Hello. My name is Amy, and I'm a Bravo TV addict (in unison now -- 'hi, Amy').
Like most great love affairs, I can't directly pinpoint when the relationship started. Was it watching Jo start her singing career during the beginning of The Real Housewives of Orange County? Maybe sparks flew as I laughed at Kathy Griffin hanging out with Paris Hilton and Snoop Dogg on My Life on the D-List. And I just couldn't look away from one of the rare hidden gems of the network, Being Bobby Brown.
Somewhere in between wondering if the real-life RHNYC (I think we're close enough to drop some abbreviations here) Thelma and Louise team of Bethenny and Jill would ever reconcile and tearing up when Padma would tell my favorite chef to pack up his knives, I fell. Hard. One look at my DVR list tells you that I'm hooked on whatever pops up on that channel. I'd be watching for hours if there was a marathon that simply just featured Andy Cohen, the mastermind behind my favorite network, boil water. Or maybe more accurately, some Maker's Mark, the drink of choice on his nightly talk show Watch What Happens Live.
Over the past few years, my admiration for the cable channel has rocketed higher than the hair of Teresa Giudice. But lately, I feel like I've had to hide my relationship. Bravo and I can't exist in peace. When I casually mention one of these shows, I'm instantly attacked. "You like that crap?!" "You're watching the Real Housewives of what? They're ruining marriages!" "This isn't real TV, you know." And, my favorite, "I thought you were smarter than to watch that garbage."
Naturally, I'm a bit offended when these comments pop up. I like to think that I can somewhat hold my own on the intellectual front (most days, anyways). I'm a journalist who's constantly reading. I'm obsessed with the news, I have hobbies, I drink wine, I'm a pretty decent contender on the Wii version of Jeopardy!, and I do happen to enjoy other entertainment that's more highly regarded with the general population.
But, I think there's a little more to these shows that some naysayers may miss. For starters, it's an instant look into seeing how other people live. It's hard to deny that it's fascinating to see how people in other situations, cultures, and social settings behave. These types of reality shows offer a courtside seat to satisfy your curiosity of watching the many different dynamics of human nature unfold before your eyes.
There's also a few lessons to be learned by ripping a page out of the entire book of the Real Housewives franchise. Almost every one of those ladies has built a brand in some ways. Some have had great successes. I can't give my homegirl, Bethenny Frankel, enough kudos for working hard to build a multi-million dollar empire. There's also been some ideas that haven't panned out, like the Countess' singing career. Dealing with both hits and misses, you have to admit that these ladies are feisty businesswomen. The shows also feature the values that are, realistically, important to us all in some way. Loyalty, friendship, laughter, changes, love, they're all exposed for the world to see and critique on a weekly basis.
One of the biggest things I enjoy about watching these crazy television masquerade balls is that it offers me both an escape and an ability to connect. When I want to check out of my own headspace for awhile, I can tune into an episode of Million Dollar Listing and zone out, pretending that I'm strolling through the rooms at one of those expensive properties. I can cry along side Kim and Kroy at their wedding celebrations, feeling like I'm watching a happy ending after being down a long road with a friend.
The shows aid in bridging a link. After I moved across the country, my best friend and I would recap our favorite shows, a quirky way to help the adjustment phase of our new long-distance friendship. When I'm back in the office world, chatter about last night's episode of Top Chef breaks the ice with new coworkers at the water cooler. An awkward mood at a dinner party is lifted when someone brings up how ridiculous that Housewife franchise is and a silly debate is started.
Kudos, Bravo, on letting us slip out of our own world and be enveloped in another (albeit, sometimes ridiculous) one for an hour. Now a serious question for you, Mr. Cohen... when can I pop over and be a guest bartender on your show?
Follow Amy Hansen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/_AmyHansen