Will political correctness, obligatory to DC culture, prevail over BRAVO TV’s demand for drama? DC consultants and power women weigh in on what will make the show successful and what will make it fall short.
Life in the capital city is still as hard on marriages as the old West was said to have been on women and horses. Political spouses have been uprooted to move to D.C. often leaving them without a clear role or identity. While she’s busy getting involved with a new school, a new church, and a new circle of friends, her husband is surrounded by women lured by the trappings of power. And power is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Life in D.C. is like being on a fast treadmill and it takes little time for people to believe their own press clippings.
A Washington housewife is often torn between how assertive she should be and how to act at, say, a White House reception. Political correctness is always a concern if a wife doesn’t want to be an ex-wife. And a Washington wife must stay informed by reading mandatory newspapers, blogs and watching the Sunday talk shows.
Perhaps that’s why one young lobbyist told me that by the time she gets home, spends time with her children after dinner, puts them to bed and spends time with her husband, catches up on the news of the day and tackles the work she brought home with her, she has “no interest in reality TV.” And another 30-something woman who does not work outside the home, said she’s tied up most of the time. “Once school starts for my children, I don’t stop until evening,” she said. “I find reality shows invasive and crude.” In keeping with political correctness, neither wanted their name used.
“The Real Housewives of D.C.” is in development as part of a successful franchise — season two of Atlanta Housewives is now airing — but contrary to the last few months of rumors, has just recently been picked up to series for Bravo (a NBC Universal Cable Network). NBC Universal spokesperson, Johanna Fuentes says the show has not yet started taping, again, contrary to rumors. Half Yard Productions in Bethesda, MD., is developing the series. Previous franchises have been successful in New York, New Jersey, Orange County, CA., and Atlanta.
Juleanna Glover, consultant for the Ashcroft Group, says “DC is more professionally oriented and less cat fight oriented” than Atlanta and the other cities so it would be a different show. “A serious and ethical reputation is the most valuable commodity in this town,” she continued. “Any reality show based here would have to preserve those qualities.”
“Everyone wants to be on TV,” says Thomasa Burton, president of the Burton Advisory Group, a gala event planner for both non-profits and social soirees. “It’s all about entertainment and drama. And I think people want to see what life in D.C. is like. It’s the hub of society.” She added, “Audiences will be looking for good dirt– politics and sex.”
She feels that “housewives” in D.C. are like those in other cities but “they live bigger and better because of the politics here.” She envisions the drama of a D.C. housewife in a car with her driver rushing to a luncheon when they have to stop for the presidential entourage going to Five Guys for a burger. Or one housewife is hosting a party when she discovers that another is throwing her pet charity bash on the same night. Which party will attract the “A list” guests?
Burton thinks the show can work if it has “a political hook.” “Politics is behind the scenes sex,” she explains. “It’s a power thing. Money or politics is power. Combine ‘Sex in the City’ and politics; it’s sane but sexy.”
Despite rumors, no one has been cast for the potential series at this time, said NBC Universal’s, Fuentes. Glover suggests they pick one of the “brilliant young reporters in town with a fascinating life, keeping in mind that the reporter would never endanger her professional reputation.”
Burton thinks the women cast would have to be divorcees who had been married to a politician or a guy with a lot of money left so they can afford to be social and to have face lifts. She visualizes the housewives as “edging on 40 because they wouldn’t be as politically correct at that age.” She also notes that the casting should reflect the racial and ethnic diversity in D.C. “There’s a new group here. The Administration is younger. They are moving up and shaking everything down,” she says. A reality show works because all of us do something stupid . . . or uppity. . . and that’s drama as well.”
“Washington is fashionable,” says Burton. “But it’s Black Tie — not White Tie anymore — for the big balls and galas.” Even Washington dogs are fashionable. Burton visualizes an episode where a housewife rushes into Chichie’s Canine Grooming Spa in Georgetown insisting on an immediate appointment so the pup’s hair is coiffed in time for her dinner party that evening; or where an event planner used yellow decor, and the hostess was not shown in the most flattering light; or a housewife’s dilemma when her housekeeper didn’t have papers; or a hostess makes a faux pas and sits a next wife adjacent to an ex-wife. That’s where the political incorrectness fits in.
After all, this is what DC is all about.