you, so I was wondering if there was any talk of a TV show at that time.

No, not at all. That was 10 years ago. I don’t think at the time Lisa was even on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.  I think he just liked my look and wanted to hire me for me.

It seems like Sur is about the ‘right look’ and the headshot. Then again, the allure of the show is watching so much drama go down between beautiful people.  

In some ways it’s about image, but we’re a diverse group of people. It’s not just image but style and presence. There has to be something about you.  Everyone is really bringing something to the table. I have to keep myself in check as the manager, so despite me being there full time, I heard I was only on for one second of the Season 7 premiere last (Monday) night.

I heard you don’t watch the show and have made it a policy not to watch, since the beginning.

I don’t watch! Tell me what happened in the first episode.

Jax stormed in the room, he was angry about James’s rap and you looked like ‘what the hell is going on?!’

Oh, I remember. I was there for the whole thing and it’s about what they want to use. Despite only being on a little here and there, I’m amazed that I have a large following on social media or when people approach me and say they’re a big fan. I think we all have a presence about each of us.

We don’t really see you get into the chaotic drama, so they don’t focus on you as much as the others. Was that a purposeful decision by you because of your interest in film and directorial vision? Did you see yourself as someone who could help production? Or is it because you’re so cool, calm and collected that they don’t focus on you?

It’s a combination of both. I’m pretty cool until you tick me off – which actually happened to me this morning, by the way.

Oh, too bad they’re not filming next season already.

(Laughs) Someone commented that I remind them of Seinfeld because I don’t get pissed off. That could be a detriment in this medium, but it works for who I am and I’m very true to myself. As the current season progresses, I think you are going to see more of me. I know I’m going to be featured heavily, but let’s see what they decide to show. It’s a combination of deliberate choice on my part, but at the same time it is who I am.

It sounds like you have to take a stand about something in Sur and that will be important to the storyline this season.

You’ll just have to watch!

You seem like the most mature of the crew because you’re so responsible. I know that you’re 35 and that’s the same age as some of the other cast members.  You discussed on Buttered Pop how the producers will ask you to lower the music when there’s a conversation they want to catch. It seems like you are always on hand to make sure the conditions are right for filming.

I’m one of the crew’s favorites to work with. I arrive early and very rarely do I arrive late. I’ll often get there before the crew. I want to make sure I’m miked and ready to go. I am very OCD in case you didn’t hear that…so if I’m late, I’m beating myself up. I’ve never been late to work, but was suspended one time about 9 or 10 years ago for missing a shift. I like to be early.

Of course, many fans wanted to know about the time period – oh so long ago that it’s ancient history for you – that you went out with Stassi. I know there was some overlap with when you hooked up with Katie. I’m curious how they became friends after that.  

It’s funny you mention that because the ‘overlap’ in this place is very predominant. In this group, Jax hooked up with Kristen and Stassi and now he’s with Brittany who is best friends with them. Kristen hooked up with Jax and now Jax and Carter are really good friends. Katie and I were hanging out during a period when Stassi and I weren’t exclusive. We were making out and then passed out on the couch together, head to head – it was an L shaped couch. That was it. I can’t remember when I had made out with Stassi – We became exclusive a short time after and Katie felt rejected. I regret how I handled that. I would never put myself in that type of situation again.

You were your own ‘cautionary tale’ pre Jax.

I was my own cautionary tale! I was and I told a bunch of new bartenders who hook up with each other ‘you’ve got to stop or it’s going to be bad around work.’ There was a situation recently and I said ‘you guys have got to be congenial to each other’ because they had ended it. I said ‘I’ve already been here, I know what this is. There are a lot of women that come through here. You don’t have to be hooking up with your coworkers, just be friends with them.’

Once you get to this environment, this is such a promiscuous place with everyone hooking up all the time.  I understand that it happens when you’re around a bunch of beautiful people. Right when I became a manager, after I dated Stassi, I just became this paragon of professionalism. I was the manager, the leader. I wouldn’t date any of my coworkers.

You talk about being a perpetual bachelor now. Some fans and I were curious: how do you date and what are your thoughts on settling down? I’m just a fan of finding happiness in whatever form, so know that I am specifically asking this question because of the show’s current focus on Jax’s proposal, and with your close friends Katie and Tom being married.

