Shame on the Bravo network.
Just when you thought its steady spew of trashy "reality" shows couldn't get any worse, it darkens the horizon with The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. This show, debuting on Oct. 14, follows on the heels of those supposedly real housewives of Orange County, New York, New Jersey, Atlanta and Washington, D.C.
Never mind that the words "real" and "housewife" have nothing to do with any of these shows.
I commented recently, to more than one person, "What have we done as a nation to deserve having Sarah Palin and Snooki thrust into the public consciousness? Why do every action of Paris Hilton, Bristol Palin, Lindsay Lohan and Lady Gaga make headlines? Is this the contemporary version of some Biblical punishment?"
In a word, yes. And it's tempting to blame it on Bravo and its unceasing flow of effluent in the form of its reality programming. These shows are about as real as the women they purport to reveal.
I've seen the pilot for the Beverly Hills spinoff and it's hard to imagine a more reprehensible group of people being given national exposure on a cable network. The subjects include the soon-to-be-ex-wife of Kelsey Grammer (who used surrogates to bear her two children and four nannies to care for them), a woman who is part owner of the Sacramento Kings and two former child stars (who happen to be sisters -- and aunts to Paris Hilton).
Their lives appear devoted to conspicuous consumption. The show is about minor personality dust-ups between said women, about who slighted who, who was unappreciative of what favor, who has more money (and status) than who.
Meanwhile, the concept of "real housewives," well, forget it. Real housewives wouldn't draw ratings. Real housewives are trying to figure out how to pay the bills, how to spend some quality time with their kids when they're forced to work two jobs because their husbands have been laid off (no doubt by the husbands of "real housewives"). Real housewives want that 10-year-old car to last a few more months, even though they have no idea how they would replace it, even with a car of the same vintage.
Yes, I understand the appeal of these shows -- and also the way they dull the minds and intellects of all who watch them. Bravo obviously doesn't own a patent on creating garbage, but it is absolutely an industry leader in its production.
Its effect is to help dumb down a world already dashing toward the realm of the brain-dead. The prevailing theme among this country's right wing -- aside from promulgating fear about everything -- is to foment suspicion of anything resembling more than the most fundamental thinking. There is an anti-intellectualism running rampant in our politics and our people -- and the shows on Bravo only help the simple-minded who embrace the idea that having intelligence is somehow a plot -- or a way for smart people to be mean to people who aren't. And that complaining about the conscienceless existence of the rich amounts to "class warfare."
Once upon a time (back in the Paleolithic era), the Bravo network was where you went to watch high-quality arts fare. Everyone knows how huge the profit margin is on programming that actually forces you to think.
Then Queer Eye for the Straight Guy happened. And suddenly Bravo became the go-to brand for the worst sort of reality-TV trash. And it's spread like a virus.
Certainly, Bravo isn't the only such crap factory.
Follow Marshall Fine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hollywoodnfine