Critiquing the Critics / Judging the Judges / Rating the Raters
Television Review Review:
The New York Times’ resident soothsayer gives her take on the new Bravo TV series – and my unavoidable future.
Ginia Bellafante begins her recent review of The Real Housewives of Miami with an unexpected and startling prediction: Inevitably, one day your toddler will ask: “Mommy, is there really any difference between one ‘Housewife’ and the next?”
First of all, how does this reporter – whom I have never met – even know that I have a toddler? Secondly, how could she be so certain that my toddler is going to ask me this very specific question? Keep in mind, Bellafante chose not to paraphrase what my child would say – she used a direct quote. As a writer for The New York Effing Times, I’m pretty sure Bellafante knows how important it is to quote her sources accurately. If she writes that my toddler will say, “Mommy, is there really any difference between one ‘Housewife’ and the next?” and my toddler actually says, “Ball, kitty, bye-bye,” it’s Bellafante’s reputation that will take the hit. Thirdly, when exactly is my daughter going to start calling me “Mommy”? I’m her dad.
It’s this apparent ability to gaze into my personal future that makes Bellafante’s review such a terror to read. Before finishing her first paragraph, I learn that my future toddler’s name will be Sophie, and that at some point I will say – and she quotes – “The ‘Real Housewives’ franchise is an exercise in anthropology.” Oh, man. Did me typing that count? Are her premonitions already coming true? Should I just give up, stop trying to fight fate, and fly to Thailand for my first round of estrogen shots right now?
Airfare seems more reasonable than I would’ve guessed.
But that’s the thing! Ginia Bellafante doesn’t need to guess what tickets to Bangkok, or facial hair laser removal procedures, or that surgery where they quarter your penis lengthwise and invert it into a makeshift vagina cost – she knows!
What’s particularly amazing is that Bellafante identifies so much detail about one of her readers mere words into her review. Sure, many early Incan restaurant reviews ended with a prediction of the reader’s time of death. And the late Gene Siskel was fairly accurate in his ability to estimate his readers’ heights and weights – but not until they were several paragraphs into the article.
What Bellafante accomplishes here runs much deeper – her prophesies delve through the readers’ subconscious, penetrate their very souls and throttle their soon-to-be-surgically-altered genitalia. And there’s nothing that they – or indeed, anyone – can do to stop it.
Bellafante indicates as much with her review’s opening word: Inevitably. Like it or not, once Bellafante writes something, it is preordained to be so. She believes that the “Real Housewives” formula is feeling stale, and the reader knows at once that it is stale. She casually remarks that the show must relocate to Cleveland or Reno or Detroit, and Bravo executives immediately begin searching for those cities on a map. Each key she strokes on her ancient, massive, clackity-clacking New York Times-issued typewriter is a chisel carving the chess moves of our lives into the Stone Wall of Time.
In retrospect, I see now that Bellafante must have seen all of this coming ages ago. She knew I would review her review long before I ever thought of it. She knew I would include that terribly mixed metaphor at the end of my last paragraph. And she knew I would give her a perfect five out of five rating, since I’d be too afraid of falling victim to one of her angry fits of black magic retaliation if I gave her anything less.
Read this review, and you will find yourself – as I have – battered, broken and absolutely certain of three things:
Free Will does not exist.
God is dead.
And The Real Housewives of Miami airs on Bravo, Tuesday nights at ten.
Andy Ankowski, February 24, 2011
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