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Daniel Backhaus

RECAP: The Real Housewives of Auckland season 1 episode 1

RecapDaniel Backhaus

Image - Foxtel

Of all the glamorous, jet-setting places you could imagine; I doubt Auckland places highly on that list.

Nevertheless, the powers that be decided that the City of Sails shall receive its own Real Housewives franchise – a blessing or a curse, depending on your perspective.

The Real Housewives phenomenon seems unstoppable. After a few years of a creative lull and a dip in ratings in their US home market, the past two years has yielded five extensions of the franchise (Melbourne, Cheshire, Potomac, Dallas and Auckland) with a further two to launch in 2017 (Sydney and Toronto).

But today we’re talking about Auckland. New Zealand seems like a strange place to cast a show about conspicuous consumption – given the entire population of their country is less than half of the New York metropolitan area.

Regardless, we launch into the obligatory first episode prologue about how <insert name of city/suburb> is the glitziest, most glamorous city in <insert larger statistical area>.

Louise Wallace is our friendly narrator, being a familiar voice to Kiwis as the long-time host of current affairs programs, The Weakest Link as well as some dabbling in acting roles such as Shortland Street.

Louise tells us that Auckland is the city where ‘new money meets old’ and to buy a home there ‘you have to have cash’; unlike in other cities, where we trade goats for shelter.

Anyway, after a brief cut of the most dramatic moments we can expect we get our opening taglines for Aotearoa’s first Housewives.

  • Julia Sloane: “If people are talking behind your back; then you’re the one in front.”

This one’s quite clever, and sort of Housewives 101.

  • Michelle Blanchard: “I used to strut my stuff on the catwalk; now, I’m a model housewife!”

There’s always a “I used to be an X, now I’m a Y” in the bunch.

  • Louise Wallace: “I made my money the old-fashioned way – I inherited it!”

Without context this is pretty naff, but what those outside of New Zealand may not know is that Louise and her family were sued by some cousins a few years ago, who wanted access to a share of the Wallace family trust which has millions in it, not the best look if you’re trying to present as relatable to the public. 

  • Angela Stone: “My name may be Stone; but everything I touch turns to gold.” 

This is kind of dumb. Stones have nothing to do with precious metals to begin with. What she should have gone with is a pun about being soft or sensitive. The choices we make, I suppose.

  • Gilda Kirkpatrick: “I never start a fight I can’t win.”

Gilda doesn’t smile much, so this, combined with her Iranian accent, comes off as more sinister than it sounds.

  • Anne Batley-Burton: “I’m like a fine champagne: I bubble, I fizz and I’m the life of the party.”

This will not be the last time you hear Anne “The Champagne Lady” Burton talking about champagne. #onbrand

Anyway, we open on sweeping shots of Auckland harbour and a Rolls Royce rolling along the seaside roads. Gilda takes a call from Louise, who’s also driving in her electric BMW. I’m sure the producers wanted to make this scene look natural, but it just looks like they’re circling the block.

The point of this bizarre in media res car phone call is to show that Gilda and Louise are neighbours on Auckland’s most glamorous street, Paritai Drive (couldn’t they have just walked next door?) and that Louise is inviting Gilda to a fashion show to kick this whole episode off.

Then we get an introduction to Louise proper. Louise knows what her public image is: kind of a bitch from hosting the Weakest Link and being the serious face of current affairs in New Zealand. She also owns a theatre company, which is her bit of promotion for this series, I guess. She’s got a husband and two adult children, but other than that she’s not particularly exciting – certainly nothing to suggest she’s the complete bitch of the cast, as many may be expecting.

Cut to the fashion show, and Louise is there ready to introduce Gilda with a brief spiel on how she first came to know her. According to her sources, Gilda arrived in New Zealand years ago from Iran, married a wealthy, older man (James Kirkpatrick, net workth ~$175 Million) and has been a staple on the social scene ever since.

Gilda in her own words is a party girl who is also a trained architect but owns and works at her own digital marketing firm. She has two young kids, and grew up in the Middle East during the Iranian Revolution as well as the Iran-Iraq War before moving to New Zealand – so her outlook on life is shaped by harsher realities than some housewives.