That’s the best question I’ve ever been asked. I think about it a lot because I say I want to live to 100 and then say to myself ‘why do I want to do that?’ I do see my mortality. I guess it’s morbid, but it’s the truth. My 30s are passing by quickly. I remember thinking back during season 2, I’m turning 30. Now, I’m 35 which is four years from 40. I saw this joke story on Instagram from my friend Jonathan. He was going through a book that said ‘sex after 50’ and it was all blank pages. If I can’t go out with the girls and have a relationship, who is going to want to hook up with the old guy Peter? I have to make sure I look good. I’m constantly working out. I’m working on my face, trying not to get wrinkles. I’ve seen guys younger than I am that already look 45. I want to look this way until my 60s.

So have you done ‘Brotox’, you know that term some people use for Botox for men?

I did some Botox just recently, it’s on the show. Not sure you’ll see it because again, I don’t know what they’ll include. I do put a lot of lotions on also. I use a lot of vitamin C and vitamin A. I took a 16 hour trip to Vegas to see a business partner and met Kevin Harrington from Shark Tank. I thought he was in his 40s and he’s like ‘no, I’m 61.’ At that point, I was all like ‘I need to look like you in 30 years.’ I’m very determined to keep myself looking like I’m perpetually 30.

That is a theme and focus on these shows. I’m in the midst of writing a separate piece called Body Image by Bravo.

I don’t want to look like a blow-up doll, but I don’t want to look too weathered. Will I be able to still date when I get to 50? At 40, I should probably start thinking about settling down – even at 36. I’m always looking at that. I think about if I’m going to have kids…and I want to make enough money to raise those kids!. I always thought when I was younger that if I was on a TV show, I could date whoever I wanted to date, but that’s not true. That’s not the way it works. So what if I own my own company? That’s still not the way it works. I don’t know what women want.

You developed a casino app called Casino Scouts, and you have the hair line Myhairo.com. You manage to make time to exercise twice daily and go to Sur pretty much full time. How many days do you actually have to be there? A viewer told me to ask if your shoulders are tired because you’re the only one she sees always working there.

I can’t stop people from giving away their shifts. I’m full time, so that’s typically 4 days a week. I’m full time on the show when we’re filming. I’m at Sur doing 7 hour shifts at a time, so that’s a pretty hefty workload. I have recently brought it down because of my other companies. I’m all about balancing my time and I do that very well. Just today, I decided not to get up at 6 which is my normal time and got up at 7. I got coffee and did my morning routine. I looked at a short film that I had to send to potential funders. At 10 (an hour before this call), I had an appointment, then got on the phone with you. Right after you, I have a 12:00 call. After that I have to hop on the computer and study because I’m going to get my real estate license. Yes, on top of everything. I’m studying for that!

Tomorrow I have a 10:00 appointment and I just got a message about the hair company, so will have to add that to the schedule. I am constantly working.

The viewers and I are curious to know what you think of new people who come to Sur and join the show.  What makes them work within the friend group?

It goes back to what we first started with in this conversation. You have to bring something to the table, have a personality. We’ve tried different people and a lot of people don’t work. Not just the dynamic of the group. ‘Are you charismatic enough?’ I’m not going to toot my own horn, but I have more charisma in my pinky than all of the Summer House crew combined.

I can’t watch it. I think it’s because I have to limit my television time and Vanderpump Rules fills whatever viewing void that Summer House might fill for others. I’m not sure…

I watched a clip when Stassi was introducing these people to the world. These guys got a TV show?! Tom Sandoval and Tom Schwarz have tons of charisma and of course, Jax and James….They are dynamic as are all the women on our show. Someone is going to get left in the back- me in this case – but that doesn’t mean they don’t have an impact on the show.

Since you don’t watch the show yourself, are you always aware of the drama going on, or are you constantly surprised by things?

Sometimes I have surprises. During Season 2 I tried to stay out of the drama and having to manage the restaurant is a lot of responsibility.  You don’t want to get caught up or start taking sides or having favorites. That’s a detriment to leadership. For so many years I was called ‘Switzerland,’ But things do change and sometimes, like I think maybe you’ll see this season, I will speak up a lot more – especially  when you start criticizing my leadership.

