The Husband:

Watching rich people misbehave isn’t in and of itself inherently interesting. If anything, it’s pretty obnoxious. It’s a confusing mish-mash of the writer/show creator’s intentions to look up to the upper class ideals of great wealth, fabulous clothes, extravagant houses, famous friends and fancy cars, but at the same time look down at their piss-poor morals, their isolation from any semblance of “the real world,” their disregard for the feelings and experiences of those considered below them and their utter snootiness. It’s hard to have your cake and eat it too, and unfortunately that happens all too often.

Ohmigod, were, like, so freakin rich.

Ohmigod, we're, like, so freakin' rich.

As I’ve said before on this blog – and will probably say so many more times that it will become a freakin’ catch phrase – it’s all in how you do it.

In 2003, I was one of the millions to tune into the first season of The Simple Life, a.k.a. Watch Paris and Nicole Prove Themselves to be Ignorant Fools While Slumming in a Small Arkansas Town. It was mildly amusing for a few reasons, the best of which was that the show never once praised Paris and Nicole for their absolute ineptitude when it comes to being any kind of person remotely resembling a human being, and episode after episode, they were scolded, mocked and fired many times over.

I couldn’t wait for the finale, in which the town of Altus would reunite with the girls and give them a collective piece of their mind. How dare you turn your nose up at our way of life. How dare you ridicule our working class jobs that help in your life day-to-day whether you realize it or not. How dare you pour bleach on our pool table because you’re having a temper tantrum.

That’s not the finale I got. When Paris and Nicole hit the stage, the entire town erupted in applause. Thank you for putting our little town on your big Fox reality show. Thank you for not learning one damn thing about life. Thank you for tormenting us for several weeks.

It was disgusting. I never tuned in for another season. I had been gypped hardcore, and I didn’t like it one bit. The show ultimately threw its thesis out the window, simply to kiss the ass of an unimportant heiress and the adopted daughter of a washed-up singer.

It’s all in how you do it. The Simple Life, for example, did it so poorly that I felt bad for America as a whole.

A show that does it well is ABC’s Dirty Sexy Money. While a little too dependent on showing the wealthy Darling family abusing their great power, it almost always steers clear of outright worship and instead watches from a distance – and through Peter Krause’s character – how utterly insane these people truly are. Nothing about the Darlings, the show says, should be thrust upon any family if they want to stay healthy and loving. It’s nothing but madness, sadness and badness. (Sorry for that sentence. I couldn’t help myself.)

CW’s new show Privileged is another show that does it well. By establishing such a good lead character, the viewer isn’t stuck in the uppity world of Palm Beach royalty for too long without a sensible dose of reality, and, at least in the pilot episode, the threats of overindulgence in its portrayal of the rich is few and far between.

The story, quickly, is based on Zoey Dean’s book How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls, which follows the exploits of Megan Smith. A Yale graduate who majored in English literature – the fact that her thesis was on the phallic imagery in the early works of James Joyce is a nice nerd touch – she has struggled in New York since graduation to find rewarding work but has ended up working at a gossip rag. When fired from there, she lucks into a couple connections and ends up working back in her native area of Palm Beach, Florida, as the tutor to a couple of spoiled, rich teenage girls.

I cant believe I went to Yale for this shit.

I can't believe I went to Yale for this shit.

You can kind of see where this is going. Much like The Devil Wears Prada or The Nanny Diaries, there will be class warfare, some bitchy and completely unlovable characters, some threat of the main character slowly becoming everything she hates and finally a happy ending. Privileged, so far, does it better than those two by experimenting in the television form instead of the rigid limits of an under-two-hour movie.

I’ll give you an example: I was already growing weary of the show – or more actually where I assumed the show would go – during the second half of the premiere, when one of the two spoiled daughters, Sage, twisted an event in order to get Megan fired after only one day. Of course, if Megan were really fired, we’d have no show, but I honestly didn’t expect what happened. Megan turned on Sage and figuratively took her down, exposing all of her flaws in one neat, tidy monologue, and by doing so becoming a better person than Sage could ever be. If this were a movie, we’d have to wait until the final ten minutes for this to happen after sitting through 90 minutes of humiliation and grief. With Privileged, it happened in the first episode. It changed the dynamic of the show and made you look at second time at what was really happening, which we find out within minutes isn’t going to be about vapid socialites tormenting their tutor, but is actually about two wise, sly, strong female characters of different ages on opposite ends of the wealth spectrum trying to find a common ground, whether they like it or not.

Good choice, TV people. Via a main character that won’t even begin to take any shit from her charges, you’ve already got me interested in how the battle between Megan and Sage will escalate this season. By making the other spoiled girl, Rose, merely a nice girl trapped by the bitchiness of her sister, you’ve given me someone worth rooting for instead of making me hate her. By giving me the nice, gay African-American personal chef to the family without making him too flamboyant, you’ve established a worthy source of comic relief without bashing it into our heads.

And you’ll always have my attention if you continue to feature richly silly dialogue such as this:

“This isn’t coffee. This is something only God makes!”

–Megan

Quick Note: This write-up is late not because of DVR timeshifting, but because CWTV.com has failed miserably in getting their episodes up on their website as promised. I was intending on watching it last week while at work so as not to clutter my DVR – and to avoid the scheduling problems the show poses in the near future by going up against Fringe and The Mentalist – but as of yesterday, it was still not up on the site. CW, if you intend to capture your oh-so-desired 18-34 demographic, you need to realize that we are willing to watch TV online as long as you provide it. ABC has their shows up on their site by 1 a.m. the same night as each respective show’s prime-time airing. It really can’t be that hard to code it and stream it, can it? I could probably do it. Shit.

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