Louise then introduces us to Julia Sloane, who ‘lives in Parnell, and likes looking good.’ Okay.

Julia takes us through her history, which includes being a finalist in Miss Universe New Zealand, Face of the 80s as well as some classically cheesy commercials. A bit like a discount Yolanda Foster.

Julia was famously (in New Zealand, at least) married to Dunbar Sloane, an arts and antiques dealer who’s sort of the Kiwi Christie’s, before divorcing him and marrying winemaker Michael Lorimer. She seems to be another social set mainstay in Auckland, and the quintessential Housewife material: rich and obsessed with looking young. 

Back at the fashion show, Louise is just waiting on Angela Stone – who she describes as ‘a big unit’, which is possibly the most Kiwi thing this show has done so far.

Angela finally arrives and, after all the air kissing, gives the other ladies her book on fashion styling. In any other situation, this would be a nothing gift – a ‘thanks for inviting me, here’s something I had lying around’ thing. But, of course, this is the Housewives – so Gilda is kind of offended, like she’s being told that her dress sense is inherently bad. More on this later.

Anyway, we get introduced to the horrific offender Angela. She’s a transplant from Christchurch who’s looking to take her styling and advice business nationwide. She’s very spiritual (eye roll) and there’s some weird yoga that she does in a park where it’s just tossing leaves up in the air. Oh, and she also has five kids (three of her own and two stepchildren.) 

The fashion show rolls on, and Angela seems to be offering a running commentary, which quickly grates on Julia and Gilda. Afterwards, Angela offers that she wants to be the Oprah of New Zealand. Gilda, bluntly, tells Angela that Oprah doesn’t talk as much, and let’s other people say something once in a while.

The next morning, Gilda is meeting Michelle – just so we, the audience, can meet her as well. Michelle lives in Coatesville, which is in the rural north of Auckland on a sprawling estate with husband, David, and two teenage kids.

Michelle is obsessed with fashion, although her house seems like it’s trapped in the 90s: it’s all gold accents and oriental marble. Anyway, because she looooves fashion, guys – she’s surprised to hear that Angela has described herself to Gilda as a ‘fashion designer.’ Michelle and Gilda are clearly the bosom buddies of this series, and will no doubt form a strong power base against whomever challenges the status quo.
Julia, meanwhile, is heading out to wine country to visit Anne – the last piece in our Housewives puzzle. 

Anne is apparently the ‘Dame of Champagne’ and is colloquially known as ‘The Champagne Lady’ throughout the lands. In her piece to camera, Anne casually counts her seven fiancés and ex-husbands, liberally sipping champagne. She’s already my favourite. Plus, she’s married to a man called Richard Burton and they have a scene where they’re just dancing by themselves after coming home from dinner – I mean, that’s living the dream.

Anne also runs cat shelters and charities and makes a lot of double entendres about pussies. She’s a bit like the miniature Lisa Vanderpump of New Zealand.

Anyway, Julia is there to invite Anne to her birthday party and dish about the fashion show. Julia tosses out that Angela committed the immortal sin of giving out a fashion advice book, before moving on to what Anne thinks of Gilda. 

Julia probes Anne on whether she thinks Gilda was a gold-digger for marrying a man forty years her senior. Anne is pretty diplomatic, she doesn’t really want to put herself in it, but Julia puts it out there and baits Anne into buying into the discussion. It’s clearly a play for drama later on, and Julia comes off as a bit desperate.

 So, after some fluff about Julia walking through her vineyard with her husband who wants to attend her birthday, we get to the meat of the episode – where everyone will come together at once.

Julia, Anne, Louise and Angela are all in one limo, but Gilda decides to hire a chaffeur for her own Rolls Royce and brings Michelle along.

As Gilda and Michelle walk up, Angela has already played out a million scenarios in her head. She thought Gilda was rude for not standing up to greet her at the fashion show, and I’m sure her dismissal of her becoming Oprah still smarts.

Angela starts to get to know Michelle, asking her what she did back in her home country of England. Michelle sniffs that she used to be a model, and Julia offers up that Angela is still a model!

“What? Plus-size?” Michelle asks, floored.

