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Look, it’s the least sympathetic people you’ll ever see on your television.
Look, it’s the least sympathetic people you’ll ever see on your television.

Pop CultureAugust 16, 2020

Netflix’s Selling Sunset gives you a glimpse of glamour, but not much else

Look, it’s the least sympathetic people you’ll ever see on your television.
Look, it’s the least sympathetic people you’ll ever see on your television.

A new season of reality series Selling Sunset just landed on Netflix. Tara Ward finds that if you set your expectations low, you won’t be disappointed.

If you threw Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Million Dollar Listing and The Hills into a reality TV juicer, you’d pour out a long, tall glass of Selling Sunset. It’s the glittering diamond in Netflix’s reality TV crown, and the third season about the brokers who sell luxury properties in Los Angeles has just dropped on Netflix.

Selling Sunset is basically The Hills for grownups. Both series are executive produced by Adam DiVello, and both are obsessed with showing how the rich and famous live, while also trying to pretend that the rich and famous are exactly the same as the rest of us. They suffer the same heartbreak and worries as we do, they have to replace their hardwood floors when their infinity pool leaks into the house just like we do, and sometimes their super long ponytail extensions get tangled while they’re at a fancy party. See? Just like us.

Succession? More like Recession.

But Selling Sunset is not our world, which is the entire appeal of the show. Selling Sunset exists in a rich bubble of luxury and glamour, a soap opera set in a real estate office. The brokers work for the Oppenheim Group, an elite Los Angeles firm run by twins Jason and Brett Oppenheim, where they earn earn healthy six-figure commissions for every real estate deal they close. They’re so committed to their job that broker Mary sold her wedding venue on her wedding day. I do, $228,875 commission, just your average day.

The true stars of Selling Sunset aren’t the beautiful brokers, but the multi-million dollar properties they’re trying to sell. These mansions belong to the world’s wealthiest people, and Selling Sunset gives us a delicious sneak peek inside these Beverly Hills and Sunset homes. They are, without fail, incredible. Houses with nine bedrooms and ten bathrooms, three swimming pools, golf courses on the roof, and incredible views over Los Angeles. They’re architectural wonders, with no cost spared. Who hasn’t ever wanted Versace wallpaper in the loo? Consider myself influenced.

But money doesn’t buy class, which is obvious in the behaviour of the Selling Sunset cast. Between the open homes, we delve into the lives and loves of the show’s brokers. Mostly women, one moment they’re best friends, the next enemies, and most of the show’s drama is driven by privileged people having petty arguments about irrelevant things.

What on earth is that red starfish in the middle.

“It’s like high school, right? We’re too old for that shit,” broker Maya said back in season one – but that hasn’t stopped Selling Sunset pushing this type of drama through to its third season. Women having manufactured arguments with each other is nothing new in reality TV, but now it feels lazy and old-fashioned. It’s also doing these women a disservice. They’re successful and powerful women working in a competitive industry, and it would be refreshing to see a positive representation of this, rather than playing to outdated female stereotypes.

Season three does touch on some serious personal issues affecting the agents, like Mary’s efforts to sort out her fertility, Chrishell’s divorce blindside, and Amanza’s struggles to balance the demands of single parenthood with a real estate career. And if Selling Sunset is The Hills in a real estate office, then Christine is Spencer Pratt, a memorable villain who takes no prisoners and gives no fucks. Christine shows off her open homes with “botox and burgers” parties, which is definitely a better gift than the shitty blue biro I pinched from my last open home, and her end-of-season wedding is a fabulous piece of melodramatic opulence.

It seems silly to say that Selling Sunset is a superficial watch; of course it is. It’s a show about a group of beautiful people driven to make ridiculous amounts of money by helping rich people sell their homes to other rich people. It’s not solving world peace, but that’s not why we watch. Selling Sunset’s brokers aren’t just selling the houses, they’re selling the dream, and you get exactly what you ask for: beautiful houses, beautiful people, and plenty of drama.

But is that enough? In a world where Netflix reality shows like Indian Matchmaker and Queer Eye offer fresh voices and different perspectives, Selling Sunset is missing a trick. We can watch women argue on plenty of other reality shows, but in a crowded reality TV landscape, it’s the luxury homes that makes Selling Sunset stand out. Give us more amazing architecture and opulent living and back it up with a supportive sisterhood, and Selling Sunset would fly like Christine’s ponytail extension in a warm Beverly Hills breeze.

All three seasons of Selling Sunset are available now on Netflix. 

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