As we whisk ourselves over the browned hills and the seedy valleys of Southern California for yet another year in the lives of the richest and (perhaps) classiest of the Real Housewives, we here at the Real Housewives Institute do not have high hopes for the seventh season of this franchise. After watching the first hour, those low expectations were sufficiently met. While I will always enjoy time in the company of many of these ladies, it seems like the cast is no longer capable of delivering the drama that previously made this show famous.
I think the trouble is that Lisa Vanderpump and Kyle Richards — who now share the spotlight by standing in the center of the opening credits, holding out their diamonds as if they’re about to bestow a gift upon a supplicant — don’t have the taste for darkness that has always fueled this particular outpost. Kyle was a part of it when her sister, Kim, was around, to be sure, but she is neither as dysfunctional as her alcoholic sister nor as tolerant of scrabbling around in the darker parts of humanity for gain. Kyle would never mix chicken salad with her bare hands while her daughter prepares for the prom. Kyle wants her house airy and light, coated in a waxy layer of Pledge and smelling like a mixture of stale Febreze and last night’s McDonald’s remains that are still in the trash.
Lisa Vanderpump, who lives in a department store perfume display that has grown to the size of a house, wants to just coat everything in pink and make it cute. If the dog has alopecia, just put a cute tuxedo on him and make him into a joke. She wants there to be drama with a small d and air quotes around it because it is good for the show, which is good for business, but she doesn’t want to deal with cast members divorcing, depressed men killing themselves, or prolonged legal battles about the smell of someone’s vagina.
Lisa and Kyle are happy to keep things light, while the same can be said of Eileen Davidson, Erika Jaynerardi, and Lisa Rinna. These women are pros. They will appear before the camera, say their lines, deliver what little bits of conflict need to be mustered to keep the story chugging at a safe clip, but none of them want to be sullied with the real despair and psychological turmoil that makes this show so much fun to watch. Kyle was accused of stealing someone’s house on camera once and it will never happen again.
Naturally, the jury is still out on Dorit, the one new addition to the cast. Due to the Eileen Davidson Accord of 2013, we must wait a full five episodes before we can adequately judge a new Housewife. Dorit does seem like a suitable addition to the cast. She and her husband, a music manager, live with ’80s pop icon Boy George, which is a nice, charming distraction. I don’t know why Boy George wasn’t added as a cast member because if we could suffer through a whole season of Tootie from Facts of Life on The Real Housewives of Atlanta, then I don’t see why we can’t get a Karma Chameleon in Beverly Hills. But I am not a producer of this show, I am merely the lowest of all: a mere critic.
Although we can’t pass judgment on who Dorit is as a person quite yet, I am going to say that the metallic green dress she wears in the interstitials that introduce her is absolutely hideous. It looks like something one of those giant Jeff Koons balloon animals would shit out on the lawn at LACMA.
Nevertheless, Dorit’s appearance was immediately worth it to see the Nagel painting that is Kyle Richards face in the ’80s dressed up like Boy George. It is absolute perfection. A scattered geometry of angles that somehow fit together as perfectly as the ceiling of Notre Dame or the panels of a “Stars — They’re Just Like Us” page in Us Weekly. I don’t know what is going on with modern Kyle, though. She usually looks very good, particularly in her testimonial looks, but there is something — how shall I say this? — amiss with her face when she’s talking directly to camera. It’s as if the top half of her face is more frozen than the bottom half. Maybe the fillers wore off before the Botox did? I don’t know how to describe it other than saying that, while wearing that knit collar around her neck, she looks a bit like Goldie Hawn in Death Becomes Her trying to keep her head on with a neck brace.
Everyone else looks amazing, particularly Eileen, who has grown her hair out. Now she looks not like Lady Godiva, but Lady Go Diva, Erika Jayne’s less musically inclined older sister. Lisar’s daughter Delilah also looks fantastic and is starting to become a model, which, sigh, I don’t know. Being a Real Housewife Kid Model was a cute and silly thing that we could all laugh at when Danielle Staub’s 17-year-old daughter was passing out at New York Fashion Week. But now Gigi Hadid is legit the biggest model since Linda Evangelista took to popping out billionaires’ babies and shopping for Christmas trees on 23rd Street. It’s too try-hard to be a Real Housewife Kid Model now. Delilah might be great, but she’s never going to be Gigi or even Bella Hadid, the Dannii Minogue of the modeling world, so why even try? Why not learn to, like, repair cars or something?
The big event of the episode is Erika’s 45th birthday party, which is Studio 54–themed. It’s your classic Real Housewives party: overly themed, extravagantly produced, and as empty as the discount electronic-goods shelves at Best Buy on Black Friday. I mean, doesn’t Erika know enough gays who want to do coke in her bathroom, watch the Real Housewives fight, and twerk on her light-up dance floor that she could fill this thing up? If she just had Mike get on Grindr and change his headline to “Party at Erika Jayne’s HAUS,” that place would fill up faster than Lisa Rinna’s lips at the dermatologist’s office.
The party was fine, but I will say that when Erika Jayne throws a Studio 54 party, I do not expect to see her in a floor-length black gown with some Donatella Versace metal bits on the front. That was not giving me 54 at all. Pussy Control, the fierce creature who was working the door at the party in some sequin, pearl, and rhinestone number that was cut like Ivanka Trump’s sluttiest French-cut one-piece, was dressed more appropriately for the party than Erika Jayne. I loved Eileen’s look and I liked Lisa Rinna’s, even though that Kyle Richards wig she wore was giving me the serious heebie-jeebies, like it killed my whole family and then moved my house to an Indian burial site or something.
The only real drama that happens at the party is that Lisar and Lisa have a Cult Jam on the dance floor. By a “cult jam,” I mean that Lisa is still snippy that Lisar tried to call her out last season for massaging things behind the scenes. At least I think that is what the fight was about. I wasn’t even entirely sure what was going on last year and that was so long ago — before the presidential election, the female Ghostbusters reboot, and my discovery that, yes, I can eat a whole sleeve of Fudge Stripe cookies for dinner. So what they are still mad about, I have no clue.
I didn’t like the way Lisa approached it, though. She did that thing she always does where she takes the piss out of someone and insults them in small and jocular ways so that if they get mad about it she can be like, “I was joking! Can’t you take a joke?” The difference is, Lisa was not joking when making fun of Lisar to her face. She meant all of those things she had to say, but she didn’t even have the fortitude to say them with a straight face. She had to hide them under a joke, which is a smarmy thing to do. We can all tell that she means them, so why not just — oh, God, I’m about to say something I’m going to regret — own it?
The best part of the whole party is when Eileen gives Erika her gift and it’s a script for The Young and the Restless. Eileen got Erika a part on her show, which is the best birthday gift of all time. It was so sweet, it almost made me tear up. I just love how much Eileen and Erika are in love with each other, especially how much Eileen worships Erika like the puss-patting little sister she never had.
I really do like spending time with these women and I really do like all of them (though some more than others). Even Kyle has grown on me, or maybe, like the poison the Dread Pirate Roberts ate every day, I’ve just become immune to her more toxic elements. It’s just that when you put all of these nice things together, it doesn’t combust in the same way as things do everywhere else. When you put a bunch of jewels together, you don’t get a chemical reaction. You just get a pile of diamonds. Sure, they’re pretty to look at, but I’d much rather have something that might blow my nose off than just some simple glittery bits.