There’s a collective moment of teeth sucking as the words fall out of her mouth, as Angela smiles through the humiliation.

Gilda silently smirks, while Anne is highly offended. Julia, a former model herself, thinks that Michelle didn’t mean it in an offensive way, but admits it did sound quite harsh.

Gilda asks what Angela models for, and when Angela says ‘Tourism New Zealand’, she’s kind of shocked – possibly because we’ve never seen her on a poster for the ‘100% Pure’ campaigns all over the place.

Julia pipes up that she used to model, wanting the focus to be on her – but Anne chimes in that she used to model as well. Louise and Gilda just chill out in the corner, the only two to not have walked down a catwalk in Auckland, apparently.

Gilda explains that she’s never had to worry about her appearance for her professional life, which is a pretty succinct explanation – but all of a sudden, Angela is crying!

The lunch kind of stops dead, while everyone tries to ask what’s wrong, but Angela has to leave and go outside to compose herself. Julia and Louise follow her out.

Angela is upset about the plus-size model comment, and wonders whether Gilda and Michelle are ganging up on her. Louise explains that it was probably just a slip of the tongue; Michelle didn’t mean it to come across as so harsh. Julia kind of just stands there.

After the pep talk, they all head back inside, and Michelle quickly asks what set Angela off. Angela is not emotional any more, she’s just pissed off and let’s Michelle know that the plus-size model comment was out of line. 

Michelle, however, will not suffer this gladly.

“Sweetie, with tits like that, you’re not a normal sized model – get over it.”

She’s already heard about Angela from Gilda, and those tears seem to have dried pretty quickly. Michelle thinks that the drama was all a performance, and that she can’t possibly be offended because she’s clearly not the stereotype of the ‘average size model’.

Angela then starts on Gilda, thinking that she’s masterminded this plan to gang up with Michelle. She brings up that she thought that not standing to greet her at the fashion show was ‘disgusting’.

Gilda sort of just sits there, stunned, while Michelle tries to defend it as Gilda just being herself – she’s not as effusive and bouncy as Angela.

There’s a back and forth about Gilda shutting down Angela’s ambitions to become Oprah, which Gilda corrects her and says that she just said to ‘listen more, talk less’ – much like Hamilton.

Louise backs her up, saying that Oprah doesn’t do interviews to promote herself and that she doesn’t think that Gilda was being bitchy by telling her that.

Angela points out she would never be as rude as Gilda, which is the final straw for her.

“You are not that rude? You are rude enough to sit here and call me disgusting!”

“Are you delusional?”

Anyway, they all stop fighting for long enough for Angela to bring in Julia’s birthday cake. Just like the Golden Girls.

And that’s it – first episode done. New Zealand now has an official Real Housewives franchise, and next week Angela and Gilda are still going at it – only this time it’s at Michelle’s house.

RECAP: Real Housewives of Melbourne Episode 8 @Gina_Liano @GambleBreaux @JackieGilliesTV

RecapDaniel Backhaus

image source - Foxtel

We’re off to Dubai, everyone! Pack your bags and let’s see what Melbourne’s bitchiest harem has in store for us this week on the Real Housewives.

Chyka has invited everyone (against her good judgement) to Dubai, because she’s over there for a work trip. Everyone’s excited, especially Lydia who makes pains to point out that she’s been to Dubai for over 25 years, and tries to convince us that it’s her second home. Okay, Lydia, yes, it’s all about you.

To their credit, the producers don’t include a long montage of the women packing (although there is the obligatory shot of the Emirates plane that the production company has snagged to transport the insanity), and we get into the meat of the episode pretty quickly. Chyka has organized for them to stay at the Atlantis, The Palm hotel and some arrival cocktails directly on the beach.

Everyone shows up to the beach, with Lydia and Pettifleur arriving last. All the girls are very complimentary to Lydia on her outfit, but Pettifleur – who shows up in what appears to be netting – gets nothing. She has a cry to Lydia about how no one paid her any attention as she walked in, and that she’s starting to feel hurt by the group’s continued dismissal of her.

Look, I get it. It’s not nice that she’s being actively iced out of the group, but the way back into these ladies good graces is not to have a whinge, but to try and resolve your issues and ask ‘what can I do to irritate you less?’

