Farewell, New Jersey. Now that we’ve been properly introduced to your fair state — the cake bosses, the hair salons, the Situations — reality television has decided we need another region to explore.
What’s next? Texas is next. This summer, a trio of series hailing from Texas is on the prime-time schedule: CMT’s “Texas Women” and Style’s “Big Rich Texas,” both of which debuted last month, and Bravo’s “Most Eligible Dallas,” premiering Monday night.
But if there’s a concept that reality TV has not succeeded at taking advantage of, it’s geography. Slapping city names in front of the names of shows doesn’t make them different from the ones before them. Alas, it turns out that a catty fight in Orange County is the same as a catty fight in Seaside Heights.
Bravo’s “Most Eligible Dallas” makes the same error. The network says the city will serve as a “sexy backdrop” for the adventures of six single 20- and 30-somethings who consider themselves the hottest prizes in town — and in the background Dallas stays.
We learn virtually nothing about the city or really what sets these “most eligible” apart from people in any other place. But the cast members make it a point to name-drop the city whenever they can. Right up front, we learn that “Dallas is the playground of beautiful women” and that all you need to be a Texas starlet such as Courtney, 29 (the all-suffering best friend of party guy Matt, 28) is “big hair, big jewelry and big attitude.” Tara, 36, says she’s the quintessence of what the city has to offer: a self-described “blond hair, blue-eyed, big boobs . . . 100 percent Dallas girl.”
“There’s no question where I’m from,” beams Tara, who rescues dogs from the shelter in her spare time. “I go to Europe, forget it. They’re like, ‘Who shot J.R.?’ ”
Tara adds that Dallas is all about partying for a good cause and that people go to charity events instead of bars — which leads the events to be rowdier than those in other cities, “but that makes them so much more fun.”
And in what seems to be a common theme, the South is brought up anytime values are. Courtney is offended that Neill, 23, is a single mom and out on the town. Seems as if being a mother and being single isn’t the Southern way, in her view. “It’s like — engagement, white dress, honeymoon, baby shower. It’s just all in a certain order,” she rants. “Because it’s so Southern, it’s so Texan.”
Plotlines aren’t really the goal of the show, so the series has to bank on the personalities of the characters, who don’t show a lot of promise. This includes Drew, 29, who describes himself as “not your stereotypical gay man,” has battled with weight problems even after losing 200 pounds through multiple surgeries and seems sad all the time. The group is rounded out by Glenn, 31, a punter for the Oakland Raiders who’s just hanging out in Dallas until the NFL lockout is lifted and seems mostly interested in a fitness modeling career. (“I’ve never had an ugly duckling phase,” he says modestly, showing off his sculpted abs.)
Bravo is filled with sleek, shiny shows about people who can’t stand one another, and this show doesn’t stray from the formula.
Style’s “Big Rich Texas” follows that model but takes all the fun out by making it too mean-spirited. This series chronicles four mother-daughter duos and one godmother-goddaughter pair in the Dallas social scene, mostly in a country club.
The show doesn’t waste time exploring the subtleties of the high society (except for a lesson in how “bless your little heart” means “you’re pitiful”) and instead captures the nastiest behavior of the pairs.
The most cringe-worthy is Bonnie, a mom who so desperately craves the approval of her daughter, 22-year-old Whitney, that she agrees to fund Whitney’s breast implants — as long as the daughter brings home good grades.
CMT’s “Texas Women” comes closest to hitting the mark of something different, with hints of Southern culture. The series, set in Fort Worth, attempts to focus on the careers of four women. That aspect of the series is way more entertaining than when it strays into manufactured issues (party girl Hannah moves in with responsible Anna, then they fight, then they rehash the fight — we just don’t care).
Intriguing elements feature barrel racer Brooke at the rodeo with a horse that won’t compete and struggling country music singer Ali, who begs radio stations to play her songs. Although the show includes yawn-inducing scenes of the women fighting, you can’t help but feel real emotion at the devastated look on Ali’s face when no one calls into the radio station to comment on her new single.
While all three series offer standard reality-fare drama, not much exists for viewers interested in truly getting a unique look at Southern life (though this past week, “Texas Women” explored the aftermath of the destruction caused by the tornadoes in the South).
For those looking for a different portrayal, this fall, A&E will premiere “American Hoggers,” which follows a family that saves Texas ranches from destruction caused by wild boars. The series was supposed to premiere in August, but production was delayed because of extreme Texas heat. If nothing else, at least that’s real.
“Most Eligible Dallas” (60 minutes) debuts Monday at 10 p.m. on Bravo.
“Big Rich Texas” (60 minutes) airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Style.
“Texas Women” (60 minutes) airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on CMT.