Reality Bites: The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

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​There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch all of them, one at a time. This particular episode was called "A Book, a Bachelorette and a Breakdown."

"But reality, what does it mean?" -- Curtis Mayfield

It's a given at this point to say a TV program billed as a "reality show" is anything but. Only slightly less scripted than episodic television, with the principal personae steered and/or manipulated into situations engineered to bring about the highest likelihood of conflict, the only reality in any of these shows comes from the fleeting expressions of horrified bystanders inadvertently caught in the camera eye as the carnage unfolds before them.

It therefore follows that any show billing itself as "Real" anything is, as Orwell might say, "doubleplusungood." So when I encountered something called The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, I knew I'd stumbled upon the veritable Higgs boson of reality programming: a fake show about fake human beings in the most artificial region in the known universe.

True story: I almost published this with the title "Real Housewives of Beaverly Hills." Naughty!

After an incoherent pre-credits sequence in which I determined one fembot from Westworld was attempting to violently reconcile its defective mating protocol with another automaton, we were introduced to the major players:

Lisa Vanderpump (no relation) -- British; owns two (American) restaurants; allows husband three conjugal visits a year.

Kyle Richards -- Former child actress; aunt to Paris and Nicky Hilton, which would seem to be punishment enough without having to appear on a freaking reality show.

Kim Richards -- Older sister of Kyle...like, much older; main claim to fame (as far as I'm concerned) is starring opposite James Spader in Tuff Turf, which is actually fucking awesome.

Taylor Armstrong -- Plastic surgery disaster that's earned a modicum of sympathy because her husband, who allegedly beat her, killed himself. That's good ratings.

Adrienne Maloof -- Sorry, did I say Taylor Armstrong's face was a disaster? Jesus Jones, Maloof looks like Amy from Fright Night if she'd grown old in vampire form.

Camille Grammer -- The woman who drove Frasier Crane nuts. She'll be a formidable one.

Just so we're clear, these women are "housewives" in the same sense my occasional changing of a lightbulb makes me a master electrician. They live in houses, and they're (most of them, anyway) married. So technically they qualify.

Onward. Taylor, she of the dead husband, tells Kyle of her drunken rage the other night. Kyle, bosom swelling, sympathizes with Taylor. For her part, Taylor discusses her impending 40th birthday and I'm immediately yanked out of the proceedings. 40? She could qualify for senior citizens' movie ticket discounts. But don't listen to me, kids: Plastic surgery is a valid and proven means of booting self-esteem.

Anyway, Kyle wants Taylor to join her and daughter Pandora (gods) in Vegas for Pandora's bachelorette party. This is the same person who just confessed she was so drunk at the party she doesn't remember anything about her fight with...that other wizened husk. Nothing bad ever comes of getting blackout drunk in Vegas.

Then on to Camille, reminiscing about the freaky party referenced in the flashbacks (Taylor went ballistic on Camille about her suffering, augmented in no small measure by her heroic alcohol intake). It appears there are two excursions heading separately to Vegas: Taylor, Adrienne et al to the Palms, and Lisa's daughter's (Pandora) bachelorette party.

Oh hilarious, Adrienne is married to a plastic surgeon, and they're appearing on a talk show (The Doctors) to talk about diet as the key to a healthy lifestyle. No mention is made of liposuction or butt implants.

I feel like Milhouse watching the Poochie episode of The Simpsons: When are they getting to the fireworks factory Las Vegas?!

One group (bachelorette party) arrives at the Hard Rock, the other (girls weekend) at the Palms. Having spent my last weekend in Vegas at a lovely little inn called the "El Cortez," situated three blocks away from Glitter Gulch, I can safely say: Screw all these people.

There's some drama back in California about Kyle's book. She's having a photo shoot for the cover and wants Kim to come...assist. Kim, who is apparently still (after several weeks) in the process of moving into her new house, but she doesn't answer. So annoying! Doesn't she know Kyle was in Escape from Witch Mountain?

Okay, I'm having a hard time following all this. Adrienne's group also consists of somebody named "Dana," who in addition to being a planner of $60,000 children's tea parties (no, these people don't need to be taxed any further) is also a harpy who can't shut up about her fabulous necklace. There's also a "Brandi," whose ex-husband is the guy who dumped her for LeAnn Rimes. Being in her [virtual] presence for a few minutes, I can't blame him.

Hell, I'd have left her for another dude.

Over at the bachelorette party -- and boy, are Pandora's friends thrilled to be hanging out with a couple of middle-aged attention whores -- the expected shenanigans are going on. There's some contest at Chippendales to see who can give the best lap dance to a well-oiled gay man. Lisa, the woman who's been complaining about how sordid these kinds of events always are, wins. See? Character development.

Adrienne, Camille (ex-wife of Kelsey "Frasier Crane" Grammer, which should really be brought up more often than it is, if only to make Grammer look more sympathetic) and the rest engage in some listless dirty dancing at some club neither you nor I could get into. Rarely have I been so happy not to be one of the "beautiful people."

In The Decline of Western Civilization, Part 2: The Metal Years, Paul Stanley said, "Money gives you the freedom not to worry about money." He was half right. Money also bestows upon the wealthy the ability to renounce the most basic human values -- decency, for example -- which, combined with the presence of cameras, turns what were presumably once perfectly acceptable human beings into Homo neanderthalensis. There was more to this episode, but if I wanted that, I'd go to the Museum of Natural Science.

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