After they’re done consoling Pettifleur’s ego, Lydia decides to dominate the conversation with how she’s visited Dubai soooo many times, and oh, Chyka, you’ve only been coming here for five years? Well I’ve been coming here for TWENTY-five years, so clearly I’m better than you.

It’s a dick-measuring contest that Chyka didn’t enter, but Lydia definitely comes out looking like a big dick.

The next day, everyone splits off in different group to go and make the most of the resorts activities-slash-bitch about who’s pissed them off.

Chyka and Jackie head off to swim with some dolphins and the normally cool, calm Chyka vents about how Lydia is starting to grate on her nerves with her know-it-all behaviour. It’s interesting to see her get annoyed, because she usually can just let most things go, but in her defense – Lydia is very annoying.

Gina, Gamble and Lydia are getting up close and personal with a sea lion, and after some weird foreplay about how the sea lion keeps wanting to kiss Lydia and how she’s never had that kind of fish near her lips (ugh), they all share about why Pettifleur irritates them so. Gina mainly nails it when she points out that Pettifleur constantly wants validation, but is reticent to give it on anything more than a superficial level back.

Janet, Susie and Pettifleur try the waterslides and then hit the shark tank, but unfortunately not as chum. As soon as they get there, Pettifleur is moaning. There are sharks, there are stingrays, the water’s too cold, whinge, whinge, whinge.

Before she can complain about anything else, we cut ahead to their dinner that evening. Everyone’s well into holiday mode, so of course Janet has to instigate a fight.

Having a chat about Gamble’s wedding, Janet decides to ask if she’s confronted Gina about how upset she was that she had left the pre-wedding party early – maybe/definitely to watch Celebrity Apprentice. Because Gina is a human with the power of hearing, sitting two chairs down she pipes up with her version of events; she wanted to have dinner with her sons. Lydia also points out that if she was on TV, she’d want to watch herself because, obviously she would.

Instead of just copping to it and apologizing to just dead the issue, Gina sticks to her guns and makes Gamble look like the one who’s in the wrong by asking her to just confront her rather than telling all the ladies. Gamble doesn’t have the guts to go up against her, so she just kind of gets steamrolled by her.

Jackie mentions that maybe Gamble’s feeling like she’s a bit of a third wheel ever since Lydia glommed on to Gina in recent months. Gamble confirms that she does feel a little left out, because her and Gina were incredibly close.

Pettifleur, trying to be helpful, tells Gamble to embrace the positives of her wedding, rather than focus on the negatives. It would be a nice sentiment, but the delivery was way off for Gamble’s tastes. She tells Pettifleur to ‘f*** off’, and then they all laugh at how, at least, Pettifleur’s not talking about herself.

Jackie then starts talking to Gamble about friendships, just in a general sense, but Pettifleur who’s still pissed off about Jackie not giving her psychic advice about a lost birth certificate chimes in with how Jackie is so fake with her friendships.

Jackie loses it. She uses this opportunity – seated in a very high class restaurant – to put Pettifleur in her place for being condescending and rude. Pettifleur responds by calling Jackie a ‘mean girl’, and splitting the group in half. Jackie just laughs, out loud, in her face.

The next day everyone is headed to the Dubai Mall for some conspicuous consumption. Jackie, Janet, Gamble and Chyka head off to shop, while Gina, Lydia, Susie and Pettifleur peel off in a different direction.

Gina points out that Jackie’s group are probably all done with Pettifleur, while Gamble is just happy to not be chained to Gina during after the awkwardness at dinner.

Gina’s group are in Roberto Cavalli, and from here on out it’s a montage of Pettifleur’s obsession with herself. She spends TWO HOURS trying on outfits and accessories, and by the end, everyone is fed up to the back teeth with Pettifleur staring at herself in the mirror and commenting on how amazing she looks.

Jackie’s group heads off to lunch, and Gamble feels like Lydia, and more recently Pettifleur, has dominated Gina’s time and energy that was previously reserved for Gamble and her friendship.

Gina and the other girls are at a café, and Gina points out that she’s a very low maintenance friend. She doesn’t feel the need to have constant reassurances of loyalty or to be around you that every day, and doesn’t like when people are needy or desperate. It’s sort of a mean comment, especially when Gamble hasn’t done anything specific to hurt Gina.