When I found out that Jax slept with Kristen, I was totally surprised and didn’t want to believe it. I found out from people watching the show. Like you said, I have made it a policy from the beginning not to watch. I do know – and I think this is when I’m seen more on the show – that when I want something done, I step up and make a stand. You’ll see that.

It’s weird that you don’t want to watch it, but maybe it’s like me not wanting to hear my annoying voice on the podcast episodes I do. Who from the cast are you closest to?

Schwartz and I are super close…

You mentioned being friendly with Lala’s fiancé Randall on Buttered Pop.

I am now friendly with Randall! I saw him at the premiere party and it was good to catch up.

One fan wanted to know, with all the ventures you have going on and your position at Sur, where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?

I’ll put it like this: I see myself still cranking away, working hard and doing very well for myself. I am not going to say where I’m going to be. I don’t want to give away my thought process…but I see myself doing well…within the next 2 years actually.

I’ve talked to numerous reality TV people and have seen how the experience can be humbling and also ego inflating. Seeing the negatives has made me realize I could never personally do reality TV! Writing about it can be dramatic or stressful enough! Do you think people have been humbled by this show or that their egos have blown up from it?  

A combination of both. From my experience, I have become more humble. I’m still astonished. I put pants on one leg at a time each morning and people still want to take pictures with me. People call me a ‘legend’ and I haven’t done anything yet! By the same token, there’s some arrogance in the sense that I’ve had to put people in their place.

About a year ago, I met someone at a magazine shoot and she said ‘you don’t know who I am?!’ I was like ‘please tell me who you are’ and she couldn’t believe it. ‘I’m this model who has done this and this…’ It came across as so pompous, so I said ‘that’s awesome. How many followers do you have on Instagram? I’m one of the cast members on a hit show on Bravo, don’t start talking arrogantly.’

My dad would run into you and have no idea who you are. My husband would run the other way because he thinks Bravo is my huge time suck when I could be doing other things, like reading before bed. So, it’s funny to me that people have egos. You have a huge fan base, but stay grounded!!

I had to bring my ego out just a little bit because I had to put someone in their place for stupidity. I try to stay as humble as possible.

You can see Peter Madrigal on Vanderpump Rules, which airs weekly on Monday nights at 9 PM EST on Bravo.

 

 

 

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Reality TV, RHOC

#RHOC OPINION: Emily Simpson & Gina Kirschenheiter Are Good Cast Additions

Like Kelly Dodd and Shannon Beador before them, Emily Simpson and Gina Kirschenheiter are facing some backlash as the new “Real Housewives” of Bravo TV’s Orange County franchise. Only one of the two is currently a “wife”, but that barely matters to a brand that has basically phased out the 4-letter word’s significance.

Impatient Real Housewives fans haven’t yet acclimated to the personalities of these two ladies who, I feel, are good additions to Real Housewives of Orange County. They don’t hesitate to get into the fray and last night’s episode was testament to that fact when Emily, as the caught-unawares newbie (who probably should’ve known better), found herself defending her husband Shane against Gina, the loud, unfiltered, Long Island-accented East Coast transplant.

Kirschenheiter possesses that same magical ability that catapulted Kelly Dodd from “Be Wary” to “Whoop It Up” on the Real Housewives Richter Scale. Brash, ballsy, having a tough exterior to mask sensitivities…The model of this particular make might just be Dodd 2.0.

Gina will inevitably clash catastrophically with someone in the episodes ahead (probably with Kelly Dodd herself) and compel us to tune in for the subsequent “redemption” season. I’m not in the hater camp at all: She is already serving us a heaping of drama as the inebriated cackler at Emily’s house party who was asked to leave by Shane, Emily’s husband.

Subsequently, Gina stirred things up as she relayed those events to her cast-mates, only to leave them wondering if Emily’s husband is controlling and in any way comparable to the creepy, exed out David Beador.

Emily Simpson, a lawyer and party planner (of all eclectic combinations) told Bravo.com she was blindsided by this spouse scrutiny she’s being subjected to. This is something Reality TV critics would have warned her about early on — had she only consulted us!

It will therefore be interesting to see how Emily navigates the intrusions of her cast mates during filming…and of RHOC fans now watching the events unfold.

