Sunday, June 20, 2021

The Housewives: The Real Story Behind the Real Housewives by Brian Moylan

More than a decade ago, I watched my first Real Housewives show with the launch of the New York cast. Bethenny Frankel had me at "Get off my jock," and whenever she was on, I was glued to the screen.

A lot of years passed where the antics of the housewives held no appeal for me, but during Bethenny's brief return to RHONY I got hooked again. I even started collecting more Housewives shows, like boxes of crap piling up in the basement until it becomes too much and you'd like to ditch it all and feel renewed, but you can't let it go. I'm up to five different cities, and plan on hitting up Hulu to give Orange County a try from the start, too. I just can't quit 'em. 

Given all that, you can imagine my sincere excitement about The Housewives: The Real Story Behind the Real Housewives. I follow the author, Brian Moylan, on Twitter where I enjoy his episode recaps and have him to blame for dangling new Housewife franchises before my eyes, leading me into temptation with a glut of kooky reality shows I now watch. He also turned me onto Summer House as well, for which I both thank and curse him in equal measure (I lost a lot of sleep binge-watching past seasons!).

The description of this book promises the "inside scoop" on the Housewives, supposedly spilling the details on things like how much the Housewives really earn and more. I could barely contain myself! I wondered how he got all the juicy details, given how tight a grip I assumed Bravo kept on the behind-the-scenes stories. I mean, knowing for certain how much direction producers give to scenes and storylines would be kind of like finding out how a magic trick is done — you think you really want to know, until you find out and suddenly the trick loses all appeal.

But if he was spilling beans, I was ready to pick 'em up and risk the fallout of knowing how the donuts get made. Unfortunately, there's no risk of being put off by secret details from this book. It has none.

This book is mostly a research paper on the backstory of Bravo itself, and reality TV, and the various Housewives franchises. That's mostly it. He doesn't tell you how much cast members really make, he merely has a little vague info about a few paychecks and that's it. The most interesting thing he discovered is that Bravo pays for the group trips (but of course they do! no big secret there), and even that he only got because a fan asked the question at a BravoCon panel.

Here's the thing: I feel sympathy for his situation, because when Bravo found out he was doing a book, they apparently tried to get him under their thumb to control the book's editing and marketing, as well as take 10 percent of each book sold, or else they wouldn't cooperate. When he rightly said nope, they proceeded to tell everyone they were not allowed to talk to him. I guess even past Housewives were afraid it would hurt their chances of ever being brought back in some capacity (which is a thing that happens, so they have reason to hope).

I'm glad they didn't manage to intimidate him into not doing a book at all, but at the same time, it's a completely different book without any insider info. As it is, it's an extended report for your high school history project where you decided to do the history of the Real Housewives (I say this as someone who got an A on a history project about Duran Duran once upon a time, and I think it's a legit topic if approached with seriousness — for a class assignment, not a book that costs $15 on Kindle).

Also, while the author couldn't have known Bravo would pull the kind of stunt they did and try to get their greedy little hands in his pockets, he had to know insider details would be hard to come by because Bravo would have either NDAs or undue pressure of some sort to prevent it. When I first caught wind of this book, I thought, huh, how's he gonna get any interesting intel, surely people have signed agreements not to reveal the nuts and bolts of how episodes and storylines get made? But then I thought whelp, I guess he found people willing to risk it and dish, maybe people with a chip on their shoulder who were fired will speak up? But he apparently didn't really have much of that. Why would he ever think he could get his hands on juicy production secrets, given how careful Bravo has been about letting this type of info get out? Or that his book would be interesting without it?

I can't answer those questions. All I know is that the most generous rating I could give this book is 2 stars, but I hated to do that. This book must've taken a lot of work and been pretty damn stressful to undertake as he realized doors were getting slammed in his face by Bravo. For that reason, I decided not to rate the book at all in order to avoid bringing down his ratings with a 2. That's all the book deserves from my perspective, but Moylan didn't deserve the crap he got from Bravo, either. I wish him well and hope many readers buy and enjoy this, even if I didn't.

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