So there sat two of this site’s writers last night, taking in a late screening of Public Enemies in the corporate comforts of Town Center. Just before the show, the following exchange occurred:
Dino: Have you seen this Unreal Housewives of Kansas City?
Ryan: Uh, what?
Dino: Yeah. You need to check it out. It’s… something.
I did as suggested, and now — well, now I don’t know how I feel. See for yourself by watching the pilot:
Well. Maybe your reaction is similar to mine. Is this the best thing you’ve ever seen, or the worst thing you’ve ever seen? Oh, and what’s the over/under on time passed before the inevitable copyright infringement lawsuit?
Okay, so we have five mostly local actresses (you can meet them all on the official site, which provides all kinds of unintended hilarity) making webisodes of about 3:00 each, most of which revolve around stale jokes about being a cougar, marrying money, seeking younger men, and the daunting obstacles of superficiality.
So is it funny? Well, not really. Look, let’s agree on something: cougar jokes stopped being funny about 8 months ago; when SNL makes a cultural topic a staple of a recurring sketch, you can bet that the moment for that topic is beginning to fade (like the old maxim about Time magazine covers). Second, superficiality can only take humor so far. When each character comes off as shallow and vacuous, scenes start to grow pretty repetitive. Witness the montage in episode 4 of the group at Mosaic: it’s a seemingly interminable scene with a recycled pattern of about four themed shots.
The acting is, we suppose, just fine and decent (with the exception of the character of Marci, which seems like a pretty blatant imitation of Jenna from 30 Rock), but what are the actresses given with which to work? They drink, the complain about husbands, and they seek younger men. Okay, that fills about two scenes. But six episodes? Time to create something new.
And yes, we understand the point of such satirizing. The vapidity on the real-life equivalent is stunning, especially in the current New Jersey incarnation. But simply referencing something does not good comedy make (nor does it meet the requirements of irony, as we suspect some people will rush to incorrectly declare this). It’s the same trend that’s sweeping Hollywood’s satire films like the Scary Movie series: including a depiction of Britney Spears as a questionable mother is not funny by itself — it just shows that you’re aware of the reference.
In the same way, this “show” tries to depict itself as hip through a variety of sly ha-ha-it’s-true statements (“There’s no cabs in this town”) and inclusion of well-known KC spots. But proximity to something hip does not equal hipness, as Joey Bishop can tell you. Yes, there are probably many rich, bored JoCo housewives who hit Mosaic on a weekend night — but how is that funny? The incongruity of a situation is usually what reveals comedy, not the perfectly logical placement of token characters in a similar setting.
So: the Unreal Housewives. An admirable attempt and an occasionally effective satire. But all in all? Just not that great.