We are still in the early episodes of Season 14 and Emily already confronted Shannon Beador about how erroneous any David likeness would be. She proved to have an ally in her corner when Tamra Judge scolded Shannon for picking at a “good marriage” as if it’s a bad scab, knowing from experience how hurtful it is to be on the receiving end of that type of social brutality.

At this point into the RHOC season last year, we were twiddling our thumbs waiting for Lydia and Peggy to mesh – in any meaningful way – with the other ladies. Now, in episode 7 of Season 14, which aired last night, we see a friendship has been solidified between Emily and Gina. The two seem to have formed a Big Brother-style alliance, #NewGirls, as they navigate the Housewives game with its mazes of moods and challenges of ever-changing temperaments.

No one could have predicted that the seemingly toxic, clashing duo of Shannon and Kelly would solidify a bond after discovering common ground. There have been numerous other instances of feuding Housewives who seem to hate one another becoming best friends, once they’re done trudging through the muck and mire….

And all of that annoying stuff Shane would change the channel on to avoid watching.

At this point last year, I was begging Peggy Sulahian’s publicist to clear up misconceptions making the rounds during an immensely aggravating silence. Lydia’s esoteric trippiness – which seemed like an LSD ride to Nowhere Land deserving of a full refund – no doubt led to an increase in Dramamine sales.

Although one woman didn’t want her marriage becoming a talking point and the other was ill-prepared for the demise of hers to be caught in the cameras’ cross hairs, Emily and Gina are giving us more to think about than whether ball can be played in the kitchen (although it’s safe to assume it would be outlawed in Shane’s home).

I’m interested to see the inevitable turmoil the OG gals will suffer at the hands of these polarizing newbies. I’ll tune in to find out what Emily sees in Shane and how she defends him against cast mates that are clearly “not his cup of tea.” I’m also wondering if he regrets signing those release forms.

The fact that I have questions shows I’m far ahead of where I was at this point last season. I see promise in these cast picks and I think Evolution Media has good insight and foresight. Only time will tell for certain, but there’s a reason this franchise is still around and still going strong after more than a decade.

(Photo Source: AllAboutTRH.com)

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Bravo TV, Psychology, public figures, Reality TV

#SouthernCharm: Bashing Ashley Isn’t My Thing

There’s something I’ve been wanting to address for a while about Southern Charm. Yes, Ashley Jacobs is the villain of the season and she’s done some godawful things that have been captured on camera, but when it comes to her dramatic weight loss, her past escapades, or the rumors about her being an escort, I’m not going overboard in the discussions.

I feel that Ashley has approached Kathryn Dennis all wrong and I feel indignant about her scathing commentary on Kathryn as a mom, but I’m not going to respond by dredging up every salaciously “slutty” (please note, I use quotation marks) photo from her college years, or mocking her boob transformation. I understand the notion of “people who put themselves on reality TV are fair game,” but I feel these tactics are not only somewhat ludicrous and overboard, but also…besides the point. I can drag Ashley for telling Kathryn she’s nothing but an egg donor, but I wouldn’t feel good about myself ragging on the appearance of her hair texture in response, or hopping on her Instagram page to suggest she eats a hamburger.

Some of the “Trashley” posts seem a bit too much to me, targeting someone who – in my opinion – appears to be suffering physically and psychologically from doing this stressful show (she wasn’t paid either). And look, I’ve certainly lambasted reality stars in the past (I didn’t even pause after one reality star called me a “pussy” three times in a phone call and felt anything was deserved after that) and I’m not telling YOU not to do it. You all have free will and are afforded free speech, but I personally am trying to keep my commentary about Ashley linked to what we see on television and will call her out for rantings about others when cameras aren’t rolling.

I feel terrible for Luzanne Otte, a private woman who got dragged into the Ashley and Thomas story and I wrote about that, but I tried not to go too much further in saying anything disparaging beyond what was exhibited. I also did write a post about how the cast suspects some random Twitter accounts belong to Ashley as that’s been a major topic of discussion on social media prompting the hashtag #HiAshley. I try to address things that are happening in real time, but without getting carried too far away.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, in a few episodes, Ashley will make the offhanded remark to Shep Rose “Would you date me?” (Meaning: because things are rocky with TRav, are there hypothetical scenarios and options so she won’t have to leave the Charleston area.) This is not something that is said in earnest necessarily, but it’s a comment that is sure to lead to tons of Ashley bashing on social media. There’s no way this is an incorrect prediction. I can see that the stress is already taking a toll on this woman. Is she desperate? Perhaps. Misguided? Possibly. Evil? I’m not so sure.

