Reality Bites: Flipping Out

There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

Jeff Lewis is a California (well, Los Angeles and environs) real estate investor/designer who buys houses for the purpose of fixing them up for quick resale, or "flipping" as our culture desperately in need of a barbarian invasion calls it. Like a Botoxed Wolverine, he's the best he is at what he does, which apparently gives him carte blanche to act like a raging prick to his underlings.

That's the premise of Bravo's Flipping Out, which follows Lewis and his oft-changing lineup of assistants (except long time sidekick Jenni Pulos). That such a show managed to survive the housing bust of the last few years is testimony to the fact we're clearly not taxing rich people enough.

Flipping Out is an extremely gay show. This isn't meant to be derogatory, merely a statement of fact: Jeff is gay, his boyfriend Gage Edward is his business manager, and his design assistant Andrew Coleman is prone to what I can only describe as attacks of the vapors when upset/frightened. Certainly this is all played up for maximum effect in front of Bravo's cameras, but the end result is quite festive.

The episode I saw concerned Jeff renovating the house of his grandmother Patty, who resembles the "Whoa!" lady from Ghostbusters. Jeff is very, how to put this nicely, *dramatic*. He talks about Patty's failing memory as the reason she doesn't want her kitchen cabinets taken out, when it just sounds to me like she'd like to keep some parts of her house the way they are. What a crazy old woman. I admit I felt a little confused early on, as we keep bouncing between a bunch of Jeff's houses ("Spring Oak," "Gramercy," "Xanadu" ... okay not really) each described as "Jeff's residence." Son of a bitch has, like, 20 houses.

We're also evidently supposed to care about the tension between Gage -- whose idea of "managing" follows the Bill Lumbergh model by way of Elton John -- and Andrew. To be fair, Andrew is kind of an idiot, but this may be a function of the show being edited to make it look like Gage doesn't do anything but stare peevishly at Andrew's antics and complain to anyone within earshot about what a fuck-up he is. Andrew was apparently also recently fired and rehired, much to Gage's disapproval.

I realize the editors are doing everything in their power to make Gage look like a tool, and it might be working too well, as the show's ratings have dropped since his addition. Then again, he looks like a tool. I was sick of hearing his terrible voice and watching his petulant facial expressions 10 minutes in (he reminded me of Robin Williams' line about Margaret Thatcher always looking like someone was holding a small turd under her nose).

Man, it's hard to pick a side in this one. Andrew is blithely refers to his own multiple screw-ups as if constant mistakes are part and parcel of any job (maybe if you're Mitt Romney's app developer, OH!) This changes when Jeff gets his delightfully filled lips in a pout, however, over Andrew's continued failures in landscaping "Gramercy."

Speaking of landscapers, if you want to refute anyone bitching about illegal immigrants taking our jobs, simply point them to this show and the bullshit these poor guys have to go through dealing with Andrew (who refers to his dick as a "jackhammer" to the foreman) or Gage (who constantly has them reposition trees and hedges like some backyard Leona Helmsley). I'd rather try my luck with the Zetas.

As if the televised episodes of angst aren't enough, we're treated to scenes where Jeff visits Dr. Donna, his therapist to describe his "business stress" and "Grandma stress" (his brothers aren't kicking in to help out). Her advice: "keep the stuff that you will find enjoyable" and "let go" of everything else. Whoa, that's some Dr. Melfi shit right there.

[Side note: I really like watching Bravo show for RB, because they have like 30 minutes worth of commercials.]

Andrew wheedles Gage into meeting for dinner and discussing ... things. Gage is a dick, but Andrew gets the last laugh when Jeff compliments his landscape efforts, as if recognizing Gage has a vested interest in seeing him fail. He really is horrible, like Ard in Heavy Metal.

Finally, Patty mostly likes the changes to the house, but drops a bomb when she says she's going to leave the house to Jeff's brother. Now, Jeff doesn't even want to move to Fullerton (good God, who would?!), but it's the principle of the thing, and all. Whatever, I'm done. What a collection of terrible, terrible self-obsessed human beings (with the exception of Zoila the housekeeper and Jenni, who mostly keeps her head down and signs her checks). What's the motivation for watching Flipping Out? Home decorating tips? Slap-fight potential? The optimist in me hopes this is the show that has the cameras rolling when the Big One finally hits, with all of Jeff Lewis' fabulous houses at the epicenter.

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