Film and TV

Reality Bites: Ladies of London

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

If it seems like I'm picking on Bravo lately, well, I am. They're one of the few networks airing new episodes of anything now that summer's here. It's this stuff or three-year-old reruns of Swamp Men, so I stand by my decision.

Unceremoniously dropping this month was Ladies of London. As with any Bravo series, I assumed their use of the word "ladies" was sarcastic, but this isn't entirely the case. Maybe it's the surroundings, maybe it's the historic ambience or maybe the terrible British food just drains away your will to live, but things were definitely more subdued than in most shows of this type.

To sum up,Ladies of London features a number of American and British women bravely attempting to navigate the murky waters of UK high(ish) society. For example, Noelle Reno is one of the Americans, and does herself and our nation proud by hooking up with Scot Young, a British developer most famous for conveniently "losing" hundreds of millions of pounds right before his divorce. Juliet is another "seppo," as we're derogatorily referred to by the inhabitants of the country whose imperial decline we helped inaugurate, who does fashion ... things.

Juliet and American Marissa discuss their co-hosted 4th of July party. It's "bittersweet" for Marissa, because she'll be getting British citizenship next year and they don't celebrate July 4th. For some reason.

Caroline Stanbury (British; I mean, Stanbury) does point out the irony of being invited to a party in celebration of "kicking the British out," never mind July 4th was actually the day we declared independence from Britain. The kicking-out part would take awhile longer, but hey, we don't know anything about your history either.

It's unclear what Caroline actually does. Her job involves "luxury" (of course) and buying rare jewels (maybe she's like Cousin Avi from Snatch). She's also comically befuddled by Juliet's blue jean cutoffs. What, now she's never heard of John Cena?

Caprice Bourret is the final American -- though she kind of has a Euro-sounding name, so that's confusing -- and looks a lot like Breaking Bad's Skylar White if she got the Katherine Helmond treatment in Brazil. She's pregnant *and* is having a baby via surrogate (don't ask). Also, her dog eats its own poop.

Annabelle Neilson would appear, at first, to be the most interesting: She was married to Nat Rothschild (of those Rothschilds) and so is now Nazi rich, she was also "muse" to fashion designer Alexander McQueen (whatever the hell that means), and her grandmother is so British they have to subtitle her while she's speaking English.

There's something about a fashion show, and Marissa's (British) husband Matt helps her set the menu for the party, which is a predictable disaster, as Caroline and Annabelle level such withering abuse at Juliet I kept waiting for her to launch into Rob Lowe's embarrassing "We saved your ass in World War II" tirade from Oxford Blues.

The best part, honestly, was a flashback to an episode with a polo game (match? divertissement?) where Juliet goes all Eliza Doolittle.

What follows is more of the Americans' (Juliet, especially) brashness rubbing the Brits the wrong way, Annabelle's inflated opinion of herself (seriously, "muse"?), and lots of smoking, which is actually sort of refreshing on a U.S. TV show. However, I feel the need to point out Ladies of London furthers my theory that reality programming is what multinational telecommunication companies try to pass off as populist entertainment.

I mean, you can keep your folk singers and performance artists and Occupy protests, because attendance for all those combined can't compare to a Real Housewives premiere. And why? Because Comcast and Discovery Communications and Disney et al. produce shows like this (and Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Shahs of Sunset) because they apparently believe it's sufficient to give the non-rich (i.e., just about everyone) a chance to mock the wealthy for acting just as dumb as anybody else.

Now, is it any consolation that the One Percent are idiots in spite of (or perhaps because of) being obscenely rich? And is mere schadenfreude sufficient when you know in the back of your minds these pneumatic, expressionless Stepford mistresses will continue obliviously on? In the end, probably not. Unfortunately, since you can still go to jail for a year for pot possession in some parts of the country, while bankers at JPMorgan Chase commit systemic mortgage fraud for years and bring the global economy to its knees yet still receive their severance packages, pointing and laughing at your TV is about the best you can hope for.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar