This is Andy Cohen. I am certain you know him, even if you don't recognize him.
A nice Midwestern boy who made it big in the Big Apple, he's adorable, really. And I'm certain he would make an excellent brunch date. The thing is, Andy here is shaping America's pop culture and pandering to the lowest base of our collective junior high unconscious where the girls are mean and calculating and the boys are stupid lunkheads.
As the Executive Vice President of Development and "Talent" at the Bravo cable network, Andy is who we have to thank for the Real Housewives juggernaut. And here is where I out myself as an avid watcher of the Real Housewives. I can't go so far as to call myself a fan, cause that just ain't true, but, yes, an avid watcher is an accurate description.
I can't quite pinpoint when my fascination started, but it's been a few years. I've seen the OC, the NJ, the ATL, the NYC, and the BH. Miami and DC? Snooze. My favorite joke is that Real Housewives of Schaumburg is just moments away from pre-production. That is how ubiquitious this franchise is.
And it doesn't stop with the Real Housewives. Oh no, it goes on and on. We can thank Mr. Cohen for these gems, too:
- Shahs of Sunset - follows the liquor fueled exploits of privileged and entitled Iranians/Persians living in LA. Oh, yeah, and most of them have anger management issues.
- Married to Medicine - follows the lives of two Atlanta doctors and four 'doctors wives' and uses that term with no irony whatsoever. Oh, yeah, and most of them have anger management issues.
- The Millionaire Matchmaker - follows Patti's Stangers' dating service exclusive to millionaires and assholes, many with anger management issues.
- The Rachel Zoe Project - follows the life of an angry celebrity stylist turned fashion designer -- it's bananas!
- LA Shrinks - follows therapy of the rich and vapid, some with, yes, you guessed it, anger management issues.
Oy. I lost brain cells just compiling that list. And, yes, these shows really exist.
Why, Andy? Why? You're smart, personable, charming, have a solid background in news production and crafting some of the most entertaining NPR commentaries on pop culture I can remember. Why you do us like this? Your programming is now just leaving a bad taste in my mouth. I worry you hate women. I worry you hate middle and working-class folks. What is with your sick obsession with wealthy people who behave worse that the barbarians on Game of Thrones?
These are honest questions that would make for a fascinating dissertation.
If television, even the "docusoap" format that most of the Bravo shows follow, is meant to be reflective of our larger culture, then, I am sorry, my friends, but we are fucked. Royally and in loudly colored clothing, often with a peplum and a heaping dose of silicone.
Bravo's cameras cast a bright light on dysfunction. The shows feature drugs and alcohol, violence, adultery, divorce, abuse, neglect, deadbeat parents, family drama, bankruptcy, suicide, lawsuits and a laundry list of more sins of the week. Lots of you might be saying right about now, lighten up, Mary Tyler Mom, it's entertainment! All in good fun, you know? Sheesh, get a life.
When I first got hooked, my daughter was going through cancer treatment and I saw these shows as escape. Reading took too much effort in the state I was in, so Bravo offered what books could not -- mindless, easy, escape. Sigh. And let me be the first to admit that part of the attraction, I think, was the fact that watching these shows made me feel superior in some way. I always had the moral high ground, you know? If news was rough and our daughter was relapsing, I could turn on Bravo and 43 minutes later feel that at least someone had it worse than me. Even if that someone was wealthy and lived in southern California. My daughter might be dying of cancer, but at least I wasn't full of silicone and botox and ignoring my kids while wondering if my husband was having an affair with the bitch who lived in the next sub-division, all while wearing Lululemon in my spinning class, my weave unmoving and strangely perfect.
Yeah, I'm not proud of that.
I still feel the call of Bravo on a sad day. The programs numb me, which is oddly comforting. And alarming. How and why do I find grown women cat fighting and dishing about each other's philandering husbands or fake breasts or tanking businesses or failing children or foreclosed upon homes comforting? How? Why?
And this is where it's easy to blame Andy Cohen. He bets on viewers like me. He caters to our sadness and sense of feeling overwhelmed in the day-to-day. "You having a bad day, Sweetie? Sit down, Mama, " he purrs, "Put your feet up. Here's the remote and I'm gonna go get you a Coke and peanut butter egg."
Oh, Mr. Cohen, you know me too well. Damn you. Now where is that Coke?
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