The first — and likely only — season of Bravo’s reality show “Princesses: Long Island” aired last night. When the show premiered, several writers here at the Sisterhood, myself included, weighed in on what we thought of the show’s portrayal of 20- and 30-something Jewish women on Long Island. Although plenty of viewers were outraged by the show, I’m a big fan of reality TV and don’t think that a single reality show can change the way people view a specific group or culture. But how do I feel after 10 episodes of “Princesses”?
The finale centered around the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur holidays and the concept of tashlich. In the penultimate episode, there was an argument at a winery that resulted in Ashlee, the cast’s standout horror show, having a panic attack and going to the hospital, where she was … given a Benadryl. The group’s ringleader and wannabe peacemaker, Chanel, suggested a meeting of all the cast members (er, “girlfriends”) to make amends and apologize for everything they’d done to each other during the year (aka “season”). There were a ton of tears, but there very little real emotion — and that summed up the problem with this whole show.
Could it get any worse? On June 2nd Bravo will debut a new reality show titled “Princesses: Long Island,” starring half a dozen spoiled women in their late 20s, all of whom are Jewish, according to the show’s publicist. If the series can be judged by the promo, they will give the already-offensive term Jewish American Princess a bad name.
The promo starts off with some woman who sounds like the love child of Fran Drescher and Joan Rivers screaming, “Guess what I have? Manischewiiiiiiitz!” and moves into a scene of bikini babes jumping into water when one girl screams “I think I broke my vagina bone!”
The stereotyping comes fast and furious: One girl says “My farklemptness is making me shvitz” and then another, who appears to be sitting in a limo, says, “Hasidic Jews, how do they get their curls so perfect?” At a bar, one of the characters says in a thick Lawng Oyland accent, “Are you guys Jewish?” Then someone named Erica drunkenly sings “Hava Nagila,” before falling flat on her face.
The hit Bravo series “Shahs of Sunset” follows some members of the tight-knit Persian community in L.A., aka “Tehrangeles.” The show’s stars play pretty traditional reality show staple roles, such as the brassy girl who starts fights and the snarky gay dude, but there’s also a focus on a less-popular reality show storyline: religion. Most of the show’s cast members are Muslim (although not all of them are practicing), but both male regulars are Jewish or have Jewish identities.
Real estate agent Mike is Jewish and has mentioned several times how he’s a minority within the show and the Persian community at large. His friend Reza, the show’s breakout star, is the son of a Muslim mother and Jewish father, and he still struggles with rejection from his paternal relatives. However, one perspective is missing from this eclectic show: that of a Jewish woman.
“Shahs of Sunset” dropped one guy and added one girl this year for its second season, bringing the cast to a female count of four. Asa, Golnessa (aka GG), MJ and Lilly are all from Persian Muslim families. We see a lot of the cast members with their relatives, so we’ve heard about how Asa’s father was a top commander in the Shah’s navy before seeking political asylum in Germany and how GG’s parents spoiled her so badly that she’s 30 and has never held a job. Compared to the almost always absent parents on “Jersey Shore” and most of the “Real Housewives” franchises, the “Shahs” parents get a huge chunk of screen time and help flesh out the impressions of the Persian community in California.
On “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” plastic surgery and divorce are more common party discussion topics than religion or faith. But Kyle Richards, the very first Housewife cast in the franchise, is Jewish. She did an Orthodox conversion in order to marry her husband, Mauricio Umansky, whose family is Russian Jews via Mexico.
Kyle and Mauricio’s religion occasionally comes up on the show, but it mostly serves as interesting background material. Kyle’s real hook is her lineage: her oldest sister is Kathy Hilton, mother of Paris and Nicky, and her other sister is fellow cast mate Kim Richards. Both Kim and Kyle were child actresses, though Kim was much more successful, and the leftover resentments from the different ways they grew up are still causing problems between the two sisters today. Stir in the fact that Kyle and Mauricio’s marriage seems strong and their children are young, plus the fact that Kim is twice-divorced with adult children, and you have a recipe for conflict — which is exactly what “The Real Housewives” is all about.
Although we don’t see Kyle attending services or celebrating holidays, there are signs of the Umanskys’ Jewishness sprinkled throughout the show. There are mezzuzahs and other Jewish symbols in their home, and Mauricio’s mother Elsa makes references to the family’s Jewish identity. Right now, Kyle’s storyline is about being a busy wife and stay-at-home mom, so we get plenty of glimpses of Alexia, Sophia, and Portia, her three daughters with Mauricio. Sophia is 12, so perhaps a bat mitzvah storyline will be coming up?
Patti Stanger should take her own advice.
The “Millionaire Matchmaker” was on Bravo TV’s “Watch What Happens Live” Sunday night (unfortunately I can’t find a video version to share with you), talking with host Andy Cohen, who seemed by turns disgusted and perplexed by what Stanger had to say.
Now, unlike Ilana Angel from the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, I like watching “Millionaire Matchmaker.”
My current guilty pleasure is “The Real Housewives of New York City. ”Watching their “reunion” on Bravo Tuesday night was like watching a sack full of expensively bejeweled, super-skinny, couture-clad cats in a sack claw at each other. But hilariously.
Going by their names, looks and mannerisms — hey, if we can’t stereotype ourselves, who can? — I’m guessing that two of the “housewives” are Jewish: Bethenny Frankel who’s single and a natural foods chef and cookbook author, and Jill Zarin (nee Kamen), a fund-raiser for several charities and mother of a teenage girl, Ally Shapiro.
Ally did this interview with New York magazine about her “Jewish momma.” Not only is Zarin the funniest of the bunch, she speaks with a bit of a Brooklyn brogue, which as a naturalized citizen of the best borough makes me like her even more. She’s kind of the hoity-toity super-rich girlfriend I’ve never had and hope one day might invite me for a shopping spree on her AmEx black card.
Part two of the catfight — I mean reunion — airs Thursday night. Tune in!