Just How Charming Is Southern Charm?

Photo: Rebecca Miller/ Bravo.
I’m from the South and I love drama. So when I was asked to review the season 4 premiere of Bravo’s Southern Charm, I immediately said yes. Moments later, I mentally scolded myself for not having watched the show sooner. I’m from the South and I’ve been told I am quite charming, I thought to myself as I queued up the premiere, with no prior context to the series. I expected spiked Arnold Palmers, Lilly Pulitzer, poodles with monogrammed collars, and maybe a scorned ex-lover throwing a drink on a preppy-looking white man wearing gingham.
But oh no, you guys — this show is a wild ride! It’s like a fancy Jersey Shore, with A-plus blowouts, Mercedes Benzes, and very expensive alcohol. The cast looks like a squad of golden retrievers brought to life with their shiny hair, perma-smiles, and penchant for being looked after (daddy and mummy pay for more than one of the character’s expenses, allowing their full-grown spawn to continue putting the "fun" in funds). It's like classy, yet trashy TV — like drinking champagne while you eat your Ben & Jerry's straight from the pint.
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During the series premiere, airing April 3 at 9 p.m., I went through a flurry of emotions right off the bat. I felt like I knew the cast right away because they are, for lack of a better word, the most basic people, ever. I am going to describe to you four of the cast members (TBH, they're the only ones who bring the juicy drama) and what to expect from them this season, since I know you haven't watched the show either. (But you should, because it's better than the news.)
First there’s the only brunette in all of South Carolina: Landon. She doesn’t wear a lot of makeup, travels a lot for her fake blog, was formerly married to a man who called himself the “James Bond Brit.” (Talk about a red flag.) She married him in her early 20s after they had a meet-cute during ski season in Telluride (I know). The two later moved to California where she had everything her little peach-shaped heart desired (she’s from Georgia), but what she really wanted was her freedom. So she left to return to Charleston (she went to College of Charleston) and star on this reality show. (Fun fact: Her husband also used to be married to Stacy freakin’ Dash. They also have a teenage daughter together.)
Then there’s William Shepard Rose III (I only add that to let you know the level of pretension we are dealing with here, although there are two more pretentious men that we will get to shortly). He, of course, goes by Shep. Landon is infatuated with Shep because they went to college together and because Shep, as I am led to believe, is a successful a ladies man. He’s attractive in a “hot summer camp instructor” way; he hits on girls 10 years his junior and gets away with it because he doesn’t seem 36 at all. He has floppy hair and is quite tall, which means you can get away with murder in a place like South Carolina. He always is up to party and has a penchant for putting on a speedo when he’s drunk. (Landon and Shep should get married and have children and then move to the beach. Together, with both of their parents money, they can give their own family the world! And by the world, I mean Charleston.) He also has a protégée arrive this season, who is a younger, boozier, and blonder version of him. His name doesn't matter yet, but for some reason we do see a close-up of his bum in the episode within minutes of meeting him.
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Then there’s two men I am lumping together because they are both A. too old to be hanging out with the rest of the cast and B. extremely peacock-y. Meet Whitney Sudler-Smith and Thomas Ravenel. Oh my Jesus are they awful. Thomas was a politician until he got arrested for possession of cocaine and has since had two children with a young, redheaded cast member (Kathryn Calhoun) and gotten arrested for a DUI in East Hampton. He’s 54. He has his children living in his pool house with a nanny because he doesn’t want them to mess with the expensive furniture in his main house. He has the face of a man who thinks the world revolves around him and he is somehow the hub of constant lady drama. Currently, the rumor is that Landon and Thomas slept together (which, Landon, gross if that’s true).
Photo by: Brianna Stello.
L-R: Craig Conover, Patricia Altschul, Landon Clements
At a pool party in the episode, held at some other (random blonde) woman’s nice backyard, the producers try to make it look like Landon and Thomas have eyes for each other while sipping on frozen rosé, but really Landon is dating a 24-year-old with abs, so I see this Thomas-Landon thing sizzling out, ASAP.
Next up is Whitney, who lives with his martini-drinking mom named Patricia, an ex-New York socialite delightfully jaded by her opulent lifestyle, butler and all. Together, they are a confusing duo. Their set-up that feels part Norman Bates and part Grey Gardens. Either way it’s weird, and he tells his mom he went to Mexico and smoked pot the whole time (he always looks kinda stoned). He is also an executive producer on the show, because why not. Although he's in the first episode, drinking with his mother and gossiping, he isn't in the promo image for the season, which is fine with me.
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And lastly, we have to talk about the messiest girl on the series (who is thus slated for reality show infamy): Kathryn. Kathryn’s family also has long-standing political ties (her great-, great-, great-, etc. grandpa was the vice president of the United States in the mid-1800s) and she has previously dated another politician, in addition to getting mixed up with the scorned Thomas. At 24, she is the youngest cast member on the series, but grew up really quickly after mothering two children with Thomas. Additionally, at the end of last season, she entered rehab on the West Coast for drug abuse, but is returning for the fifth, as we learn halfway through the premiere episode when Kathryn calls Craig (lyin’ law school Craig, who is now a carpenter and will surely never practice law) to announce her arrival back in town. In addition to proving herself a fit friend and mom, she also has a long list of grudges she must tend to, Madeline Martha Mackenzie style. I can't wait.
As much as this show is anchored in tired Southern clichés, from the hair to the homes to the gross lack of diversity, it’s still eons better than the likes of USA’s Chrisley Knows Best, or A&E’s Duck Dynasty. These aren't just duck whistle-makers, or new-money titans, or bitter housewives, or fringe Hollywood spouses — Southern Charm presents a new, more private sector of privileged society. It could be a hate-watch; it could also be an interesting case study on those living in a bubble of wealth. Or, in the words of Patricia herself, it's “the most elegant and tasteful show on Bravo TV.” Can’t argue with that.