I think Ashley may one day have the hindsight to say she behaved badly on television. I think that we see her clinging to this relationship with Thomas Ravenel for one reason of another. Whether it’s money or fame, as people have concluded, I sense she is incredibly stressed out. Her alarming weight loss signals to me that she’s trying to maintain control over a situation that she feels, frustratingly, she has little control of.

I can’t help feeling some sympathy as I rage-watch her on TV and sometimes want to slap her for what she’s said to KD. This is the reason why I won’t tweet out the gifs and caricatures mocking her, or resort to name calling on Twitter. Something about it doesn’t sit right with me intuitively, but as a reality TV anthropologist, I’ll snark and weigh in on what’s said on the show.

I’ll feel a lot better about writing this post if/when we see a reflective Ashley, one who looks upon this past season and her time with TRav and realizes where she went wrong, when she spoke out of turn, and who she hurt while trying to protect herself.

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Bravo TV, Reality TV

#SouthernCharm: Rumors of a Ravenel Firing

According to Amy Feinstein of Inquistr.com, rumors are flying about a Thomas Ravenel firing from the Bravo show Southern Charm. It’s been a tough time for one gossip site that’s been chomping at the bit and working overtime to malign TRav’s sexual assault accusers and paint him in a favorable light. They are quite unique in this regard as others are believing the women alleged to have been victimized by Ravenel.

However, online observers have noted that the above-referenced curmudgeons of the reality TV gossip site have shifted focus to other reality characters, perhaps knowing the Ravenel story is now beyond resuscitation.

As Amy Feinstein writes: Bloggers and commentators on social media have declared that Thomas has been fired from Southern Charm. However, as of now there has been no official announcement from Bravo or from Haymaker productions.

Developing story. Stay tuned.

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Bravo TV, Television

#SouthernCharm Debacle: Nanny is Second Accuser

If you don’t follow Amy Feinstein on Twitter, you’re missing out. The writer who contributes to both Inquistr.com and FitsNews.com broke a major story that she published on the latter site this am. Amy is one to watch because she really has the scoop on Bravo’s Southern Charm and is more in the know about that show than anyone I’ve encountered. She is also someone who wants to see Kathryn Dennis rise triumphantly, so on a personal level, I respect that as a woman who champions women and wants to see  the former underdog redeem herself. We all realize how delicate this is as well as Kat’s sobriety. Two steps forward, two steps back and so on….

By now you know all about the Thomas Ravenel allegations of sexual assault. I conducted the very first interview with Ashley Perkin on this little blog right here. Since then, I’ve connected with FitsNews, which published the first piece breaking the news that an accuser had come forward (I just wish that People, Us Weekly and Page Six had credited Fitsnews editor Will Folks. I’m a big believer in giving credit where credit is due – always!). Although it was a strange way to be introduced, since connecting, I’ve written a few articles for them myself. With that long introduction, I must say that FitsNews’ editor Will Folks has been working tirelessly with Amy Feinstein to give us top coverage of everything pertaining to the current Southern Charm debacle.

This morning’s major revelation, courtesy of Amy Feinstein, was a huge bomb: The second TRav accuser is Nanny Dawn.

She spent 5 hours with the police a few days ago giving her account of Thomas’s unwanted advances in 2015.

Read on in the link below and then continue to keep up with Amy Feinstein on Twitter: @RosewoodGirlz. You can follow Will Folks of FitsNews @FitsNews.com:

https://www.fitsnews.com/2018/05/10/exclusive-nanny-dawn-steps-forward-discusses-police-report-against-thomas-ravenel/.

 

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Bravo TV, Reality TV

#SouthernCharm: Poised for a Feminist Evolution Amidst #MeToo?

