My editor presents me with an excellent, retro, public high schoolish task. Compare and contrast Bravo's NYC Prep (three status-clawing episodes in) and Bravo's upcoming Miami Social. I like this assignment because it relieves me of the burden of having to compete with the 1 billion other people writing about Michael Jackson's televised memorial service (I got choked up when his daughter spoke, just like you should have) and takes my mind off how our elected officials are about to fuck us all out of a public health care option and also about the next Korean war that I think debuts right after Miami Social . This is why there's Bravo. They make it easier to sleep at night.
Okay, so NYC Prep is this show where some spoiled prep school kids (and one public school ragamuffin from the streets) cavort about in a "Peanuts"-like, parents-erased Manhattan. And I think they really did digitally remove the adults from most of the footage. I have a friend who works in post-production and he once spent weeks disappearing some wrinkles from the face of an aging A-list actress for a romantic comedy that went on to make billions of dollars. This can really be done. So I assume that in some of the scenes shot in homes that there probably was a person over the age of 17 sitting in the room and cluttering up the aspirational portrait of floppy-haired teens lounging luxuriously on piles of money, but they just got obliterated from the shot after the fact.
Miami Social is about a bunch of really gross people. Some male, some female, some gay, some straight. And that's it. Just these people tossed together that you're supposed to give a fuck about for no reason other than that they are in Miami, studiously avoiding the camera crew following the Gimme Sugar Miami girls around, and tossing out bitchy comments. There's no glue holding them together that is not the show itself. The show says that they're all friends and that they are the people who "make Miami spin." But after watching the rough cut of the first episode (disclaimer on DVD: some of what I saw might not make it to air, or, in reality TV lingo, "EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS ABOUT TO CHANGE"), I believe they all became friends the day they met for casting callbacks.
Now for the compares and the contrastsâ€¦
The Prep kids exist at Christmas time in Manhattan, swaddled in cashmere (except for when power-ennui-er PC goes to Cancun and rolls himself like a piece of Shake 'N Bake chicken in the sand) and puffy coats. Then they sit around the Robert Longo-painting adorned penthouses of their invisi-parents and talk about how tiring it is to be so rich. Seriously, they're exhausted. It's pretty great.
The Miami Socs live in a place where it's always hot and sweaty and clothes are just these dumb things that get in the way of being as attractive and abs-announcing as possible. I've never been to Florida, but in my mind it's this swamp of incest and malaria and serial killers, the way Flannery O'Connor would have wanted it. I think that if you choose to live there then you are probably somewhat mentally ill already. I know this because I live in Los Angeles, which is sort of like Florida without the hundred-degree temperatures and the alligators.
Major Plots and Intrigues
The Prep kids shop, hire stylists they hate, play pool badly, drink sodas, and dream of having sex with each other. There's a lot of talk about pursuing, acquiring, maintaining, and disdaining social status. But because the show focuses on such a small group of kids who already seemingly know a lot about each other, actual social climbing is beside the point. This week a pet dog died. Two of the girls went to a place where resentful non-TV-crew-having teenage employees will assist you in custom-designing your own wealthy, personalized trail mix.
Then when you aren't looking they will spit into it. But more importantly we were treated to the sight of PC passively wandering around on a drunken Cancun night, allowing his friend (and apparent crush-object) JP to dangle liquored-up, deflowerable teenage lady-tourists in front of his disinterested face. Finally, the elaborately hairstyled Sebastian had dinner with his actual father, a man who is nearly bald and working what looks like the last embarrassed gasp of a comb-over. GAZE INTO THE FUTURE SEBASTIAN! SWOOP THAT MANE NOW WHILE THERE'S STILL TIME!
The Miami Socs preen, smoke, drink cocktails, pretend to work in real estate, get pedicures, sexually harass people they work with, look at their own reflections in little pools of non-potable water, forget to button their shirts, and radiate the fear of aging in tsunami-sized waves of panic, rage, and tacky fake glamour. In episode one, two of them (I don't know names yet and to learn them feels like giving in at this point) work out on the beach, two of them have angry role-playing sex, two others decide to get divorced, and one gay has a fat woman kicked out of a party. Because she's fat.
For the NYC Preps, when school is out, complete sentences cease to exist. Words float randomly in frozen-breath circles above heads, replaced by gestures, stammers, and meaning-filled bang adjustments in an inadvertent mumblecore film of their own making. "So what are we doing?" says one teen who might be asking about the status of a potential love-match or merely confused about what's supposed to be happening after the director yells "Action!" And the answer to that question is a sheepish "I dunno."
The Miami Socs, older and more verbal in spite of their collective compulsive quest to let their bodies do all the talking, spew out streams of empty quotes. Read on for some winners...
*One of three sun-tanning women who just learned that one of their own throws shoes at her boyfriend when she's upset: "I would never break my shoes on a man."
*A gay guy at a spa getting a pedicure while drinking white wine... a man who has just introduced himself as "gay but not a big queen": "I haven't been Botoxed in a while."
*A bisexual single mom who's shipped her 13-year-old daughter off to boarding school: "It makes the moments when we actually see each other much more precious."
*A gay event planner/model booker -- who may be the single most unpleasant, vain, despicable person ever in the history of reality television -- to a female model who shows up for a casting call: "Did we make out once? I've made out with like a thousand girls but I can't remember [you] because I'm sober."
*The gay guy who just got the pedicure: "I want a guy that's hot inside and out. I really want to meet somebody like me ."
Ways in Which the Audience Is Presented With Blatant Lies
The Preps are more guilty right now because they've been on the air longer, long enough for the show to make it seem like one of them was about to die of not having enough social status when, in fact, it was just a dog. Poor doggie. Poor me for not getting what I was promised. As for PC's teased-up, blown-out, decontextualized-sound-bite-driven, potential future gayness? Who knows, really. It might be all talk and no trousers. But don't fuck with me too much, show. I'll have to pretend I've quit you if you do.
As for the Miamis, I already believe that every single minute of it is a lie. I have no proof. I just don't trust a word of this shit. I guess I have to season-pass it on TiVo to find out if I'm right.
Next column: actual substance, important topics, meaningful issues, no discussion of gay pedicures. Promise. Even if I have to watch hours and hours of CSPAN, the BBC News, or that Lisa Ling special about puppy mills.