Real Housewives: Ladies Who Launch

As a meta-comment on TV itself, the phrase “jump the shark" is now the age of the average bare-chested contestant on “Survivor.” Could it be, therefore, that as an expression, “jump the shark “ has perhaps jumped the shark? Certainly, it’s such a knowing, insider-ish take on TV that by now it has become a reference to a reference. Even the writers on “Arrested Development” slyly recreated the action for Henry Winkler’s character in one episode, as have writers for “The Simpsons (The phrase was famously coined after Fonzie himself waterskied in his leather jacket on a special episode of “Happy Days.” Ay!)

So, if jump the shark is indeed getting long in the tooth (or two sets of teeth), what could succeed it as a way of describing an outlandishly fake and grasping, attention-seeking gimmick? How about “toss the leg”

That’s as in “toss the prosthetic leg” -- the one with the hellaciously pricey Jimmy Choo shoe attached to the foot that "Real Housewife of New York City" amputee Aviva Drescher actually used as a projectile weapon on RHONY’s recent season closer. Apparently having the limb disengaged and at the ready, she hurled the latest designer accessory across the table at Le Cirque, in the direction of her fellow housewives, while announcing that it was the only “artificial” thing about her. (Changing the expression from “ladies who lunch” to “ladies who launch.”)

Where to begin? With the fact that Bravo actually promoted the shot of the well-shod device lying on the floor, poignant and bereft like a sad orphan, all season, so it was no great surprise? (But it was still a shock in this, um, well-heeled context.)

Or that the producers and casting execs apparently hired Aviva last year with the famous Chekhov line about the revolver in mind (If you see it in the first act, it has to go off by the third)?

Otherwise, she hasn’t contributed much to the story line, except for all her various complaints and neuroses, and the fascinating revelation that asthma can be caused by reflux. (Her disgusting, sex-crazed, X-rated father and creepy, sex-crazed ex-husband are another story.) But you see, I’m already getting in too deep.

I’m not proud that I know way too much about it, but by now watching has devolved into a guilty non-pleasure. And I swear I’m not going to continue. (Really, I mean it!)

I got pissed at Aviva when she and Carole Radziwill (a respected journalist and TV producer, who probably made a big mistake agreeing to be on the show at all), sunk to new lows by engaging in an epic on-camera fight. That’s when the single-limbed one, who probably lied about not using a ghostwriter for her own book, “Leggy Blonde” accused Carole of having a ghost for her books. Aviva maintained that writing her memoir in one summer was "easy," just like "writing a long email." And Carole, a real writer  (and no housewife), burned. 

A writers’ fight on RHONY? This was not only a “toss the leg” moment, it practically sunk the show and our entire civilization. Because as people have stopped reading books, celebrities are the only ones who get to write them.

Since it started in 2006, the whole franchise has become a revolving door of narcissistic, ever-desperate, variously false-eyelashed, hair-extended, nipped-n-boosted contenders, all ready to put their crumbling marriages/ felonious or cheating spouses/embarrassed children on camera in exchange for the promise of possible book/
fashion/liquor/music/underwear/handbag/microwave oven tie-in deals  and the possibility of being worshipped. This makes watching the actual “reality” of the show rather tiresome. Also, they have learned from their predecessors that brawlers get more screen time. So if they are not monsters to begin with, these Housewives-come-lately all learn to play them on TV.

The series was actually misnamed from the start, as these characters were neither real nor housewives. The gold standard is Bethenny Frankel, one of the original "Real Housewives of New York" -- a single workaholic entrepreneur, a chef by training who barely eats but had a rabid appetite for work, fame and fortune.

After several seasons of filming, she was able to sell her SkinnyGirl Margaritas line of for $100 million. (It has since expanded considerably.)

