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BravoTheValleyOfficialCastPhoto.jpg

'VPR' Is Dead, Long Live 'The Valley,' the New Mecca of Messy Reality Drama

By Emma Chance | TV | June 7, 2024 |

By Emma Chance | TV | June 7, 2024 |


BravoTheValleyOfficialCastPhoto.jpg

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a million times: reality television should be fun and stupid. What used to be a genre about shameless, voyeuristic schadenfreude has, in recent years, become a vehicle for hero worship with little to no line between fact and fiction. People used to say to me, “You know those shows aren’t really ‘real,’ right?” when I professed my love for The Real Housewives of New York City or The Bachelor. “Yes!” I would respond and then, “Who cares? You know Lost wasn’t real either, right? It’s called entertainment!”

I wholeheartedly could not care less if reality shows are covertly staged, scripted, or manipulated, because the formula of sticking cameras in the faces of a bunch of ridiculous usually wealthy people has never failed to make me cackle. But lately, it’s not as fun or stupid as it used to be.

Take Vanderpump Rules, which I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about. Before this recent season, the show was on its way out. The worst of the characters, Stassi Schroeder and Kristen Duote, got real-life canceled and therefore fired from the show. This was shocking to me because, as far as I knew, the show was about documenting all of the cancellable shit those two did. No one watched the early seasons of VPR and thought, “That Stassi might be onto something!” These were stupid 20-somethings doing stupid stuff to make us laugh with second-hand embarrassment and say to ourselves, “At least I’m not them!” Without any villains to hate, the show was tanking.

Until the most villainous thing to ever happen on Bravo happened: Scandoval. I’m not going to rehash the whole thing for you again, but suffice it to say, it saved the show. Did you read that right? A stupid, hate-able thing done by a stupid, hate-able man made the show better. It isn’t rocket science, people!

Well, it saved the show … briefly. Scandoval broke at the end of VPR season 10, but we saw the aftermath in season 11. I was hopeful that my bad people behaving badly show was back—and, trust and believe, Tom Sandoval did meet my expectations of badness—but, alas, season 11 sucked. It was like the rest of the cast was so over the whole thing and so unwilling to share their lives or their real feelings about anything all of a sudden, so it got boring. This used to be a show of cursing each other out in the back alleys of West Hollywood restaurants, and now they’re all grown up and crying about babysitters. LaLa Kent, one of the most hateable people on the show, was the only one who seemed willing to speak honestly about her feelings, which were basically, “Why do you still live in the same house as your psychotic ex?” and she got reamed on the internet for it because the fans were all worshipping at the feet of Ariana Madix, the victim of the Scandoval cheating scandal.

You can’t blame Madix for closing herself off and getting boring, considering she lost a decade of her life to a terrifying narcissist (I know we’re not supposed to throw diagnoses around, but if there was ever a case for clinical narcissism, it’s Sandoval). She made it clear she didn’t want to represent anything on the show that wasn’t true to her life off the show, so she wasn’t going to talk to her ex in front of cameras when she wouldn’t do it in real life. Good for her and completely understandable, but it doesn’t exactly make for good television. So, most of the season was a lot of scenes of her telling her friends she wouldn’t be friends with them if they remained friends with her ex, and then scenes of her friends trying to remain friends with her ex. She’s basically said as much as “I had a contract” for why she didn’t just quit, and I respect that, but I think she took the brand down with her.

While VPR was imploding, The Valley was cooking just a few miles away. Remember my favorite worst person, Kristen Duote? She’s back with her terrible buddy, other VPR alum Jax Taylor, and their gaggle of “friends.” Valley required little marketing or explanation—most of these people were already recognizable to the fans, and the ones who weren’t instantly fit in for their whining and marriage woes.

Marriage woes are the main storyline of Valley. The cast is mostly composed of couples, and those couples are mostly getting divorced, first and foremost being Taylor and his now estranged wife, Brittany Cartwright. The show is really just documentation of Taylor being a giant asshole to his wife (that she could probably use in divorce court, not that I know anything about that), and it ended with them splitting up in the finale on Tuesday night, with Cartwright moving into an AirBnB with their son. Jesse and Michelle Lally also broke up, and the rest of them are having babies and yelling at each other.

Honestly, there’s no one to root for on this show. In certain scenes between spouses, there are good guys and bad guys, sure, but for the most part, it’s bad people behaving badly. Which is why it works. There won’t be a reunion (too many lawyers to work around, probably) but it’s already been renewed for season 2, and everyone is reportedly set to return, despite them all genuinely despising each other. Like, not a true friend in the mix, as far as I can tell. Just a handful of greedy enemies. My favorite.

Meanwhile, VPR is “on pause,” to use the Bravo parlance, and with Madix performing on Broadway and hosting Love Island and doing every other brand deal capitalism throws at her, I’d be shocked if she came back, which I think will be the nail in the coffin. The only solution I see is to send the last of the villains, Sandoval and Kent (and sometimes Scheana Shay) to The Valley to join in on the chaos. Kent and Shay already live there anyway!

The Valley is better than Vanderpump Rules because the people are worse, and they have no shame. Just as it should be.