Dear Bravo: I know you have a deep and abiding love for your “Real Housewives” franchise. It was undoubtedly hard for you to give the Washington D.C. edition the boot, to say nothing of how it felt to say goodbye to New York’s Jill Zarin and Alex McCord. But is it possible to stick a fork in “The Real Housewives of Orange County”? Because my Lord, after seven seasons, it is SO done. And I’m not just talking about the fake bakes and fried hair. This corner of SoCal is just played out.
While there’s been plenty of cast turnover since the show’s inception (only Vicki remains from that first season), the ladies seem seem just as tired and wary as if they’d been on the show since day one. And they aren’t the only tired ones. Instead of their now-lengthy relationship histories (with the exception of those with new girl Heather) adding depth and meaning to the steady stream of bickering, it seems the women are just going through the motions, learning little from past experience and taking their cues from off camera rather than within.
Not surprisingly, Vicki’s storylines are among the stalest. After so many years of bickering with so many people, both Tamra and Vicki seem (at least partially) committed to the idea of being nice this season, a move that seems less noble and more orchestrated by concerns regarding their on-screen personas. When Heather sat down with Tamra in last night’s episode to break the bad news about Slade’s insulting comedy routine, she eagerly gobbled up Heather’s advice — don’t attack Slade, but kill him with kindness. Then, everyone wins! Except for viewers, who will be stuck watching fake hand holding, awkward glances toward the camera, and breathy sighs of relief from Gretchen.
A glimmer of hope that there might be some reality in all this, well, reality lies with Tamra. She may really want a friendship with Gretchen, which likely has something to do with how unsatisfying being BFFs with Vicki has become. Vicki is something of a downer these days, what with her daughter Brianna possibly having cancer, being in the midst of a divorce and having to sell her house. Slade comparing her to Miss Piggy is just the icing on the cake.
More importantly, though, she and Tamra seem to be in different life stages. Tamra probably appreciates the fact that the younger, more playful Gretchen doesn’t mind going to sex shops or talking dirty, whereas Vicki weirdly becomes horrified by any mention of private parts or what they can do. You can almost see her jabbing a finger toward the cameras and hissing, “You know people are WATCHING this, right?” More than once it’s seemed like Tamra was talking with her mom during one of her coffee breaks with Vicki, and I’m starting to think, like this show, things have just fallen into a rut for these two. When Vicki starts braying about how she just might become BFFs with Alexis, it’s supposed to be a threat — but part of me is thinking, hey, that might actually be odd enough to be interesting! Go for it!
Even the perfectly orchestrated drama we’ve come to expect from “The Real Housewives” franchise (big party = big fight) is feeling more canned than usual. When Tamra refuses to bicker with Gretchen about Slade’s stand-up routine and Vicki seems too depressed to bother, it’s left to the token guy at the party to try to stir things up between the three of them. While no one takes the bait in this episode, there appears to be screaming next week, which is almost disappointing. As boring as the show has become, I almost want to encourage Tamra to stick to her nice girl guns, just for the hell of it — especially when you can see and feel the interference of the show’s producers as they push for more catfighting to goose an otherwise dull episode.
What do you think of the show? Is it played out? And do you believe Tamra and Gretchen can really be friends?