Since the groundbreaking premiere of The Real Housewives of Orange Country in 2006, television network Bravo has established itself as the authority on all things reality television. In its run, Bravo has produced a colorful array of reality shows that explore everything to the world of design (Project Runway) to the untold stories of the glamorous women in Utah's Mormon community (The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City). The network really does run the gamut.
Currently, Bravo's cash cow is its Real Housewives franchise, but other series are rounding out the network's top performers, among them the chaotic Vanderpump Rules. A 2013 spinoff of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, the show features the former employees of restauranteur and former Beverly Hills housewife Lisa Vanderpump's chain of restaurants in Los Angeles. The series focused on the tumultuous personal and professional lives of Vanderpump's bartenders and servers.
Over the years, the cast of Vanderpump Rules has evolved, and by "evolved," I mean that many of them have somehow become more terrible than they were when we first met them as bright-eyed LA transplants working the day shift at Villa Rosa. In 2020, they are still a swirling mess of toxic friendships, drunken meltdowns, and very problematic personal politics. Slut shaming and bullying in this day and age? Can't relate.
No one's watching reality TV to feel uplifted (there's Netflix's Cheer for that), but after awhile, watching these grown people do absolutely nothing except drink and fight amongst themselves every episode gets old. The majority of the original cast doesn't even work at any of Vanderpump's restaurants anymore — the restaurant mogul has since recruited new faces to fill their vacant positions — so, like, what's the point?
If you're one of the many OG Vanderpump Rules fans experiencing Bravo burnout, I'd like to point you in the direction of Summer House. The network's dark horse, Summer House is the reality show to pay attention to. The series was first introduced in 2017; Bravo slickly phased the new show's cast members into the storyline of a Vanderpump Rules episode so that fans would have no choice but to tune in. And boy, am I glad that we did.
Summer House's cast is made up of a group of hardworking New York millennials who head to the upper-crust East Hampton town of Montauk every weekend in the summer for uninhibited debauchery and good times. Unlike Vanderpump Rules, it's relatable content; even if you've never experienced the blessing that is summer Fridays (so sorry), we all know what if feels like to live for the weekends.
The house's residents are a colorful bunch, and its revolving doors have welcomed a host of new faces since its premiere in 2017. But there are three Summer House staples worth paying attention to. There's Kyle Cooke, the aspiring entrepreneur with a tendency towards Tom Schwartz-levels of a blackout drinking. We've also got his right-hand man Carl Radke, a six foot-something giant who means well but doesn't always do the right thing. And Lindsay Hubbard is the glue that keeps the house together — and the walking cyclone that tears it apart.
Interested in drama? There's no shortage of that in the Hamptons. No spoilers, but mess and mayhem are two of Summer House's most prominent features (along with their annual irreverent July 4th bash). The show is teeming with tension between friends, between lovers, and even between co-workers.
Work is a big theme for the reality show; if these millennials don't work, they can't afford to party in the Hamptons every weekend in the summer, and that would be very, very bad for obvious reasons. Although most of the action is based in the summer house, the show does offer glimpses into its cast's professional lives. Maybe it's just me, but there's something about seeing reality television actually showing people doing work that gives it some level of substance. Again, some series can't relate.
Still, Summer House is not without its problems. Like many other Bravo series, the show isn't super diverse. Danielle Olivera and Amit Neuman were the only only people of color living in the house; Neuman has since been replaced by two other white men, and Rivera has been downgraded to a friend this season. Its lack of diversity could be blamed on its premise — though I'm quite certain you could find some Black and brown people partying in the Hamptons — but it also speaks to a problem that Bravo has been trying to solve for quite some time. The network has ramped up its lineup with new series starring people from various cultural backgrounds, jumping off the success of Shahs of Sunset and The Real Housewives of Atlanta to produce series like Mexican Dynasties and the upcoming Family Karma. Obviously, it's not perfect, but we're getting there representation-wise.
Like its network, Summer House is evolving; its cast members are growing up and stepping into the next phase of adulthood. For some, that means addressing their fear of commitment by way of marriage. For others, that's learning how to hold down a job (and their liquor). Any way that you look at it, it's a guaranteed good time all around.
But just don't take my word for it. Check out Summer House for yourself when the fourth season premiere airs tonight on Bravo. Thank me later.