Are you watching that show again?” my daughter Dixie asks, her nose wrinkled in disdain.
“Yes,” I answer sheepishly. “It’s horrible. I know. Now close the door!”
I blame my husband. For years I existed in naïve bliss, unaware of the reality television behemoth known as The Real Housewives franchise. Then, one spring day he convinced me to sit with him while he watched an episode of the series set in New York. Within seconds my jaw fell open.
“How can you stomach this horror show?” I asked Mr. Beasley, who grinned devilishly at my inability to turn away from these women screeching at each other like hungry toddlers, registering every petty slight and grievance all while wearing designer dresses and shoes that cost more than most people’s mortgages. “These people are the worst,” I kept on. “And why is Ramona always drunk? And did her husband really cheat with the nanny?” Just like that, I went from zero interest to full-scale addict in under an hour.
As is true with any new convert, I was initially unbridled in my enthusiasm. I gobbled up every TRH offering. Soon enough though, I transitioned from aficionada to connoisseur, and with that growth came discernment. Not every Housewife spin-off was created equal. In fact, after several seasons of consuming all the Housewives on offer, I realized the only ladies really worth spending time with were the ones from Atlanta. Attorney-turned-mortician Phaedra Parks, model Cynthia Bailey, the indomitable alpha NeNe Leakes (who resembles a linebacker in sequins)—these belles from hell were something their California and New York cousins weren’t—fun!
Sure, they were superficial and stunted and could be mean as cut snakes. But unlike the uptight prudes of Orange County or the inbred psychotics of Jersey, the Atlanta women had a sense of humor. They seemed in on the joke, aware, in a way the other women weren’t, that this was a goofy television show, and as such, it behooved all parties to act like fools and yank off each other’s wigs, to be, in the delicious words of cast member Kenya Moore, “Gone with the Wind fabulous.”
America agrees with me. While ratings for every other Housewives brand have dropped precipitously, Atlanta is netting more viewers than ever (4.5 million and counting). Perhaps this is because the Atlanta housewives resemble actual humans. They represent all different shades. None are on a diet. Most even have their original faces. They are, for reality stars, real. They love their mamas. They parent old-school. All but one of them works at a genuine job, and none of the women truck any nonsense from their men. (These things may be related.)
More likely, the nation has figured out something we’ve always known: If you need to blow off steam for an hour, there’s no better way than in the company of Southern women.