My past articles on Bravo television shows have introduced me to fans as well as foes. During my years contributing to Huffington Post (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/sweiss-904) and covering reality TV, I was afforded some perks for a period. However, I was also subjected to lambasting and outright harassment from fans. While this may be hard to believe, there are show enthusiasts who react extremely to matters of reality TV. They go for the jugular and intensely personal when launching an attack on those who craft the columns. So I’ve been hesitant about conducting a deep-dive into Bravo’s Southern Charm and elaborating on what has been brought to my attention from behind the scenes. I also take allegations that have not been 100 percent confirmed with the requisite grain of salt. That said, it’s been apparent to me that a show initially pitched to be centered around Southern Gentlemen (the name listed in the show’s “bible”) has faced growing pains in the #MeToo era.

“He hates me and I know he hates HER too,” one cast member of the franchise, which also now includes Southern Charm New Orleans and Southern Charm Savannah, lamented to me.

It was approximately a year ago and she was making reference to behind-the-scenes angst. I deliberately use the vaguest of terms here because, while I don’t want to discredit the account of another woman, I also was not there. Based on what I was told though, the contentions among select female cast members and their close off-camera confidants was that a particular individual – one calling the shots from behind the cameras – came across as sexist, patting the good ole boys on their backs for their player ways while acting scornful of certain female cast members. The man in question has been described in the most general terms, including: “He has a mean streak,” or the more benign “He can be unpleasant. He can be tough to deal with”, to the overt “He’s an asshole” (the latter expressed to me by one cast member’s close confidant). Because he’s someone in control on set, it’s been tricky avoiding him, although that cast member has related to the confidant that “avoidance” is precisely her tactic of choice.

The cast member who I personally spoke with accidentally overheard him tearing into the other female Charmer by phone. While her knowledge of his regard for that Charmer could be debated, she acutely felt his disdain for her. Furthermore, she took issue with his desire to portray her in a way that made her truly uncomfortable as a feminist, manipulating the reality of events for the sake of “reality” television.

Again, I will state the following disclaimer here: Perception of one’s regard is not always actuality and I received no response after emailing the man in question for an interview.

Because these sentiments fall under the umbrella of “allegations”, I won’t share a name and no, it is not the bemused looking, deer-in-the-headlights-glazed Whitney Sudler-Smith who is both a cast member and producer. Whitney seems to possess an aloof Southern politeness and has been looking wistful in the most recent episodes, as if he’s uncertain he wants to be privy to the meddling into personal lives that unfolds on camera. A source confirms to me that Whitney feels conflicted about being on the show because at heart, he’s a behind the scenes man. His aspirations lie in production rather than being a TV star. His screen time has decreased visibly from Season 1 to the present.

As I watch Whitney squirm, there’s symbolism there for me regarding the Charleston franchise. Here’s a show that launched with the premise of an “all boys club.” As we see, the plan was always to have supporting characters, the women who fawn over these boys…plus the few who give the guys guff (“Wendies” to the Peter Pans) and say it’s time they grow up. The latter (Cameran Eubanks in particular) was always a step in the right direction while the former was problematic. In 4 short years however, a seismic cultural shift took place and here we are amidst the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements of 2018. While feminist writers and the more astute critical observers turned Southern Charm over analytically, grappling with discussion points in 2014, they became more vocal in 2017 when an episode brought the phrase “rape culture” to one progressive recapper’s popular column: http://www.vulture.com/2017/06/southern-charm-recap-season-4-episode-11.html.

Brian Moylan of Vulture questioned the aggressive behavior of Shep Rose towards a new female Charmer named Chelsea. It remains debatable whether the recapper (as well as his readers and select viewers) came down too harshly on Shep. Perhaps, again, editing was mainly to blame. When I brought up the episode in question to a network employee several months ago, his terse and defensive response was: “You got some bad information, Shira.”

The employee’s implication was that Moylan had sized up the situation incorrectly in his analysis.  Furthermore, he seemed to be cautioning me, I should not be weighing in on a recapper’s analysis in my own Huffington Post column (although at that point, it was too late: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/boys-will-be-boys-and-so-we-have-relationshep-bravo_us_5a10d636e4b0e6450602ebb0) and perpetuating myths. Regardless, the editing certainly welcomed opinions and observations. If those sentiments were entirely unwarranted, show editors should be fired rather than writers blamed for their scrutiny of what aired.