Then it’s time to discuss Pettifleur. Needless to say, Jackie has the biggest problem with her at the moment – but everybody at the table agrees that Pettifleur is very self-centred and doesn’t show any real interest in being a friend to anyone in the group.

At Gina’s table, though, Lydia and Pettifleur put the blame on Jackie, who they say has changed for the worse since they’ve known her. Pettifleur brings up that Jackie creates a ‘bad energy’, and starts to big herself up. Gina has had enough and tells Pettifleur to ‘shut the f*** up’, and that she’s being very self-obsessed. Pettifleur says well if we were her wouldn’t we be obsessed? And the answer is, yes, probably, because I’d be so damn curious about what makes her so insecure about herself that it manifests itself in this form of narcissism.

Anyway, leaving the excesses of the mall behind – we’re off to the desert! And again; it’s unfortunate that we’re not just leaving the women stranded, to fend for themselves in the Sahara; the Housewives are instead going camel riding.

After a big hullabaloo, Gina decides about five minutes in that she doesn’t want to do it, and takes the four-wheel drive option instead.

Instead of leading them to an Arab jail, the caravan heads to a luxury camp set up in the desert. Everyone starts to have fun and chill out, when two men enter the camp and surprise! It’s Chyka’s husband, Bruce, and their son, BJ – who’s been travelling for six months and she hasn’t seen.

This is why people love Chyka. It’s a very real moment, she starts to cry and she can’t stop hugging her husband and son. She’s over the moon, and she doesn’t care whether it’s an interesting moment on a reality show, or if it’s not part of her schedule on the trip – it’s something that’s important to her, and to hell with anyone who says anything negative about it.

After Bruce and BJ leave, the ladies sit down to dinner in the desert – an event which always goes well amongst the Housewives.

Janet asks, fairly innocently, about Chyka’s blog – and it’s a pretty standard conversation. Janet compliments her, and that should be the end of it, right? You fool. Lydia throws her two cents in that she also runs a blog, and it’s clear to Chyka that she’s only mentioning it to bring the focus back to her. Lydia continues to try and one-up Chyka, saying that she was compared to Louise Pillidge’s blog; and Chyka, thank god, gets in a sly dig that she was grateful not to be compared to.

Gamble accurately sums up Lydia’s attempt at relevancy as ‘yawnsville’, while Janet says that she only complimented Chyka originally because she doesn’t think that Lydia even writes her own blog.

Lydia arcs up that she works really hard on her blog, and everyone’s very dismissive of her, to lump praise on Chyka instead. Chyka and Janet wonder why Lydia is trying to compete and come out on top, but she refuses to hear it. Lydia wonders if she’s ‘giving them the s***s’, which, yes, you are, Lydia.

Susie, the human version of a dust cover for a Hermés Birkin Bag, decides to wake up out of her coma and join the Real Housewives. She tells Jackie that Lydia and Pettifleur were talking about her negatively, saying she brought ‘bad energy’ to the group.

This is like punching one of the angels in the face to Jackie. She brings it up immediately, asking Pettifleur why exactly she thinks she’s a mean girl. Well, she doesn’t so much ask her, as tell her that the things Pettifleur is describing (being condescending, talking about people behind their backs) is exactly what Pettifleur does on the reg.

Jackie absolutely schools Pettifleur on why she doesn’t like her and Pettifleur doesn’t have a response to the truth bombs that Jackie is dropping. She starts to tear up, so the other ladies decide that this is probably a great time to kick someone while they’re down and air all their grievances about Pettifleur.

Gina leads the class action lawsuit about why Pettifleur annoys everyone. Not in a mean way, just because she probably thinks that Pettifleur will hear her authoritative tone, as someone who’s not necessarily as full on in their dislike of her (unlike, say Gamble or Gina.)

Everybody starts to pile on, and Pettifleur can’t take it. She explodes, slamming the table and ending the episode.

Next time, the fight concludes, Lydia continues her pissing contest with Chyka but Chyka finally says enough is enough, and Susie’s probably just around. See you next time!