Also during that time, viewers got the pleasure of seeing her sitting, pants down, on the toilet waving a pregnancy wand, freshly out of her urine stream, to announce to the cameras that she was pregnant. This augured a special wedding program, (she married the father, Jason Hobby) and a new family series, “Bethenny Ever After.” But the show was cut short as the marriage turned into an epic divorce battle. You’d think that the reverse fairy tale of Bethenny’s life would dampen the ardor of some of the others, but it has not.

Then again, “toss the leg” is an outgrowth of the scene that put the whole series on the map: “Toss the table” with Teresa Giudice, the New Jersey Housewife who overturned a table at a dinner with the force of ten men, while calling fellow Housewife Danielle a “prostitution/whore” in front of her children. Even Teresa, the mother of four daughters, would probably admit to not having a terrific grasp on the English language or grammar, but to the chagrin of writers everywhere, her books are on the bestseller lists of the The New York Times, and she constantly adds to her food empire. She needs to: she and her husband Joe have been indicted for tax fraud and other crimes in the off-season, and the pall of a possible prison term hangs over this season of the Jersey Housewives like a blingy sword of Damocles. 

A cautionary tale? Never.

Indeed, Aviva understood that each episode has to have at least one table-tossing tentpole event -- and she, okay, went out on a limb. The  promo material for her book says: “When Aviva was six years-old, she was in a farm accident when her left foot got severely hurt at a friend’s upstate New York dairy farm. A few months later her leg was amputated as a result of that accident. Aviva has never let this tragedy define who she is.”

No, she hasn’t. Except for having scene after scene on RHONY in which she talks about removing her leg to swim, or falls. In another episode, she is sent to have a pedicure. Then, of course, she came up with the projectile stunt as a way to deal with her fellow sharks.

But as Woody Allen said: “A relationship is like a shark. It has to keep moving. And what we have on our hands is, unfortunately, a dead shark.”

Actually, with RHONY, what we have on our hands is a dead shark, with a Jimmy Choo shoe on it. Indeed, there are enough last-legs joke to go around.

Whether she is a nightmare or just playing one on TV, Aviva is one cold fish. And the whole leg-toss has sunk the show, and the franchise. RIP, Real Housewives. You’ve got no more legs to stand on.

