- Real Housewives Of Salt Lake City -'RHOSLC' Broke An Unspoken 'Housewives' Rule That Really Paid Off
When Real Housewives of New Jersey premiered in 2009 it really set a new precedent when it came to casting. We'd never seen family members on a Real Housewives franchise before, and the New Jersey women were a tight-knit, highly dysfunctional group of sisters, sisters-in-law, and godmothers to each other's children, and it was TV gold from the get go.
But, as we've recently learned, casting true friends and family isn't the only way to make great television, at least, from the jump. Enter: The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City.
When we first met the women of RHOSLC, we took what they said about their existing friendships at face value. This was a group of women we knew nothing about, after all; there were no pre-conceived notions or expectations, so when they'd detail how they all knew each other, we believed them.
We were led to believe that Lisa Barlow was kind of the Jill Zarin of the RHOSLC; she was the nucleus who actually recruited Jen Shah, Heather Gay, and Meredith Marks. Whitney Rose is, of course, Heather's third cousin and Mary Cosby, well, she was recommended by a friend of Lisa's.
But now, as the second season goes on, I'm not so sure those ties were that strong. They may have existed, but they were not forever-bonds. Because when the Shah-rrest happened, it became abundantly evident that these women aren't actually friends. And even though it breaks with the unspoken Real Housewives formula that's worked for over a decade – real friends and family fighting over real things – the Salt Lake City ladies' lack of meaningful friendship history was working in their favor.
Because, as we've seen play out post-Sharrest in Season 2, these women owe each other nothing.
They will throw one another under the bus, or confront each other in the middle of a photoshoot for their son's new haircare line. They will bring everyone into the back room of a party for a brand re-launch and demand answers about a prejudiced comment. They will call their lawyers before their friends. They will eat the snacks of a friend on the run from the law. They will hire private investigators to get to the bottom of harassing texts, becuz they think their friend is sending them. They will call each other cult leaders, racists, and, maybe the worst word you can call someone in Housewives' canon: they'll call each other liars.
To put it bluntly, they don't seem to give a genuine, single fuck about each other. And it's fantastic. Because when it comes to close relationships on Housewives, I think it can actually work against the entertainment factor.
Look at RHONJ, aka the Teresa Giudice show. When she got arrested and served time away at "camp," her cast members, who were generally life-long friends and family, didn't really hold her accountable or hold her feet to the fire. They called prison, "camp," as Teresa insisted, and took her to yoga retreats.
Whereas with RHOSLC, they are ready to play honest and dirty, googling alleged crimes, calling up old acquaintances to get dirt, forming and discussing theories around a supposed web of criminal and/or cult-like behavior. Since they don't hold each other in their hearts, because they're not "thick as thieves," they will go for the jugular.
Every single week, I am rattled by the ever-changing group dynamics. The mayhem that has followed Jen Shah's arrest is something even I couldn't have predicted, and I've been watching these shows for 15 years. But, I've been watching actual friends. It's not the same with RHOSLC. Every single woman in the group has a strained relationship with at least two of her cast-mates at any given time:
- Whitney is fighting with Lisa about anything and everything
- Heather is fighting with Jen about not always being a great "friend" to her
- Jennie is fighting with Mary about giving her re-gifted shoes
- Lisa is fighting with Meredith about not being able to get over her issue with Jen
In one episode, we watched Meredith go after Lisa, Mary console Jen after lying to her face saying she didn't talk about her, and at one point, everyone was yelling at Jen that they all were talking shit. It was iconic, to be honest. Imagine sitting at a table and people are fighting over who talked the worst shit about you. Chef's kiss.
There is the flip side, of course, because conflict is only so fun to watch before it becomes annoying. Look at Real Housewives of Beverly Hills: before Erika Jayne's drama, we were fighting over dogs and who ate whose pussy. But the difference is, all the women on RHOSLC are ready to hold each other accountable and call each other out because they don't have bullshit alliances like the "Fox Force Five."
And because Salt Lake is such a new franchise, I'm finding that viewers are not that tied down to having "teams" yet. Sure, we have the people we like more than others, but these opinions change like a snowflake in the wind.
Season 3 will be the real test for Salt Lake City. If Jen isn't on the show anymore because she's in jail, or quits, or whatever, this group of non-friends won't have too much to dig into. Their fights could become too petty to be interesting. (And spare us another Brooks Marks fashion show, puh-lease.) When there is a lack of deep, personal history and their catalyst for drama is locked up, the group dynamic could suffer, and the show could become very boring.
But for now, if RHOSLC has showed us anything, it's that in a world of Melissa Gorgas and Teresa Giudices, we can have a group of virtual strangers give us some of the best inter-personal drama I've seen in a while. And to quote queen Lisa Barlow – I love that.