The Joshes are back! That's the good news and here's the bad: Sadly, there is no Madison Hildebrand on this season of Million Dollar Listing LA, beginning tonight on Bravo at 9 PM. Madison's colleagues Josh Flagg and Josh Altman - who could both easily bicker their way to a spin-off - will be back, and I can assure you after watching, each Josh will not disappoint as they bring the best of their dynamic personalities to the first episode.
Hildebrand released this statement through Bravo in response to his departure: "As an original cast member, I have made the decision to leave the show to focus on new and exciting endeavors. Sharing my life, career, relationships and challenges over the past six years has been an unbelievable journey and I loved every minute of it. I wish for the continued success for the franchise and want to thank my fans, Bravo and my family for all the support." Following his lengthy and vague statement, I was thrilled to get Altman's quick-take in his trademark smart ass style : "(Madison) decided to work on his tan full time...Before, it was just part time."
While I will miss what Madison brought to this always warring, competitive crew of real estate honchos in the hills, where inventory is low but the houses are high (priced), the season premiere is so bloody riveting, with its two new British real estate agents, that by the end you might be asking "Madison who?"
Oh, don't get angry Hildegrand fans. We still will miss Madison and his riffs with the Joshes, his soft-spoken, kind, albeit competitive nature to Josh Altman's ribbing, especially now as we will see Altman in finest form. While he may have previously come across as smarmy with seemingly underhanded tactics, those who love him - or love to hate him - will be captivated. Tonight, Altman will taunt the new blokes on the block (David Parnes and James Harris) by calling them "The Spice Girls" and "you boys" phrased as a paternal, more experienced and wiser challenge. As Altman reiterates to me, Parnes and Harris are in a league behind the Americans with regard to real estate, but we see that they seem poised to catch up, or at the very least, to full-on compete with the Joshes. Welcome to the all boys' club that is MDLLA and now: let's see if these two new recruits will sink or swim. (To its credit, Miami introduced a female cast member to its own Million Dollar counterpart.)
Altman may have stolen Heather away from Madison's firm several seasons ago, but he and Heather have been dating ever since and this season will portray the wedding planning, a process that Altman concedes is "definitely tougher than real estate!" We will also get to see the tantalizing way Josh Flagg charms and courts his clients, even if not entirely by choice. He seems to be the Cougar Crush of the season, with a client calling repeatedly and hanging up out of nervousness. Flagg, to his credit, takes the calls until he and the crushing client are connected.
After watching many of his antics in past seasons, I was a little nervous about conversing with Josh Altman. Maybe it's the innate bad association to my elementary school years and the boys I knew back then who teased just as much and more heartlessly. Hinting at this, but in more flattering fashion, Josh immediately puts me at ease with "Come on! You're just talking to a real estate agent."
He gives me the 411, laughing when I tell him that it is rumored that all the guys truly got along well behind the scenes, that fights were faked. "You must be talking about some other show. It is all real. We can't even be in the same room," he assures me. He makes it clear that Madison Hildebrand is not receiving a wedding invitation and that no tears were shed by he and his fiancé when the former left the show.
"Everyone liked the dynamic we had - Josh Flag, Madison, me...but these British guys came out swinging as far as what I've seen. They want to make a name for themselves and take the top guys down. There's a nice international presence, or at least, a good accent on the show. The properties shown this season are incredible, inventory is low and the market is better than ever." I pause here to note that this is a reality show about real estate and the 1 percent. I can't sell my little house in Jersey which is well below the price we paid. It seems to have shrunken mysteriously over the years.
Shifting my mind's zip codes from 0 to 9, Josh says: "Everyone is very competitive this season and you get to see a different side of me, a more vulnerable side as opposed to the alpha male, super aggressive, confident -some say 'cocky' - realtor."
"I'm excited for the audience to see my sentimental side," he relates reflectively, conveying that underneath the tough guy shenanigans, he is a boy in love with a girl and planning a wedding. Naturally, Bravo TV has captured the emotional roller coaster of that time period and all the frustrations that come with it for the couple, particularly for Heather.
I ask him how he and Josh Flagg are getting along now. Last season ended with a standoff between the two Joshes. Their big blow up was about a listing that Flagg may have snagged, although there is controversy over whose listing it was supposed to be in the first place. Altman, who has frequently ribbed at Flagg for being a "trust fund baby," mentioned Flagg's grandmother Edith during the fight, and that seemed to be a major point of contention for the latter.
Unforeseeable at the time, the wise Edith Flagg just passed away last week at age 94. She was a Holocaust survivor, philanthropist and the fashion designer who came to popularize polyester. On Bravo, she became a TV star alongside her grandson, as she gave him sage advice and fans tuned in and paid attention.
Altman expresses deep sympathies over Edith's death. He has reached out to Josh Flagg and to Flagg's family. Regarding the riff, he says that he and the other Josh have moved on from what we saw on TV last season and adds: "If I had to get bitch slapped by anyone, I would prefer to get bitch slapped by Josh Flagg."
In addition to the new British agents (Altman admits "One is more likable than the other, you'll see" and adds that "they are not in our league" - having brought in significantly lower sales last year - "but they like to think they are."), we will see more of Altman's brother and business partner at The Altman Brothers, Matt Altman. We will also get a taste of how the LA guys get along with our favorite cast members of Million Dollar Listing New York. Many viewers won't complain about seeing Ryan Serhant's face cross the coast lines of reality TV cartography. Altman concedes that NY's eye candy Realtor Ryan is the one who he knows least, but that he and Fredrik Eklund, also of MDLNY, frequently refer clients to one another and have a great working relationship.
While many have waxed philosophical "for the sake of 'sociological research'" about how reality shows are scripted, staged and fraught with retakes, Altman assures me that MDLLA is very real. "Someone always has to be working while the other is filming," he says, in response to why we haven't seen more of his brother Matt in the past. "At the end of the day, so few people can handle what we do with cameras in their faces 10 months out of the year and be successful." Tonight, we will also see that Heather is working with her fiance at The Altman Brothers. That should bring its own set of challenges...
All is staged for an interesting season - or as I'm repeatedly told with regard to MDLLA - "staged" is the wrong word, but you get my gist.