When The Real Housewives of Miami debuted early last year, I was skeptical. It was the seventh iteration of a franchise showing its strain. It wasn't originally planned as a Real Housewives and was being retrofitted for Bravo. And it came after the disastrously boring Real Housewives of D.C. a chapter marked more for the White House party-crasher scandal than anything exciting on the tube. After watching it, my fears were confirmed. While there were definitely some interesting characters, the action was a slog. When Bravo renewed the show, I rolled my eyes. Why would they want to pour even more money into a dud?
Well, as usual, Bravo proved me wrong. The show's second season has come roaring back to life with just as much drama, pathos, and bats***tery as any of the other vaunted editions of the show that have existed for much longer. (It still might not be better than my beloved Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, but it's getting close.) Did you even see the fight between Adriana and Joanna at Lisa's lingerie party in last night's episode? That there is even a sentence like that to type is a testament to the show's success in reshaping its destiny. What is curious is that this comes right on the heels of a revamp of the Real Housewives of New York which wasn't nearly as successful.
Here are a few reasons why I think rejiggering Miami worked, whereas futzing with New York was a bit of a wash.
Add, Don't Subract: Other than Cristy and Larsa, who both moved away, all the girls from the original Miami cast are back again. This gives the people that we already know and love ways to interact with new people and different ways to interact with each other. This seems like the best way to revive a show. New York fired a bunch of long-standing housewives (including Jill Zarin, Alex McCord, and Kelly Bensimon) and hired new ones which, yes, gave the three remaining Housewives new people to interact with, but it put too much of the burden on the new girls to bring the excitement and not enough on our old standbys. Also, Miami, the largest cast of any of the shows, proves that having more women can cause more controversy.
Hire an Entourage: When New York cast Aviva, Carole, and Heather, they pretty much just got the ladies. Well, Aviva did bring along her nymphomaniac retiree father George and he was one of the highlights of the season. Miami has really capitalized on the secondary characters this year. Not only did lingerie model and Dancing With the Stars alum Joanna Krupa join the show, she brought her sad, crazy sister Marta (who slept with Girls Gone Wild impresario Joe Francis), and her hot tempered boyfriend Romaine along with her. Lea Black stepped up and got her drag queen friend Elaine Lancaster to stir up plenty of trouble. Karent brings along her Telenovela actor boyfriend Rudolpho. Let's not forget the continued existence of Marysol on the show is probably because she comes with her lovable mother Elsa. These shows aren't just casting individuals, but the partners, friends, loved ones, and other hangers on that come with them. Remembering that has helped Miami launch into crazytown.
Go Legit, Stay Trashy: Joanna Krupa is by far the big "get" of season two. Thanks to her other reality show stint, she had a bit of notoriety coming into the season, something that seems to be a qualification for new Housewives. New York looked for high profile people, but forgot that we're not watching someone's résumé on TV every week. We need all the personality that goes along with it. That is why Krupa is the full package. Yes, we know her name, but the action surrounding her relationship and her family has been a treasure trove of dysfunction for Housewives fans to pick apart. And let's not forget her temper, her penchant for being a mean drunk, and those glorious boobs that she so often puts on display. She might be a big name, but she's right down there in the muck with everyone else.
Follow the Crazy: The best New York recasting was Aviva, because, well, she was obviously crazy. She tried to hold it in like it was some big secret, but by the end of the season all her phobias were out, all her indignations cataloged, and her absolute kookery was totally on display. It's a good idea to always follow the crazy. Whoever found these new ladies for Miami has a better nose for nuts than the Planter's logo, because all of them have a serious case of psychosis. Not only do we have Joanna and her messed up family, but let's not forget about Ana, a woman who is separated from her husband for years but won't divorce him even though they're each dating other people. That's bonkers. And we can't even get into Karent, a woman who is so insane that she has a parasitic "T" living on the end of her name and won't do anything about it. Any reality show is made on its casting, and when it comes to Real Housewives, the closer they are to needing a straightjacket, the better.
[Photo Credit: Bravo]
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Over the next few months, we’ll see new series soar, old series sour, and so much Jersey Shore madness, we’ll want to shower. Let’s face it: The Fall TV season is intimidating. With dozens of new and returning shows hitting our small screens, we know we have some big choices to make. So, to help you determine what to watch, we’re digging deep into the most notable series premiering this season. Where did each show leave off? Where is it headed? And who should you watch it with? Today, we're checking out the return of 30 Rock. But can it pick up the pieces?
