With only two episodes left, we are in the final laps of Real Housewives of Dallas. By now it’s clear that this will not be one of the gems in Bravo producer-creator Andy Cohen’s dazzling collection of women-with-money reality shows.
This week’s episode was its most lackluster yet, and one thing a Housewives hour must never be is lacking luster. These shows should come off as Jackie Collins novels come to life, with impossibly pretty women, cavernous mansions, lavish vacations, and, if they do it right, steamy hints of illicit sex in exotic locales. It’s what first spiked ratings for Real Housewives of Orange County, the original in the multi-spin-off cable TV franchise. (It returns afresh June 20.)
No such luck with RHOD. They’re rich, all right, but not mega and certainly not sophisticated. The Dallas cast members have potty mouths and lousy taste in clothes. Their husbands are dull-eyed and seem to regard their spouses as possessions, particularly Travis Hollman, whose birthday is a centerpiece of this week’s show.
He treats wife Stephanie like a child, leaving her lists of tasks that must be checked off each day (something he says his mother always did). When Stephanie begs him to let her make a decision on her own, he acts like she’s asked him for a kidney.
Travis’ party, held downtown at The Mitchell bar, has a Great Gatsby theme. Travis’ birthday parties always have a theme, Stephanie says, because “it’s such a huge dill.” That’s how she says “deal.” Rilly. (He wasn’t happy with his previous year’s gift from his wife: a certificate for laser back-hair removal.)
Stephanie decides on the Gatsby motif with no indication of having ever read the great American novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Maybe she saw the latest movie version starring Leo DiCaprio, who’s about as Gatsby-esque as Travis Hollman, meaning not even remotely.
To find period costumes, Steph and best friend Brandi Redmond (the designated speed-weeper and troublemaker of RHOD) head to Whatchamacallit, a prom dress resale boutique. They buy long, low-cut, sequined-and-feathered things. Their vision of the Great Gatsby is less 1920s chic flapper and more pageant evening-gown competition from the early 2000s.
Minor drama ensues when Stephanie frets about inviting both Brandi and her on-show nemesis, LeeAnne “carny kid turned charity angel” Locken, to the party. She does, of course, and we are treated to the arrival at the event of LeeAnne and her pal Tiffany Hendra, who’ve ignored the Gatsby theme and dressed as bewigged hookers from old reruns of Adam-12.
Stephanie, always seeking Travis’ approval, asks again and again if he likes the party. In his novel, F. Scott Fitzgerald described Gatsby’s love interest Daisy Buchanan as having a “voice full of money.” Stephanie’s voice is full of helium.
In the after-party just for the two of them, Steph jumps out of a fake cake and squeak-sings “Happy Birthday” for Travis, who then asks her to do a lap dance. She refuses “because my name isn’t Cinnamon.” It’s the only sign of wit Stephanie’s exhibited in eight weeks of shows.
Other things that happened this week are almost too low-key to recap. LeeAnne and her man Rich, who’s had about 11 seconds of airtime, have a quick lunch at True Food Kitchen for no real reason plot-wise. She then is seen giving a motivational speech to a women’s group, which plays like an audition for the speaking circuit.
Cary and Mark Deuber throw a little birthday do for their 3-year-old daughter. Mark complains that the cake isn’t chocolate. It isn’t your party, Dr. Deuber.
As this series winds to a close, with no indication from Bravo of a second season, it’s sinking in how differently RHOD portrays Dallas women — all over-blushed cheeks, lacquered hair, and consignment couture — from Dallas itself. There are aerial shots of the distinctive skyline, swoops over a glistening Trinity, that this week seemed to be teeming with houseboats (?), and glimpses of unclogged freeways where cars appear to be moving at designated speed limits.
Unlike the scenes on this show, that’s some beautiful fantasy right there.
Real Housewives of Dallas airs at 9 pm Mondays on Bravo. You can also watch episodes online.