Something I can’t stop talking about is Bravo’s Vanderpump Rules. It is, without a doubt, the best reality television series.
It began as an offshoot of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and centers on the lounge of Real Housewife Lisa Vanderpump. The show originally portrayed the restaurant’s servers (SURvers) as up-and-coming (ish) models, actors and musicians who were using the restaurant to get by. Now, six seasons in, the cast members have morphed into these weird, emotionally stunted Instagram celebrities who, somehow despite all of the spon-con they hawk, still work at the restaurant and still make the same awful decisions in the latter half of their thirties.
Vanderpump Rules is the greatest show because it’s an actual, deep cut of human psychology. Every single person on the show operates beyond empathy and borders on intolerable. It’s also entirely unscripted. At least a decade into the reality television machine, most things are semi-produced. Fights used coded language that hints at larger, behind-the-scenes drama (that would break the fourth wall if acknowledged). But the drama on Pump Rules is so small, so insignificant, and so completely driven by people who can’t get out of their own way.
Within the first twenty minutes of the first episode of season six, we learn that Jax, a main cast member, (publicly) cheated on his girlfriend of two years, Brittany, with another SURver named Faith, while Faith was working as a live-in home health aide for an elderly woman. This is the first episode.
Ultimately, Brittany, a deeply devout Christian who moved from Kentucky after meeting Jax in Las Vegas, decides to stay with Jax. This is the second girlfriend Jax has cheated on during the show’s run. He cheated on his previous girlfriend Stassi with her best friend, Kristen, who also happened to be the girlfriend of his best friend, Tom.
This initial bomb leaves in its wake deeply troubling ways of coping. There is a lot of internalized misogyny and Peter Pan syndrome on Pump Rules. The guys band around Jax and say that he’s built to cheat, he’s a good person, he deserves another chance. The girls revolve around Brittany and alternately tell her to dump Jax and make him “super-jealous.” Brittany seems hell-bent on “changing” Jax, and he, despite being a serial cheater, finds worth in relationships.
These people act the same on and off camera; they actually are rewarded for behaving badly. But it’s fascinating to watch a group of people endlessly entangle themselves with each other, incapable of not hurting each other, and, despite all of the misery that they cause, remain a group.
Watching Pump Rules, you can catch glimpses of your own personality, the darkest recesses of your being. It’s the id of the reality television world. All of the things you wish you could say, the pettiness and mean-spiritedness and cattiness, are purged away as you watch two 35-year-olds chain-smoke on patio furniture in the alley behind SUR. It’s confession, basically.