This season, I have softened my judgement of Shep without discrediting Moylan’s recap or negating what Chelsea may have expressed. I just feel that now, at the start of Season 5, he is showing a more sensitive, compassionate and considerate side. Perhaps it is remorse, regret…repentance (?) for the debatable debacle of last season. Or maybe he is a more “woke” individual today…That said, the key word for last season’s conundrum is “editing” and the questions are: Can we trust our perception of what went down on camera? How much of what transpired wasn’t included and was anything “left on the cutting room floor”?

In the case above, it also became an issue of potentially not believing a woman’s account of feeling violated. We never want to discredit a woman’s feelings in this regard, so the issue of what was shown versus what wasn’t (potentially) only complicated matters.

This type of thing always opens up the floodgates for heated argument. Bravo and Southern Charm’s production company Haymaker can be angry at me for exploring things and feeling perplexed, but ultimately, they’ve left a lot open to audience and journalistic interpretation. It should be known that I remain riveted to the show. I find the drama compelling. But yes, an integral aspect of what keeps me rooted to Southern Charm is waiting for the women to flip the script.

That brings us again to the current season of the “OG” Southern Charm (Charleston). The overall feel during Season 5 is different right off the bat. Only two episodes have aired and the women have used the phrase “girl power”. They are banding together and supporting one another. Naomie wants JD to know that any poor treatment, disrespect and disregard for his wife’s feelings is completely intolerable. Chelsea underscores Naomie’s sentiment emphatically. Kathryn is finally surrounded by the feminist allies that have eluded her in previous seasons. In the aughts of the franchise, tut-tutting about her single mom status and turbulent romantic life (no thanks to the much older, complicated and controversial playboy Thomas Ravenel, who excels in getting away with shit while making Kathryn – the mother of his babies – out to be the crazy one) was her all-too-familiar backdrop. I always silently rooted for Kathryn, also notably the youngest cast mate. To have your missteps highlighted on a show focused on Southern propriety, while you are essentially coming of age, is no easy feat. The one ray of sunshine for her (and me) has been the constant of Craig, a male cast mate and friend who has remained faithfully in her corner since the beginning.

Now his ex Naomie and their friend Chelsea are exuding supportive sentiments. In an era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, I can’t help but wonder if this wave will rise higher and higher until we achieve a feminist crescendo. I wonder if a certain member of production who was so enamored by Whitney’s original pitch for Southern Gentlemen, is now realizing how we (the viewers) need to hear more from the women. I wonder if he senses how much we desire Kathryn to have a voice and feel emboldened in a way she hasn’t in the past. I wonder if he knows how much we’d like the “boys’ club” to get a rude awakening to the changes being made around here. Here being this nation in the modern day.

There is the juxtaposition of the prim and proper, good ole fashioned, traditional South (with its plantations that some cast members have no shame referencing and alleged Nigerobilia in a parlor room) with the current American political climate. Both republicans and democrats alike account for #MeToo and more generally, the landscape of modern feminism. Regardless of party affiliation, it is impossible to ignore how the U.S. is changing in this way. For years, it’s been a curious fact to me that a cable station watched predominantly by women and gay men hosts Southern Charm. Today, I’d like to think that the Hospitality so notable in that geographical tip of our nation, compels producers to honor Bravo’s demographic.

This will sound trite, but it’s also true: We’ll have to stay tuned and see.

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Bravo TV, Reality TV

#RHOBH Recap: Heaven Help Us! (Ep. 814)

In the latest episode of The Real Filler Scenes of Beverly Hills, a psychic steals a storyline straight from The Twilight Zone, claiming to have a direct (telephone) line to heaven. But more on that later. We begin with an unnecessary apology from a very practical, responsible and all-too-reasonable (for this show anyway) Accountability Coach to a woman sporting a Gucci fanny pack, off-kilter blonde wig and narrow heels…all from the comfort of her own home.

Dorit rolls her eyes as soon as she sees Teddi’s calling and gives her a hard time. Teddi is wondering why she can’t get the response “I accept” immediately. She should have known not to bother in the first place, but Teddi has never watched Real Housewives of Beverly Hills before….or so she’s claimed in interviews.

