Reality Bites: The Real Housewives of Orange County

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

I last wrote about a Real Housewives franchise in 2011 (kill me). At the time, I was naive enough to think Bravo's franchise series represented a low point in reality television, when we no know -- at worst -- they represent the lower-middle echelon of the genre (I'll allow debate on New Jersey).

Three years later (no really, kill me), and I decided to go to the mother lode. Like Burton and Speke seeking the source of the Nile, or Newt and Hicks returning to the xenomorph homeworld (the comics are real to me, dammit), I wanted to go to the wellspring of the franchise, the one ten-carat ring to rule them all, The Real Housewives of Orange County.

Oh I get it, they're all holding oranges in the opener. Do they do that for every Real Housewives? Do the New Yorkers hold apples? Are there peaches for the Atlanta wives? How about a handful of green cards for Beverly Hills?

All the housewives (they are married and live in homes, so technically correct) are introduced with brief statements outlining their personalities. Tamra, for example, isn't getting older but is actually "getting bolder." Judging by the young man she's shown with, I guess she's looking for younger strains of herpes. Former beauty queen Lizzie is the new one, and also has the largest breasts on the show. I assume that gets her 30 percent more bikini footage, or a seat next to Andy Cohen during the reunion episode.

Heather Dubrow, the focus of The Episode I Watched, is "just getting started" (in more ways than one, judging by the age of her kids). Her family is just like yours or mine: husband Terry comes home from his thriving plastic surgery practice (in Orange County, well I never) and pours her a Grey Goose and soda before discussing the groundbreaking for their new home and ignoring the children (the cople sold their old, boring mansion for $16 million and are building a new one on a cliff overlooking the Pacific).

Terry is also younger brother to this guy. RIP.

Heather is also still discussing something that happened at dinner in the previous episode. Somebody took somebody else's chair, or something, forcing Heather to move down a few seats. This is apparently second only to the Boko Haram kidnappings on the scale of global outrages.

Vicki -- who is so ghastly looking after decades of plastic surgery I can only conclude she's serving as the portrait to Julianne Moore's Dorian Gray -- and Shannon also discuss The Incident at the Boot Barn while purchasing footwear for Heather's hoedown, to the continuing amusement/chagrin of the young lady from Texas attempting to assist them. Did I mention Boko Haram? What I meant to say is Chairgate was worse than the German invasion of Poland, the U.S. overthrow of Mossadeq, and Woodstock '99 combined.

The Dubrows demonstrate their extensive knowledge of Old West culture by making sure they have an onion ring station and coffee tureens at their "hoedown." On the other hand, there's no cholera, and MLB stars Josh Hamilton and Jim Edmonds show up, Take that, American frontier.

Tamra and her teenage son also ... what? Sorry, Tamra and *her husband* show up. And so does Lizzie, who looks kind of like an Appalachian Sophia Loren (I can't decide if that's a good or bad thing). Tamra takes Lizzie aside to give her some advice on dealing with Vicki. She also gets a good line in, when referring to the Dubrows' plan to bury well wishes in the foundation: "what is it with rich people burying shit?"

What is it, indeed?

Did Vicki mention he's the only remaining Housewife from season one? Don't worry, she will. She's also in the habit of mock snoring when someone she's talking to is boring her. Vicki is lucky she doesn't hang around with any of the women I know, because -- at the least -- she would've lost a couple teeth by now.

The snorer shows up late and pretends like she hadn't met Lizzie previously (prior to Chairgate). Shannon, also late, freaks out at the bar because her husband is talking to another woman. The "showdown" in the episode ("Showdown at the Hoedown") concerns Heather losing her shit because of their tardiness ... and Shannon *starts crying*. Tamra almost breaks her arm on the mechanical bull and conspiracy theories about who was at the controls flow as freely as the booze (was their a second bull on the grassy knoll?).

Assuming I survive whatever cataclysm is in store for the planet, I feel a lot better about my chances surviving the post-apocalypse, considering the lack of fortitude among the Real Housewives and approximately two million people who watch the show regularly.

Not for the first time -- and probably not for the last, assuming I continue to subject myself to this weekly plunge into the abyss -- I found myself wondering at the appeal of these shows. Is it simply to validate our suspicions that rich people are just as stupid and petty as we are? Do we feed on the resentment of watching people so easy to dislike building a multi-million dollar mansion from the ground up? Is it possible we actually (*shudder*) enjoy them?

My only consolation comes from the knowledge that any aliens capable of interstellar travel who happen upon these broadcasts will likely judge humanity too pathetic to enslave.

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