A lot of reality TV is staged. I know it, you know it and, most importantly of all, the people taking part know it.
Much of real life reality can be very tedious or, if not tedious, a lot simpler than that featured on TV. Most of us manage to meet with friends without resorting to physical violence, and most of us leave restaurants and bars without breaking anything. We cook, clean, put out the garbage, brush our teeth, take showers – for the most part, we settle into a comfortable routine with our loved ones.
Imagine how boring that would be to watch. So, what reality TV does is extract big (for “big”, read famous, loud, obnoxious – anything out of the ordinary) personalities from the monotony of the everyday and place them in highly charged situations where their differences and conflicts play out for the amusement of the viewer. It’s the bear-pit mentality to which the TV viewing audience has become addicted.
At what point, though, does it cease to be entertainment and become deeply disturbing viewing? For me, that point was this week on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, when Kim Richards appeared to transform into a baying werewolf howling at the moon, when Lisa Rinna apologised very nicely, realising she had inadvertently upset Kim by going into her “business”. “You did,” responded Kim (“Awooooohhhhh! Awooooohhhhh!”).
Kim’s problems with alcohol have been well documented in each series, and now claiming that she has been sober for three years, she is very sensitive to any reference to her behaviour, past or present.
After some very nasty verbal abuse thrown at Lisa R (as opposed to Lisa V, Lisa Vanderpump) in previous episodes – a car journey, a plane ride to Amsterdam – Kim was having none of the apology, despite Lisa explaining that her own sensitivity was down to her having lost her 21 year old sister to alcohol and drugs when she was just six. Attacking Lisa R once more, Kim’s eyes widened demonically, so much so that I feared they were going to swallow the rest of her head whole.
She then proceeded to lose it completely, attacking both Eileen Davidson and Lisa R (both newcomers to the show this season), and insinuating unpleasantries about Lisa R’s husband, the actor Harry Hamlin. Lisa R, usually the model of decorum, also then lost it, threw wine at Kim, smashed the glass and stormed out. I really didn’t blame her. I respected her for later making up with Kim, but I, for one, would not have been so generous.
Even if she is not drinking, Kim displays all the signs of an out of control addict. I have no doubt that she has struggled with her problems and continues to do so on a daily basis, but there is a real nastiness at the core of her being that I suspect she used alcohol to try to disguise. Without the Dr Jekyll front that the bottle gave her, the Mr Hyde actually has nowhere to hide, and the display in the shop window is not a nice one.
There is real anger here – anger that she can’t drink, probably – and immense jealousy. Kyle Richards, her breathtakingly beautiful sister, is at the brunt of most of it, and the cruelty that Kim displays towards her is unforgivable. It is to Kyle’s credit that she continues to forgive her sister and to try to understand her, but it can’t last, or Kyle will have a breakdown.
So, why would Kim be jealous of her sister? Well, Kyle has a gorgeous husband in Mauricio, four gorgeous kids, a beautiful home, and she recently opened a successful fashion store. She, too, has had her moments of losing it and, like all the other women, has her insecurities and vulnerabilities; but unlike Kim – and Brandi Glanville (I’ll come to her in a minute) - she and the others do not parade their role as victims of life for the cameras.
It is no surprise that Brandi and Kim have become bosom buddies; neither has anything that the other women have in terms of looks, relationships, or professional success (Brandi did, until a blind surgeon – in my opinion - did her face over). They are the playground bullies, trying to exercise power only by bringing down the people around them, and it’s sad to see.
I enjoyed Brandi when she joined the show, but her extreme behaviour has turned her into a colourless bore and not, as she likes to imagine when she has had too much to drink (way too often), the life and soul of the party.
Both remind me of Stassi Schroeder, one of the key figures of another Bravo show, Vanderpump Rules, set in and around Lisa V’s restaurants. Another bitter, jealous, spiteful piece of work, she too has alienated everyone around her and caused so much trouble amongst Lisa’s staff (the stars of the show), while refusing to admit her own culpability.
And therein lies the problem with Kim, Brandi and Stassi - all the bad things that have happened to them in life are, as they see it, somebody else’s fault, and that’s what they can’t forgive. I’ll bet that Lisa V, for all her appearing to have it all, has had many sleepless nights during financially challenging times and being stabbed in the back by people she thought were friends. But does she attribute blame? Does she heck.
They don’t call jealousy the green-eyed monster for nothing, but while Kim, Brandi and Stassi feed their insatiable desire for nasty trouble making, they should take some time out and try to realise one basic principle in life: it is you alone who are responsible for your own happiness.
And if you can’t accept that, then be advised to stay clear of low-flying glass.