Teddi is stating to Dorit that she’s sorry for giving Lisa Rinna the heads up that Dorit and PK were maligning Rinna months before. In actuality, the crux of this apology is that Teddi feels the heat from all the rehashing so common among the group. She is also trying to show she’s accountable for her actions and can admit when she’s wrong…Unlike a certain someone whose name rhymes with Shmoreet.

The ladies go to lunch later with Rinna’s mom Lois who is a feisty 89 and can order whatever the hell she likes from a menu. Lois had a stroke years ago that seemed to zap the parts of the brain that freak out from stress and anxiety and cause a perfectly sane person to feel depressed. She is as cool as a cucumber and loving life. Rinna has told her mom that she can snap at the ladies to behave if they start to act petty and Lois is up for that challenge. She ends up having to hear all about Dorit’s bathing suit business and Camille happily points out once again (in a testimonial) that Dorit just cannot shut the hell up.

Teddi is relieved that Erika is not there because she’s at some Girl Power event that is a combo of Ted Talks and Coachella. It sounds like a nightmare to me personally because 2 of the other panelists are Tyra Banks and Kimora Lee Simmons. I’m OK with Tyra, but Kimora Lee is one of those “famous” and affluent women who aggravates me in a way that I can’t explain, but Lala Anthony would be the other person that has the same cringe-inducing effect on me and it has something to do with their egos…or how I perceive their egos to be. I frequently mentally banish them both to that category of my mind – I do realize that Lois would never be as petty as I’m being.

Anyway, at this lunch with Lois, Rinna gifts the other ladies with Dusters from her eponymous collection. They all gush over the presents while adoring the senior citizen at the table. They particularly envy her ability to chow down on pancakes as they all push salad around their plates and reach for the Adderall in their respective pocketbooks.

Later on, the Housewives go to Kyle’s house where she is holding a seance with her favorite psychic, Rebecca. Lisa Vanderpump is there as well and she’s mourning the loss of “Pink Dog.” It is a loss that has hit her and her husband Ken quite hard. Ken blames himself and says that he should have seen it coming, while LVP explains that it was completely unexpected and there was no way to know. She shares that another one of her dogs is now struggling and is on a ventilator. I cannot help but think that it may be time for LVP to hire Shannon Beador’s feng shui lady and put nine lemons in a bowl STAT.

Rebecca The Psychic then tells the ladies she has a direct telephone line to God who she calls “Papa God.” This freaked me out because as I mentioned above, there truly is a Twilight Zone episode where a little boy’s telephone line goes directly to his recently deceased grandma. Teddi is a skeptic just like I am, but Rebecca is able to tap into something with her emotionally when she mentions the loss of a friend during childhood. At that point, the suppressed memory of a friend Teddi lost in sixth grade resurfaces. She’s happy that this was something that Rebecca brought up, even if the “psychic” is a total crock.

long distance call twilight zone

From the “Long Distance Call” episode of The Twilight Zone

Rebecca also connects with Lisa’s dogs and mentions “Pink Dog” – at which point she says she saw LVP tweet about her loss that very morning. Now this was a very revealing moment for me because psychics don’t normally discuss checking things out on social media. And if Rebecca is perusing Twitter, then who is to say she’s not checking Ancestry.com, Lexis Nexis, Government Databases…even simply Googling for information?

After the psychic readings, Erika announces that the ladies will all be going to Berlin and she even manages a quasi-apology to Teddi for her earlier outburst as she invites her along. Berlin is an interesting choice for a trip and I can’t help imagining how Siggy Flicker would have reacted had the location been proposed on last season’s RHONJ (Google: History of Berlin and the Jewish people). I don’t think it would have gone over well at all, but the Beverly Hills ladies are excited. I went to Germany once and my luggage got lost and was never returned. I’ll never forget that because it was devastating – That was back in my 20s when I had incredible, expensive clothing and gave more than a damn about fashion. I came home with a brand new German wardrobe since I needed to shop for things to wear to my meetings.

I’m no psychic but my prediction with RHOBH is that there will be more tension up ahead between Erika and Teddi….

Actually, it was Twitter that gave me that indication. Rebecca and I have something in common.

 

 

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