Bravo TV, Reality TV

#SouthernCharmSavannah: Should You Be Watching?

Having debuted on the heels of a catastrophic, yet incredibly captivating season of the original Southern Charm, the Savannian counterpart of the franchise seems to lack luster. Its ratings reflect that too, but there is a contingent of devoted fans, including those who watched Season 1 last year, who are committed to seeing Season 2 through to finale.

While I tune in weekly to Southern Charm Savannah (reneging on a previously tweeted resolution not to), it is with a mix of emotions. My favorite cast member, Ashley Borders, was demoted from main character to one with a select few cameos this season. Allegedly, (and according to several inside sources) this demotion was due to the fact that one stuffy “main” made a stink, stubbornly refusing to film with her.

Borders incurred the wrath for being more offbeat than the others during Season 1, and after interviewing her and meeting in person, I can attest to how kind, sweet and personable she is IRL. Since then, we have kept in touch and viewers have contacted me to relay that they are “bummed”, thinking she would have been an interesting individual to follow up on.

Watching the show last year, I took issue with one major theme: Southern Propriety that demanded keeping what’s unconventional closeted….Or, making it a struggle for the characters who feel harshly judged. Then again, that is in fact the backdrop of the Southern Charm franchise: young people – white people at that, let’s be real – navigating modern life while struggling internally with antiquated, austere and unspoken Southern rules, and concerned about perception.

Many viewers were surprised that this show was granted a second season after the first one seemed to fall short, but since I’m tuned in, I wanted to provide you with my thoughts on why you might want to check it out and why you might not:

The Good: Hagood

I like this new cast pick for Season Two with her peaches and cream complexion. She somewhat resembles actress/model Brooklyn Decker and when I say “like”, I mean that she hasn’t offended my sensibilities thus far. Hagood Coxe is somewhat vanilla and benign. There is this though: She’s great at pulling a prank when she convinces Brandon to drink “wild boar’s blood” or so he thinks.

Truthfully, I preferred Ashley’s flash and bohemian vibe and the fact that Ashley had a cool Persian friend, a jewelry designer, who we saw briefly last season (and who I think added diversity and should have been made a main cast member).

It also helps to know that Ashley’s group of friends who weren’t featured on the show are an incredibly diverse crew. Diversity is something that Southern Charm Savannah lacks, which is not reflective of the city itself.

Hagood does seem to have all the qualities of a delightful debutante on paper, but desperately needs to rebuff her mother’s incessant nudging and bossiness. Mom wants her to focus on her artistic pursuits rather than wasting time brewing sake (which Hagood pronounces “sah-kay!”). But lay off, Mama Coxe! – Hagood is an adult now.

She grew up a huntin’ and a fishin’ and her dad owns a farm, which he hopes to bequeath to her some day. Oh, and she may have dabbled in witch craft. Yes, you read that correctly: She got kicked out of camp when she was young for being a “witch” – no word on if that camp was headquartered in Salem, Massachusetts circa 1692.

Hagood also confessed, during a truth or dare-style game (minus the “dare”) with a few of her cast mates, that she has dipped into the lady pond. Her boyfriend hasn’t been shown on camera yet, but the footage has highlighted Hagood’s confession more than once – perhaps in an effort to make her seem more interesting? Perhaps to explore some sort of mini bisexuality storyline in future episodes? We’ll have to stay tuned, but so far, Hagood seems intriguing enough for a new addition. She’s also eye candy.

The teasers haven’t been exceptionally tantalizing, but I’m hopeful. I should mention that it’s a little strange that Hagood’s roughly a decade younger than her cast mates (She’s in her 20s, they’re in their 30s). But, well, that fits the OG Southern Charm template when you consider Kathryn Dennis.

The Bad: A Ban on Borders

I am not alone in expressing the sentiment that Ashley Borders was the most interesting character last season. I think Haymaker has left us hanging because I doubt Ashley’s cameo appearances will do her the justice she deserves after being slut-shamed for golfing in a one-piece last season. You’ll have to take my word for it that there’s more to this philanthropy-conscious mother, the daughter of a noted pediatric surgeon, than meets the eye. She did make it known last season that she’s one Savannian who didn’t vote for The Donald. So, there’s that.

The Good: Brandon

This season we have an openly gay cast member whereas last season, fans speculated on the sexuality of a man who identified as straight. Which was kind of rude. However, it was also kind of inevitable because it’s what viewers do…..(I’m not excusing it.)

