Film and TV

Reality Bites: Little Women: LA

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

The glut of reality television, like climate change, is a reality that can't be denied by rational human beings. From inexplicably top-rated shows like American Idol and The Bachelor/Bachelorette to niche weirdness like Lizard Lick Towing and Small Town Security, our airwaves/satellite dishes/internet tubes are awash in quote-unquote "unscripted" programming.

But even entities as inert as TV networks can see the writing on the wall; that despite the unending supply of idiots willing to abase themselves on camera, people might eventually grow tired of watching the same pneumatic hags flipping tables and screaming obscenities at each other. How to solve this conundrum? Just add little people, I guess.

Really, "just add little people" probably represents the total amount of thought some coked-out programming director at Lifetime (owned by A&E, of Duck Dynasty and Storage Wars fame) put into his pitch: "What we need is a show that captures the faux glamour of Los Angeles but lacks the same old, same old poorly aging broads throwing drinks in each other's faces."

Who knows, maybe he was listening to Randy Newman's greatest hits at the time.

So let's see, Christy is marrying Todd, but needs to fit into the wedding dress she bought, which gives us an excuse to watch her clamber up the produce shelf in search of vegetables, much to the consternation of grocery store staff. Seems she was married before, but doesn't want to repeat the same mistakes. Certainly, airing her anxieties on a reality show will take care of all that.

She and Todd also take waltz lessons. He sweats a lot, which she chalks up to him being out of shape. I prefer to think he's nervous because he's being forced to caper in front of a million-plus judgmental Lifetime viewers. The weight thing is their subplot, and as the Epsiode I Watched ends, they've both lost five pounds. Only 175 more (for Todd) to go.

Terri wants to be more of a "domestic goddess" for her boyfriend Joe, and so takes a cooking class with the other ladies. This gives Tonya a chance to discuss her open relationship with Kerwin, the father of her daughter, and how that might possibly jeopardize her budding romance with Trevor.

All in all, Little Women: LA was pretty boring. The closest thing to tension in the first half was finding out Joe doesn't like Terri's pork chops, which leads to one of those ominous pre-cutaway night sky shots with thunder in the background that are so clichéd at this point you momentarily forget which show you're watching. The Real World? Real Housewives of New Jersey? Dateline?

Before you know it, they're off to go bowling, which is no more or less contrived than anything else Lifetime could have them do. Tonya brings Kerwin, and Christy struggles with her diet. What, they don't have a vegetarian bowling joint in LA? How disappointing.

There's also some internal conflict among little people factions. Joe and Elena (the "Little Britney") are both "Pseudos," meaning they have pseudoachondroplasia as opposed to the other "Achons" who have achondroplasia (this is starting to sound like a Star Trek episode: "Return of the Achons"). "Pseudos" are similarly short in stature, but without the pronounced foreheads of people with achondroplasia. I shouldn't be surprised by any of this, and for once during the show I'm not in danger of falling asleep.

Joe, charmer that he is, uses their shared pseudo status as an excuse to flirt with Elena. She, for her part, demonstrates her character by not only egging Joe on (did I mention Elena's married?), but also casually spilling the beans to Kerwin about Trevor. Kerwin gets upset about this, which is pretty hilarious considering he moved to Texas and left Tonya and their daughter back in California.

Terri eventually "dolls herself up" in lingerie and even brings whipped cream to bed, yet Joe is -- how to put this diplomatically -- unenthusiastic. The relationship concerns are valid. I guess, even as I wonder how anybody would ignore the fact they have cameramen in the boudoir. I've watched way too many reality shows, and I don't recall any other time we were thrust (sorry) into somebody's bedroom as they were about to get it on. Call it pre-emptive coitus interruptus.

Finally, Tonya has it out with Elena over her talking to Kerwin about Trevor. The exchange quickly escalates into a shouting match, as we knew it would, and Terri tries to separate them while the other ladies (Briana and...Traci, who hasn't said a word all episode) cover their ears to block out the screeching. Things seem like they're going to escalate, while Christy makes a good point about them attracting even more attention to themselves than normal, but I suppose that's what makes this a gold mine for Lifetime.

In the end, we learn two things. First, merely acting like idiots in public is no longer sufficient for reality audiences, so expect more shows exploiting other groups like this (also recall that Little People, Big World and The Little Couple were shows about diminutive people that didn't require them to shove each other; how times change). Second, Little Women: LA can almost be seen as groundbreaking, since it conclusively demonstrates little folk are just as venal, petty and obnoxious as anyone else. Cue "We Shall Overcome."

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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