Why All Reality TV Shows Should Last One Season

What Women Really Think
March 4 2010 9:48 AM

Why All Reality TV Shows Should Last One Season

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If you are a fan of trashy reality TV, Salon critic Heather Havrilesky's commentary on the new season of Real Housewives of New York City is a must-read . As Havrilesky points out, all the women on that show are bright enough to realize that they should use their moment in the docu-drama sun to promote their own "brands." And now that the show is in its third season, each woman's on-camera behavior is carefully curated to promote whatever crappy product she's shilling, be it Ramona's skin care line , Countess LuAnn's book of etiquette , Bethenny's diet products , or Jill's fabric store . Havrilesky channels a Housewife's thought process: "Am I the 'angry' one, the 'innocent' one, or the 'straight-talking' one? Should I appear confused and hurt or above it all? Which emotional response best matches my multi-tiered international product line?"

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This is why-as I argued in a piece about Jersey Shore earlier this year -reality TV shows of this variety should only last one season, or they should at least have a new cast every season. Once the fourth wall is broken and reality TV participants start interacting with their audiences in real life, the magic is gone. Havrilesky argues that in later seasons there's a different kind of joy in watching calculated performances, but for my viewing minutes I prefer the pre-fame innocence of the early episodes. Of course, that won't stop me from tuning in to watch Bethenny and LuAnn in their brand embassador masks duke it out over whether it's appropriate to order a " skinny girl margarita (TM) " at a fancy restaurant.

Photograph of the Real Housewives of NYC by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images.

Jessica Grose is a frequent Slate contributor and the author of the novel Sad Desk Salad. Follow her on Twitter.

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