‘Southern Charm’ review: Big money, smart girls, and really bad boys

03.04.14 4 years ago 22 Comments


There are so, so many reasons to hate-watch Bravo's new series “Southern Charm” (Mondays at 10:00 p.m.). These are the stories of the very idle rich (well, except for the one guy who's going to law school and complains about how his stoopid job at a law firm gets in the way of his party schedule). They play polo. They have parties at noon on a weekday. Occasionally they get arrested or dabble in extreme sports. And they drink. They drink, and they drink, and then they drink some more. Man, do they drink. When the punch tastes like Benadryl, as one man-child describes it, this is not considered a negative. It tastes like drunk, and that's good enough to do the job.

I'm sure the founding fathers and early settlers who carved a path for these ne'er do wells would be very proud to see how they're spending their time and sometimes ample fortunes. Thomas was the State Treasurer until he was arrested for small-time cocaine trafficking, and now has lots of money, lots of time, and no job. Luckily he was able to bury his sorrows in a never-ending supply of hot chicks and polo. And that brings us to the next ick factor on “Southern Charm” — not only are women expected to marry and produce spawn like very Barbie-like cattle, the ratio of men to women is disproportionately in the guys' favor. Thus, as Cameran describes it, Charleston is a place where all the guys suffer from Peter Pan Syndrome. 

So, those are the reasons to hate watch. The surprise, though, is how many reasons there are to get hooked. Yes, I said it. I wanted to hate “Southern Charm,” but I couldn't. 

How could I hate a show in which more than one person uses words like “ostentatious,” “raison d'être” and quotes “Macbeth”? At length? How could I hate a show when one plantation owner (Thomas) has a dinner bell? A dinner bell! I'm also pretty sure none of the women on any of “The Real Housewives” shows would engage in a conversation about whether someone should marry a Scarlett or a Melanie (the two female leads in “Gone with the Wind”). I'm not even sure if they'd be able to parse the plot from “Gravity” if you put their feet to the fire. 

While the guys aren't as charming as they think they are (we are assured Thomas is a master ladies' man, but he reminded me more of the creepy sidekick in a bad romcom), the women we've met so far seem smart, opinionated and too savvy to drink the traditional Charleston Kool-Aid (though maybe not the Benadryl punch). Cameran has the prestigious name you need to run in these circles, but she doesn't have a trust fund. She is trying to start a career as a real estate agent, as she doesn't think marrying for money is such a bright idea. She's enough of one of the guys to be able to talk to Shep about whether or not he felt boob on his most recent date, but she's still somehow a proper lady, more or less.

Jenna is decidedly less interested in fitting in to Charleston society. She has a mohawk, wears funky clothes, and has lived all over the world. She's also not a “name,” but she's able to quickly see through Shep's ham-handed moves despite his pedigree. We don't know her well yet, but I suspect she's going to, at the very least, look over the other players with a jaded eye. 

She also hangs out with Whitney, who has an important name but also doesn't seem to give much of a crap about living up to it. He's a dilettante who's dabbled in filmmaking in L.A. and now lives with his mom. Though we're given lots of broad hints that he's straight (a pile of women's clothing at the end of the bed for his mom to be horrified by, plus his endless references to how he wants to buy a “stabbin' cabin”), we have yet to see him drag a woman back to his bedroom by the hair (Thomas has already crossed that threshold).

While there's something unsettling about a group of mostly middle-aged and thirtysomething (Craig, the working stiff, is the exception) man-children unwilling to let the party end as they work their ways through the “buffet of women” Charleston presents, they're not all that different from the raving harpies of “The Real Housewives” shows. If anything, they're a step up. Some are well-educated and articulate, and man, one guy has a dinner bell. I die!

Did you watch “Southern Charm”? What did you think? 

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