I don't watch the 'Real Housewives' shows with any regularity, but I am familiar with the brand and its power. The ladies of our local
version of the program have become quasi-celebrities and I see that Paul Wharton guy from time to time at parties around the city. I must admit, his hair is exceptionally coiffed whenever cameras are around.
So when D.C. comedian Mike Brooks' latest project, " 2013 Benning Road HouseWives " hit my inbox, I wasn't sure what to expect. The premise is funny, but from the title alone you get the feeling it could move to stereotypical and offensive right off the bat.
The first episode was hatched off of a joke the Brooks had in his head. "First of all I thought the title would be hilarious. The HouseWives of Benning Road," Brooks said. "A lot of the urban neighborhoods in the city, the stereotype can be hoodrats and ghetto fabulous and all of that, so I thought the title would be real creative."
For casting, he went do it yourself to find the actors. "I did a little casting call on Facebook and that's how it all got down. I didn't know them before Facebook," he said.
Clearly, the women of Benning Road- are nothing close to their "Real Housewives of D.C." counterparts, who gallivant all over the city to luxury events and galas. No, the ladies of Benning Road- whose names include Ree-Ree and Lil Trina- hang out on apartment stoops. It's not really clear if any of them are in fact, married. But none of that matters.
The intro scene is hilarious. With rundown storefronts in the background, the 4 main characters introduce themselves, with signature tag lines like "I don't keep up with the Joneses, I am the Joneses." The irony of the Denny's ad advertising $3.99 Grand Slam breakfasts behind 'Lil Trina' is not lost on anyone.
And while the execution of the 'episode' goes through some apparently typical situations: accusations of adultery that end in public humiliation, flaunting of the latest EBT technology and over-dramatic pregnancy tales — it's clearly satirical.
"A lot of times, we like to laugh at our pain," Brooks said. "I guess everything I look at, I try to find the funny in it. Whether it's good or whether it's bad. So it's not really to bring anybody down. It's to make light of where we live."
Brooks does get points for accuracy of locations, and the sunflower seeds bit is a touch of genius. But the real payoff of these 4 minutes comes at the end. In a moment of cinematographic genius, the ladies' flaunt their stuff in a walk-off scene at Benning Road Metro station.
"We were filming right across the street and I was looking at the subway, I said you know what? let's bring em up the escalators like they were models and have them walk right into the camera," Brooks explained. "That was thought of like, the last minute."
Personally, I hope to see more of these episodes. It's funny enough with references to laugh at without feeling like you're laughing at something you shouldn't be. It might be over the top, but hey, that's comedy. And Brooks has no plans to slow down the 'HouseWives.'
"A lot of people on YouTube were saying we should make it a [series.] I decided okay, I'll just give them what they want," he said. "I'll keep producing episodes and see what happens."
Yates is a columnist for The RootDC