11/30/2009 09:22 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Heart of Fools

The House of Mirth is a dark and depressing Edith Wharton novel about a self-absorbed young woman obsessed with the goal of fitting into the upper-crust of wealth and society in turn of the century New York.

Lily Bart is a striking woman "to the manner born." Although she's been ready for her close-up since she was 18, her perennial talent seems to be putting herself into morally and socially questionable situations.

Lawrence Selden, besotted with Lily, goes around mocking the upper-crust, but "hypocritically adheres to their code of behavior," (CliffsNotes). He knows he hasn't a snowball's chance at marriage with Lily due to his lack of wealth.

Bertha Dorset, "a cold-hearted, conniving woman," (CliffsNotes, again), "cuckolds her husband and sabotages Lily's marital opportunities."

The latest incarnation of the Wharton classic, carries a new location, Washington D.C. and "clever" new title, Real Housewives of Mirth. This new version has the Lily character already married to wealth, now seeking the "fitting into the upper-crust" part in turn of the century D.C.


Michaele Salahi is a striking woman born without manners. Although she's been ready for her close-up since 16, her talent lies in putting herself and her hopelessly besotted (possibly cuckolded) husband into morally and socially questionable situations. (See how TV cleverly combines characters here.)

Tareq Salahi is her husband. Although we're never quite sure if he's mocking anyone or knows anything, it is his wealth as well as his besottment that allows his wife to do the things she wishes to do in order to fit into anything that carries a D.C. logo.

Bravo has judiciously cut the rest of the characters in order to make room for more morally/socially moronic situations as well as beer commercials. The opening episode, How to Crash a State Dinner, begins with a bang.

Full Shot - A stretch limo turned away by the Secret Service -

Cut to:

Follow Shot - NBC News anchor Brian Williams -

Williams (off screen): "After their vehicle was turned away, they hopped out. Then, there was at least one camera trailing them. And a makeup woman got out and fixed the woman's hair and then started powdering the man's forehead."

Cut to:

The Magic Couple with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel -

Unknown Aid (o.s.): Wait, where's Rahm's wife? Can someone please find Mrs. Emanuel for the photo?

Cut to:

The Magic Couple with Vice-President Biden -

Michaele: It's so nice to meet you, Joe. Do you mind if I put my hand on your chest for my Facebook photo?

Cut to:

Announcer (voice over): Don't miss the next episode of a reimagining of Edith Wharton's classic tale of duplicitous hijinks... Real Housewives of Mirth exclusively on Bravo!

At the end of House of Mirth, a bankrupt and depressed Lily Bart commits suicide. The only equivalent in "reality TV" is a mid-season replacement with... Really Desperate People Seeking 15-Minutes-More Fame staring Monica Lewinsky.

In spite of their celebrity-obsessed, do-whatever-it-takes to get noticed scheme, the Salahis do manage to live up to the quote the novel takes its title from.

The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. - Ecclesiastes

Jim Lichtman writes and speaks on ethics. His commentaries can be found at