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15 comments about "Real Housewives: Ladies Who Launch ".
  1. Maria Elgar from HARDTRIBE , August 6, 2014 at 8:18 p.m.
    am i in heaven? miss Barbara blogging on the real housewives? it may be a dead shark with a jimmy choo shoe on it but i admit i'm a watcher. all of us watchers flock to vulture for the recap and commentary. i would be loyal to you ONLY if you recapped the episode. sigh ... well i will just throw that one into my jimmy choo bag o'dreams!
  2. Edward Shain from EMS Associates , August 6, 2014 at 9:12 p.m.
    Wait. The entire column's about RHONY being done? Toast? Over and out? Damn! I've missed the entire series :: sob :: Oh, the humanity!!
  3. Ruth Thomas from Second helping , August 6, 2014 at 10:45 p.m.
    Each season I watch every group of housewives. I vacillate between thrill and revulsion. Very clear in my head, I know I shouldn't watch, but then a fascinating fight occurs, someone spills "their truth" someone spills their wine, Botox parties and high colonics and I am putty in their hands. They are the sirens on the rocks. With no powers of resistance, i am pulled to these surgically corrected women, then I am beaten on the rocks with the shame of watching! Today something happened that I thought was impossible..."the Hot Housewives of Orlando"...An AMAZING parody of these shows. How can you parody something that seems to already be a parody? Well it is a riddle inside a riddle....worth contemplating!!! And, this show has legs!!
  4. Rob Frydlewicz from RAF Consulting , August 7, 2014 at 2:04 a.m.
    The 1970s had Norman Lear, the 21st century has Andy Cohen. Both have been called programming geniuses but Cohen's is accompanied by ironic quotes.
  5. Dyann Espinosa from IntraStasis , August 7, 2014 at 6:44 a.m.
    "...all ready to put their crumbling marriages/ felonious or cheating spouses/embarrassed children on camera in exchange for the promise of possible book/fashion/liquor/music/underwear/handbag/microwave oven tie-in deals." I'm wondering why no toasters were part of the string of bling, considering their importance to every household--even those of "Real Housewives."
  6. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER , August 7, 2014 at 7:51 a.m.
    There must be an expression for the moment when someone realizes he is truly out of it because that moment has come for me right now. I know the Fonzie episode and the jumping shark notion and even that a prosthetic leg played a part in a TV show (the Sopranos), but everything else in the column was way over my head. Enjoyable reading, though, and the comments, too. Maybe it's like the way I see baseball these days. Better to read about the games than actually watch them.
  7. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , August 7, 2014 at 8:58 a.m.
    A bunch of overpriced women making themselves feel better by dissing disgustingly looks more like a microcosm of the horrid bullying children are experiencing. Great teachers, they. Selfishness on steroids.
  8. George Parker from Parker Consultants , August 7, 2014 at 5:31 p.m.
    I'm with Tom here. Trying to keep up with Barbara as she so magnificently dissects all the stuff going on out there makes my head spin. How she fits all this in whilst running the "Lippert Tuba Academy For Young Ladies" is a mystery to me. Time for a Martini. Cheers/George "AdScam" Parker
  9. Gary Krasnow from Fosina Marketing Group , August 7, 2014 at 7:31 p.m.
    I’ve never seen a full episode of a Real Housewives show and this post hardly makes it enticing for a 59-year old male. I am a disabled person, however, and I bring a slightly different perspective to this discussion. While I as susceptible to schadenfreude as much as the next person, it is always a little different when it hits close to home. But there is a great alternative. I would urge reality junkies to give the series "Push Girls" on Sundance a try. What could be better than watching a flock of gorgeous women who face tremendous real-life adversity and are up to the challenge? It is so much more compelling than the fake reality that is smothering the airwaves these days. I believe all of the episodes are available online.
  10. Sandy Pochapin from Renewal by Andersen , August 7, 2014 at 9:32 p.m.
    I'm a RHONY watcher and was a Bethany Ever After fan as well, (a girl has to have her guilty pleasures!) so I got all the references and I thought Barbara's take on the series was hysterical and very accurate. Just one more reason I love Barbara Lippert's commentaries!
  11. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2013ac.com network , August 8, 2014 at 5:48 p.m.
    If the Loud family had just given their decision a bit more thought decades ago, and said "no", we wouldn't have to suffer through all this now.
  12. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com , August 8, 2014 at 10:49 p.m.
    Yes, the Louds were the first reality family. While filming, their son came out and they divorced. A friend sent a tweet about this that said that Aviva must have had an extra leg at the ready. Will have to check out "Push Girls."
  13. Jim English from FJC , August 11, 2014 at 11:21 p.m.
    Still trying to figure out the "Housewives" thing. That term got redefined in a hurry in the last decade. Wasn't Housewives the home-bound females that shared the stage with Mr. Clean, The Man from Glad, and that Ajax Laundry Detergent White Knight -- about 50 years ago?
  14. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2013ac.com network , August 11, 2014 at 11:42 p.m.
    Jim; if you ever do manage to figure it out, please let us know. That series is a puzzle. Besides not having a "real housewife" in the entire series, the fact that the shows are so popular is scary. I can understand watching them just to feel superior, if embarrassed for humankind. But learning that those freaks of nature are actually role-models for some viewers makes me want to retreat to the wilderness. I watched a couple of the locales for a couple of seasons, hoping to find even one person worth tossing a life-ring to if I saw them drowning, with no luck. If there are alien life-forms "out there" learning about us via TV transmissions, I'm sure that they've decided we aren't worth enslaving. Too high-maintenance.
  15. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com , August 12, 2014 at 8:30 a.m.
    Jim-- yes, those were the days when lonely "housewives" got help from these men who dropped in who were expert cleaners! A psychiatrist at the time said, "stronger than dirt really means "stronger than your husband!" And Chuck: yes!