‘Real Housewives of Melbourne’ Back to Beginnings

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There is a certain magic to the first season of a Real Housewives show. And when I say “first,” I don’t mean a franchise, but rather the first one ever to grace the airwaves. Here in the U.S., it was “Real Housewives of Orange County.” In that first season, the women had no idea what the show would look like, how they would come off, how others would react to what they said. There was a certain almost innocence to it, as the cast said things that they thought would be amusing without a single consideration of the after effects.

Of course those days are long gone.

Unless you manage to catch the first season of the “Real Housewives of Melbourne,” that is. It. Was. Fantastic.

As the first Housewives franchise in Australia, it’s pretty clear these women had little idea what to expect. Unlike new Housewives here, they probably didn’t have the ability to talk to veterans beforehand, not the way the women can now. It was like watching the wheel be invented all over again.

Glorious.

What is so wonderful and so fleeting is the chance to watch self-awareness bloom. Not through the regular season, of course, since at that time, they’re still living it, and it’s amazing to watch. When you get to the reunion, you can see the beginnings of the transformation, because by then, these women have had an entire season to see what the rest of the world sees.

And there goes the innocence. Yes, by season 2, much weight has been lost, makeup notched up, and the uniform-issued false eyelashes applied. More structured facades have been built, with hearty patches over the bits that shone too raw the first go around.

They are entertainers, set to entertain. “Being themselves” is no longer the goal. Nope, now it’s the “storylines” and the screen time. Now they are famous people who feel they’ve earned their fame.

Granted, the more experienced Housewives here still have their moments, those cracks in the armor, the times when, in trying to be clever, they expose a part of themselves that they’d rather hide. But it’s not the same show as it was when they were all just giddy with the idea of being themselves on TV.

Now, for example, the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” is packed to the maximum FDA-approved Botox dose with professional actors. Not just aspiring actors. Professional ones. It’s impossible to know if Lisa Rinna’s lunging, wine-throwing, glass-shattering outburst in defense of her husband Harry Hamlin was emotion or great use of her soap opera days.

She was the iconic incarnation of Billie on “Days of Our Lives,” after all. RHOBH Cast-mate Eileen Davidson won an Emmy for her soap opera efforts. We already know there’s not a ton of reality in reality television, how do we know we haven’t shifted to scripted drama?

Does it matter? Well, yes and no. Until RHOM came along, I was still entertained, but had forgotten completely what drew me to the Housewives in the first place. It’s a reality TV version of the garden of Eden, before the apple of knowledge, a disappearing moment before the cast sees themselves as the world sees them and the gaming begins.

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