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'Queen Bees': Do You Catch More Eyes With Honey?

From left, Kiana Jenkins, Stassi Schroeder, Gisbelle Castillo, Shavon Bonney, Camille Lopez, Michelle Madonna and Brittany Keiffer compete to be nice on the N Network reality show.
From left, Kiana Jenkins, Stassi Schroeder, Gisbelle Castillo, Shavon Bonney, Camille Lopez, Michelle Madonna and Brittany Keiffer compete to be nice on the N Network reality show. (By Janet Van Ham -- The N Network)

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By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 11, 2008

From the lands of backstabbery and fakeness, the brats have come.

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Gisbelle and Stassi and Camille, from Trophy Club, Tex., and Shavon, Michelle, Kiana and Brittany have come to your television to compete on a reality show that totters between "so bad it's good" and "so bad it's bad and makes you question yourself and humanity."

And we are talking serious nasties, dude, girls who fake pregnancies and then miscarriages to win attention, who refuse to hang out with their "ugly" friends and "don't really feel bad for homeless people." Or say so.

They are mean. But through the course of this show, they shall become nice. Or pretend to.

For $25,000.

This is the premise of "Queen Bees," which premieres tonight at 9 on cable channel the N Network and can also be seen at The-N.com. It represents the latest incarnation of a mean girls frenzy that began with Rosalind Wiseman's 2002 book "Queen Bees and Wannabes." They're the girls who start ruining life for everybody else in middle school.

Seven uber-divas were nominated by friends or family to receive an intensive attitude adjustment by spending several weeks in an L.A. manse, completing soul-bettering tasks at the behest of host Yoanna House ("America's Next Top Model," cycle two). The show is being marketed as "reality with morality": The girl who performs the most convincing 180 will win the dough, plus the internal satisfaction of being a nice person.

Whatever that means.

Nice, of course, does not make good television. Now, mean can make pretty awesome television, as we've learned from previous reality shows in which contestants soiled the furniture ("Bad Girls Club"), stole each other's food ("Top Model") and generally acted insane (Mo'Nique's "Charm School," every episode). Reality shows based on concrete talent can also make pretty awesome television ("Project Runway," "Top Chef").

But nice? Nice is harder to make work, in part because it's harder to define and, theoretically, should exist without reward. Parents spend years cultivating the abstract quality in their children, through gently prodding variations of "What's the magic word?"

These young women of 18-20 are less pliable and more crafty. Which means that producers resort to crazy stunts, and the girls resort to the manipulation of crazy stunts. In tonight's episode, there is a "beauty contest" -- with blind judges. It's an idea that is kind of inspired, but ridiculous in execution. The winner, predictably, is the girl who earnestly admits to having a lot of flaws. Ten minutes earlier in the show, she's declared herself "pretty much perfect."

Midway through the episode, Brittany Keiffer -- the name-dropping socialite the rest of the hive has chosen to hate on (When Queen Bees Attack Each Other!) -- tells the camera she figures she'll just try to hang out with the group a lot to seem nicer. The other girls unfurl similar plans. Scaaaaary.


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