Series: 30 Rock
Premiere Date: Thursday, Oct. 4 at 8 PM ET
Number of Seasons: Entering its seventh — and final — season.
Cast: The thinking woman's superhero Tina Fey leads a large, wildly talented, and eclectic ensemble that includes Words with Friends aficionado Alec Baldwin, song-and-dance woman Jane Krakowski, everyman Scott Adsit, human Muppet Jack McBrayer, human sad trombone John Lutz, slacker extraordinaire Judah Friedlander, token hottie Katrina Bowden, and the man who got you pregnant while you were reading this, Tracy Morgan.
Synopsis: Liz Lemon (Fey) is the overworked, underappreciated head writer of a late night sketch comedy show called TGS on NBC (owned by the illustrious KableTown). She's surrounded by her merry (well, sometimes) band of misfits that includes her business tycoon boss Jack Donaghy (Baldwin), the self-absorbed cast members of the show, Tracy and Jenna (Morgan and Krakowski), and fellow loony coworkers like loyal page Kenneth (McBrayer) and intellectual hired goons Grizz and Dot Com (Grizz Chapman and Kevin Brown). Liz is trying to juggle her crazy work life in addition to her equally crazy love life, which has included dating the likes of a beeper salesman who appeared on To Catch a Predator, a handsome doctor with a hook for a hand, Wesley Snipes (not that Wesley Snipes), and a ficus plant that resembled Bon Jovi.
Where We Left Off Last Season: Liz seemed to be on the baby track with her adorable, sane, IKEA-hating, hot dog-selling live-in boyfriend Criss (James Marsden, at long last getting the girl); Jack and Avery (Elizabeth Banks) became happily divorced; Jenna was blissfully engaged to Paul (Will Forte); Kenneth and Hazel (Kristen Schaal) all made us wildly uncomfortable with their first kiss; finally, Tracy chose Tyler Perry as his new role model in life.
What Might Happen This Season: From the looks of that spectacular photo above, Jenna goes through with marrying Paul (who will presumably have the same dress as his bride). Whether or not Liz marries Criss is still up for debate, though pictures released from the set of 30 Rock this summer implied that they — or, at least, she — goes through with adopting a baby. Elsewhere, Jack might finally convince Nancy (Julianne Moore) to move out of Bah-stin and live with him in New York, where he's the CEO of KableTown, while Angie (Sherri Shepherd) and Tracy continue their television dominance. And Dr. Spaceman will, naturally, become the Surgeon General.
You'll Like It If: You like quick-witted comedy that's as smart as it is silly.
You Won't Like It If:You're a dummy, dummy.
Emmy Love: Thus far, 30 Rock has received 57 Primetime Emmy nominations and have gone home with 14. From 2007 to 2009 it won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series, the same three years Alec Baldwin won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. Tina Fey earned Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 2008 and Elaine Stritch won the 2007 Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her performance as Jack's unrelentingly judgmental mother Colleen.
Ratings: While 30 Rock has always been an awards show and critical darling, the series never went far beyond its cult status to become a major ratings player. In its first year, it averaged only 5.8 million viewers, while Season 6 had its lower viewership yet with 4.5 million. (It came in at a dismal #130 for the 2011-2012 season). 30 Rock had its biggest ratings year back in Season 3, averaging 7.5 million viewers. Still, despite low ratings, the popularity of Fey, the show's fervent fan base, and the fact that it's available on Watch Instantly on Netflix, kept the show alive.
Key Soundbites: "I want to go to there!", "Blergh!", "HAM!", "What the what?", "Lizzing!"
Key Facial Expression:
Wine/Food Pairing:Whatever wine Angie throws in your face during an episode of Queen of Jordan, paired with Night Cheese.
What to wear while watching it: A tux… it's on after six — what are you, a farmer?
What to yell at the TV: "Good God, Lemon!"
The Tao of Lemon: "I believe all anyone really wants in this life… is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich."
Inspired Halloween costume: If you're single, go as Liz Lemon as Princess Leia on jury duty. If you're in a couple, go as James Franco and his body pillow Kamiko.
Who to Watch it With: Your equally nerdy, comedy-loving friends.
Who Not to Watch It With: Someone who doesn't know how to shotgun a pizza if the moment calls for it and/or a Canadian.
If You Like This, You'll Love: DVD marathoning Arrested Development, The Larry Sanders Show, Parks and Recreation, and Community
[Photo credit: NBC]
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