The thing about interior designer Brandon Branch is that he is the sole Savannian featured who is in a healthy, steady, committed relationship. Viewers have expressed their delight about seeing a gay married couple serve as an example of the healthy relationship that the other single cast members should aspire to have.

Brandon possesses snide wit, scoffing and calling out his close bud Catherine Cooper while being affectionate towards her. He’s so truthful that it can be biting, but to his credit, Brandon Branch doesn’t beat around the bush.

The Bad: Brandon Branch can be overboard obnoxious

I enjoy Brandon Branch. Hell, I had a great tweet exchange with Brandon Branch last night because I tweet about all the show characters I find entertaining.

However, I’m not a fan of the slut-shaming statements uttered by Brandon Branch about Ashley Borders last season. And I could forgive that – You know, it was before the whole #MeToo shift in this country – but I didn’t like his line in Season 2 previews about the newly single Savannian. It was something about how there was a stripper pole in front of them but no Ashley. Sorry, Ashley is not a stripper and Brandon recently declared his affection for women, how he relates to them, in light of the fact that he grew up with sisters and always had female friendships.

If you’re reading this Brandon, that was not a statement about Ashley that reflects a priority of female empowerment. That was entirely uncool. Save for that, I like this new cast member. If he takes my constructive criticism to heart, I’ll like him even more.

The Good: Daniel, My Brother

So Daniel Eichholz is a “member of the tribe” (my tribe, that is – Jewish) and last year he had to deal with some insensitive statements addressed to him as the lone Yid in the group. He also wondered if he couldn’t be a part of a certain exclusive club because he wasn’t Waspy. Who knows what the real reasons were for the exclusion, but Daniel was the odd one out being the lone Jew of the clique. Interestingly, prior to attending the overly-mentioned (last season) Savannah Country Day School, Daniel was educated at a Hebrew day school in his elementary years.

I love seeing someone on television who had similar schooling to me and I’ve also found myself subjected to curiosity in social groups of all gentiles. I’ve gotten the same weird questions he has fielded in the past, and when Nelson (who did not return for Season 2) made him uncomfortable bandying around a Yiddish semi-slur word….I’d been there too.

Dave Quinn of People magazine recently tweeted out his appreciation for Daniel’s fit physique. Daniel has an insanely intriguing workout that consists of push-ups and planks off of park benches and bathtubs. Because I’d kill to be half as muscly as Teresa Giudice, I may take him up on his tweeted offer of a workout walk-through. That would first entail a trip to Georgia. For now, I’ll continue Sweating to the Oldies with a retro Richard Simmons.

The Bad: These 3 Are Cool, But What Exactly are the Storylines?

So the 3 characters highlighted above are the ones who stand out to me most at the start of this season.

I want to whisk Catherine Cooper away from this show and cast the bubbly blonde with the OG Southern Charm group in Charleston.

Haymaker Productions is going hard on the storyline of Catherine not being as into Lyle as he is into her. She rejected his onscreen proposal last season, and a highly connected source informed me that she also rejected his off-screen proposal.

I get the sense that she’s with him out of habit (a long, albeit terse, relationship, can become similar to an addiction), fear that someone “better” won’t come along and concern about what others think.

I want Catherine to feel free to fly and I’d like to see her soar. Instead, she strikes me as stifled.

Stifled in Savannah actually sounds like a great name for a spinoff show for her. I, for one, would like to see her happy ending.

I’m not interested in Lyle or the relationship between Hannah, the fashion brand starter (I think that’s what her thing is at the moment), and Louis, the socktrepreneur. I can’t help how I feel. Hannah seems ahead of him maturity-wise and should probably be with an older man – on paper, at least – but the heart wants what it wants. Yawn. Who cares?

The truth is: I’m sticking around to see how Ashley Borders deals with a cast that acted judgmental and elitist towards her (while I realize she was only granted a few scenes this season).

I’m hanging in to hear more about Hagood’s romantic life and to see if she’s less concerned about what others think of her than I think Catherine is.

I’ll be back in front of my TV next week for Brandon: I want to hear his clever barbs and the way he tells it to everyone straight, without seeming embarrassed or possessing any sort of a filter. That said, I’m also tuning in for his apology to Ashley, which I’ll acknowledge as pure fantasy on my part — at this point.

Savannah may not stack up to the competition of Charleston, but I think it’s worth checking out. Perhaps you’ll even discover more to it that you think I should write about.

Southern Charm Savannah airs on Bravo, Monday nights at 10 PM EST.

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