Bravo's 'Ladies of London': This ain't your average tea party
Any fan of Bravo’s long-running Housewives franchise knows the formula for deliciously dramatic reality television: simply assemble a group of fame-hungry women with big egos, bigger hair, and (biggest of all) huge credit card statements. But after hitting cities including Atlanta, New York, and Beverly Hills, it seems like this country is pretty well covered — which makes Bravo’s move across the Atlantic to London a no-brainer. Though the network’s new series, Ladies of London, isn’t officially part of the Housewives franchise, it may as well be. After all, declares one well-dressed cast member in the show’s opener, “This is the big league: this is London.”
And with that, in between gratuitous shots of iconic British landmarks — Big Ben! the tube! the Thames! — we meet the ladies.
Caroline Stanbury: This blonde mother of three wants us to know she’s special: She was born into London society, grew up in proximity to the royals (so she says), and is totes neighbors with Brangelina. Her house is 12,000 square feet and has six or seven bedrooms, although she’s not quite sure since she’s “never really counted.” But she’s no Princes Diana: Caroline works for a living, running a gift service that caters to her fellow “luxury connoisseurs.” Within 40 seconds of her intro, she declares that she always “expects perfection” and readily admits that sometimes, she says things she shouldn’t. Verdict: Watch out for this one; her only soft spot appears to be her lip injections.
Caprice Bourret: “I was brilliant, duh,” says Caprice, a Cali girl turned bikini model turned British housewife. “I would just look at a camera and make 15 grand in ten minutes.” But though she’s been in England since age 24 — and has dated Brits including Rod Stewart — the other ladies still consider Caprice an American through and through. Verdict: Don’t expect any outrageous panty parties from this lingerie company founder: At the time of filming, Caprice was seven month preggers by her American baby daddy. (Silver lining: Any of her antics can be blamed on hormones.)
Annabelle Neilson: This aristocratic brunette is clearly the bad girl of the group. “When I walk into a room, I think people think ‘oh sh–, it’s Annabelle,” she declares proudly. But there’s more to her than her rebellious attitude. Annabelle was also a model, as well as Alexander McQueen’s muse for 20 years (meaning: if she doesn’t rock cool clothes during the season, she loses all cred). But she has feelings too, guys: she’s still dealing with the fashion designer’s unexpected 2010 death. Annabelle is quissentially English, horseback riding and all. Verdict: She might be the most interesting London Lady of them all, a mix of Kate Moss-cool with the upper crust appeal of everyone’s favorite Housewife, Lisa Vanderpump.
Noelle Reno: This Seattle native has been living in London for ten years — and, shocker: She used to be a model. She’s engaged to multi-millionaire Scott Young, who proposed within three months of meeting her. The kicker? That happened four years ago; Young has been embroiled in high-profile divorce proceedings, and hasn’t been able to officially split from his wife. Verdict: Noelle immediately draws comparisons to Real Housewives of Atlanta ex-cast member Kim Zolciak: blonde, brassy and bold enough to bite back should someone cross her. In other words: set your DVRs now!
Marissa Hermer: Marissa (another blonde!) wants your sympathy. “A lot of the London society girls weren’t interested in having me around,” laments Marissa, “but once they found out my husband [was] Matt Hermer, they were much more interested to get to know me.” A native of Newport Beach, Marissa is married to a nightclub owner whose hotspot, Boujis, is frequented by the royal family. Meaning if you want to cozy up to Prince Harry, Marissa might just be able to escort you to the club’s private entrance just for royals. Right now, though, her biggest drama involves getting her British citizenship and keep chocolate off her face while picnicking in paisley in the park. Verdict: She’s clearly the “nice” girl of the group — which means she’s likely slated to serve as the show’s token peacemaker.
Juliet Angus: Married with two children, Juliet moved to London when her husband was transferred across the pond three years ago. But she’s independent! She had a life before him! And to prove it, she makes sure to tell us that she was BFFs with lots of celebrities — “Lindsay Lohan was a great friend of mine” — making it clear that while she may not have royal links, she’s connected where it counts. Sort of. Verdict: She may have left Hollywood behind, but this one still loves the spotlight. Humility be damned: egos make for better primetime TV.
Once the introductions are over (seriously, who knew there were so many rich guys in London looking for American wives? Book your tickets, gals!), it’s time for the real fun to begin. We’re taken to Polo in the Park, billed as the “official start of the London social season.” Oh yessss honey: what’s meant to be a sophisticated day sipping champagne and watching men on horses swing big sticks quickly becomes the setting for the women’s first showdown.
“The Americans are dressed like they’re going to have tea at Buckingham Palace,” sneers Annabelle. “Not like they’re going to watch a polo match.” And so it begins! Marissa compliments Caroline on a “great” piece on her in the London papers; Caroline calls out Noelle on her hat, saying it’s “totally unnecessary” for the otherwise casual event. With that, we’re introduced to the “posh put down,” which is explained as a pointed dig on the basis of class and/or upbringing. Burn!
Just when you think it’s too soon for the show to get this catty, Annabelle compares the three American women to “three dogs.” Then the ladies take to the field to partake in a tradition called “divot stomping” (for anyone that doesn’t watch Downton Abbey, Ladies of London is a totally educational intro to British culture). It’s basically an opportunity for the producers to showcase some tight shots of the ladies in their (presumably) expensive shoes, stomping on grass. And just like that, the first episode ends.
Bravo’s newest foray into showcasing the lives of the rich and ridiculous is predictably entertaining. But is it enough to satiate your thirst for sharp-tongued, ridiculous drama between seasons of the Real Housewives franchise?
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