As reality television evolves and expands like a wine-throwing version of The Blob, so have the number of cutting parodies of the genre. River Lin looks at some of the best.
With Bravo roaring onto New Zealand screens with Dance Moms, Real Housewives and magnums of champagne in tow, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to hold back the deluge of ‘unscripted drama’ on television. For those who are mad about it: it’s not all bad news. Out of this over-saturated reality market, a slew of spoofs have arisen in recent years, armed with self-aware barbs and wry glances.
By holding up a mirror to the twisted world of reality TV, these parodies examine the bizarre personalities, as well as our strange compulsion to watch them, mouth agape. Why are we so obsessed with navigating the complex web of friends, enemies, frenemies and exes? And what’s with that one random psychic summoned only by blood and the shrill cries of The Housewives?
Regardless of whether you find reality television to be a never-ending nightmare, or if you need it more than Gilda needs her Gucci, here are the best reality TV take downs around:
If you like: The Real Housewives
The Hotwives is an utterly revolting yet glorious take on the reality television genre with its prosthetic-thumb-tip-throwing, baby-flinging fun for the whole family to enjoy.
A play on the Real Housewives series, Real Hotwives features a Frankensteinian blend of different Housewife counterparts on the show. You’ll meet compelling characters such as “Southern Bitch” Jenfer, “The Bankrupt Overspender” Shauna, “The Matriarch” Leona (sporting a Housewives of New Jersey’s Caroline Manzo-esque accent) and the pitiful “Drug-Addled Former Child Star” Amanda, played by Bob’s Burgers’ Kristen Schaal.
With only seven episodes a season, The Hotwives also comes without the impending doom that is The Real Housewives’ steadily-rising episode count with each new season.
If you like: Keeping Up with the Kardashians
Another Period follows the Bellacourts of Newport, Rhode Island, as they attempt to find fame and fortune at the turn of the 20th century. Starring Natasha Leggero as the “smart, funny, ambitious, nice body, soon-to-be-famous” sister Lillian, and Riki Lindhome as the hatchet-wielding “pretty one,” Beatrice, the two sisters come frighteningly close to what we might find in the dregs of reality television’s proverbial glass.
Another Period relishes in the fantastical nature of reality, as well as its horror. We feel for them in their pursuit for fame and riches, and we laugh triumphantly at their inevitable failure – such as their involvement in what would later become a Ponzi scheme – in a way that’s both satisfying and deeply unsettling. Ultimately, Another Period isn’t just a satirical take on reality television through the overt seriousness of the period drama, but a social commentary on topics of class, race, power and sexuality.
If you like: Survivor
Featured in episode 11 of 30 Rock‘s second season, MILF Island is a spoof on the reality competition series, Survivor. In a glorious 30-seconds of comedic gold, mothers must compete against each other to win the title of Mother You’d Like to F***. Unlike the typical niceties and tearful hugging, the host of MILF Island declares to one of the contestants, “Heidi, we no longer wanna hit that,” as her son bursts into tears in the background. Brilliant.
If you like: The Bachelor
UnREAL plays on dating shows like The Bachelor, providing a fairytale romance complete with candle-lit dinners, walks along the beach, a brewing alcohol dependency and a single rose for (almost) every contestant. Who says fauxmance is dead?
UnREAL also examines the producers behind the scenes of the fictional, Bachelor-esque dating competition ‘Everlasting’. Beneath the twinkling surface lies manipulation and disrepair, manifesting mostly in questionable hygiene, sexual assault, declining states of mental health, professional rivalries and the meshing of professional and personal lives. All of these constantly threaten to undo the already precarious semblance of normalcy on the show.
It isn’t just the false pretense of love that is skewered this dark television drama, but the dangerous and deeply unhealthy relationships which are developed in the insular, morally-dubious context of reality TV production. One of the most evident is that of its central female characters, Rachel and Quinn, who loom in one another’s lives as their greatest champions and their worst adversaries.
By watching unREAL, we are offered the chance to see just how far the reality TV rabbit hole goes. Whether that means finding Wonderland – or an abyss filled with the skeletons – is another story.
If you like: The Real Housewives
SNL’s Disney Housewives, another parody on the ripe-for-the-picking Real Housewives, follows a disastrous “castlewarming” and dinner party between the Disney princesses. Using gags such as Snow White getting high-fived by the seven dwarves, Jasmine’s money problems and Prince Charming’s love of shoes, the skit is the perfect mix of the Real Housewives’ hostile relationships and Disney’s insistence on “happily ever after”. Worth watching and rewatching.
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