“Everyone in Salt Lake City knows the story of Mary and her stepfather.
Mary Cosby is an inaugural actor in the new series The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, which premiered Wednesday night on Bravo. Slim, beautiful and fabulous, she is the image of a reality TV star, renowned designers as she stirs the drama around cocktails. She also happens to be a Pentecostal First Lady, who inherited the empire of churches from her family when her grandmother passed away.
There was a caveat when taking over the business: As the will stipulated, she would have to marry her grandmother’s second husband. So Mary brags about her Valentino dress off the catwalks, and she brags about her 21-year marriage to her own stepfather.
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The year 2020 has been bleak. We deserve it.
It’s a thing for The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City to deliver, just on paper, reality TV gold like this. It’s unapologetic weirdness in the spotlight as we watch. Yet the ladies keep all their promises.
If you’ve watched the premiere Wednesday night, you’ve seen a new series that investigates both what worked and what didn’t on Bravo shows from the past – these ladies know what to do when the camera is on, that’s for sure – and whoever, in his own way, rewrites these rules.
As veteran installments of the Real housewives the franchise spits and struggles with their relevance as audiences demand a more diverse, more self-aware and less self-aware show, Salt lake city joint The Real Housewives of Potomac to prove that the franchise is still unmatched as a reality TV distraction or guilty pleasure – but you have to refer to it while enjoying watching – while finally interacting with real-world conversations about privilege, race, sex, shame and agency.
The series also marks the introduction of something new to Real housewives: moral.
If the (tired) criticism of Real housewives is “Shouldn’t these women know better than to behave this way?” then these women answer, without remorse, literally “Yes”.
The first episode of RHOSLC opens with a great cut of cast members explaining the principles of the Mormon Church – politeness, sobriety, loyalty, mercy – and then examples of those who tear up guns, dance with strippers, are accused of business and read cruel cruelties.
For more than a decade, the genius of all Real housewives where you’re supposed to know exactly what kind of woman you’re about to watch running onscreen based on which city she’s in. Did Teresa Giudice manifest the Real Housewives from New Jersey where did the Real Housewives from New Jersey manifested Teresa Giudice? It’s a chicken or egg logic problem for the modern age, but the point is, you could practically imagine it just by reading the words “Real Housewives from New Jersey. “
The genius of RHOSLC Yes, you definitely envision a certain type of person when you think of the place’s inextricable association with the Mormon Church. But the women on this show, who all have life-defining connections to Mormonism and invoke it constantly, are nothing like what you would expect.
Jen Shah lives in an Instagram-worthy cabin in Park City. (Is this the first time we see snow on the ground Real housewives episode?) She is originally from Hawaii, and also has Tongan and Chinese heritage. “But in Utah, I’m black,” she says. “Because they don’t know any better.”
She grew up a Mormon but her husband, a football coach at the University of Utah, is a black Muslim, so she converted. “They didn’t accept black people into the Mormon church until 1970, something,” she says. She could not be part of a religion that did not accept her husband and children.
In what is undoubtedly a first in an episode of Real housewives, she shouts: “As-salamu alaykum, bitches!”
Heather Gay is an instant fan favorite. She is shown at the Botox salon she owns. “It’s like putting your hand in a river of money, because achieving perfection is a Mormon hobby,” she says.
She considers herself a Mormon pioneer, with every descendant of her lineage having roots in religion. She married “Mormon royalty”; her husband’s grandfather was Howard Hughes’ driver and henchman, and the tycoon left part of his estate to the family. But now she’s divorced, sowing her oats and indulging in all the things “that don’t fit a good Mormon woman.”
Every biography of this cast is fantastic. It satisfies what has been one of Bravo fans’ most frustrating desires and remedies one of the franchise’s biggest flaws.
Because the show’s cast are so preoccupied with keeping up appearances and exist in a state of illusion, they often act as though they are moving to their Beverly Hills mansions and Upper East Side apartments. Much of the off-camera scandals and tabloid fodder expose the lies about their worth and track record. RHOSLC all over there with happiness, step-grandfather-husband and everything.
“If the (tired) review of Real Housewives is “shouldn’t these women know better than to behave this way,” then these women answer, without remorse, literally yes.“
Meredith Marks is Jewish and originally from Chicago and her husband is only part-time because he does business there, a disappointment for her but a godsend for the televised relationship drama. His son Brooks, 21, an insufferable gay icon after just 15 seconds onscreen, is about to put on makeup and find every opportunity to transform into a reality TV star.
There is Lisa Barlow, who is “Jewish by heritage, Mormon by choice”. She and her husband own several liquor companies, a fantastic conflict of moral code and financial interests. “I’m sure other Mormons want me to own a tequila business,” she says. “What’s important is that I don’t do it. She is a fan of the Taco Bell drive-thru, a spectacular courtization of public goodwill.
Then there is Whitney Rose. If you are wondering how Mormonism will impact the stories on this show, you should know that Whitney has been EXCOMMUNICATED from the church. When she got married, she had a hot affair with her also married boss, divorced and married him while she was pregnant with their child. She talks about the ten-year effort to get her Mormon parents to accept her again. Juicy!
But again, epic biographies are only worth the paper they’re written on. The show must thrive on the Real housewives life-blood: little drama.
All of this takes place in the respective lives of women, but the central plot of Wednesday’s first episode is a tried and true reality. Housewives clip. This is a birthday party.
You can tell these women studied their predecessors and internalized the mantra that there is nothing too ridiculous. As such, Jen removes all the furniture in her house, stages a step and rehearsals in her driveway, and throws a birthday party at her cottage for someone she barely knows. Plus, she starts an argument so stupid that no one can care about anything like it. But we can relate to investing 15 more episodes to watch the fallout.
The brief summary is that Mary (of Grandpa’s husband fame) had recently complained about kissing Jen at a restaurant and that she “smelled like hospital.”
“What?” you can ask, and I don’t have an answer. Mary isn’t bothered by this bewilderment, repeatedly shrugging her shoulders in confessional talks that Jen smelled like hospital and didn’t like the smell.
As it turns out, Jen was indeed in the hospital before seeing and hugging Mary, looking after her aunt who had both legs amputated. “What do you want me to do?” Mary screams, dismayed that Jen is offended. “Don’t say ‘you feel like hospital’ when she has both legs amputated,” Jen replies, which… that’s right.
The circumstances are absurd, to the point that while you can’t exactly hear a producer say “you’ve got to make a big drama out of this,” you can detect the whispers from Jen and Mary’s internal monologue that pretty much do. (You could say the same about Heather and Lisa’s gossip about Lisa not remembering Heather when they were students at BYU, but heard things about her flashing her boobs and breaking the honor code.)
This is far-fetched. It is consequent. It’s a one-minute story thread in one of the most subversive reality series I’ve seen, featuring a refreshingly diverse cast, and doing what this franchise was meant to do in the first place. : feed our morbid curiosity in a world we cannot relate to and do not understand. Joseph Smith would be shaken.
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