Universal Desire

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Real Housewives franchise lately, and it so it was fortunate that Andy Cohen and the good people at Bravo gave me yet another entry in the series on Tuesday night to obsess over. Both the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and the Real Housewives of Miami seem to signal a shift to me, a collapsing barrier between real celebrity and reality-television generated celebrity.

There have always been real famous people on the periphery of the Real Housewives universe. Usually, their appearances are a little manufactured. Someone else is at an event, someone’s interviewing celebrities as part of a job, someone dated someone famous once upon a time. But with Beverly Hills, the calculation changed. Kelsey Grammar may not be at the height of his career, but he is a bona fide Seriously Famous Person, and he went on this show, and behaved just as badly as anyone else, even if all of his bad behavior didn’t happen on-screen. Now, Sylvester Stallone’s wife is considering joining the cast. And Scottie Pippen may not be playing a huge role on Miami, but there he is in the first episode, gamely doing goofy-lookin’ yoga on screen while his wife talks about what a full-time job it is taking care of him and their kids.

This is the next step, people who are warmed in retirement by the glow of their fame on the edge of the screen. But I think, if Bravo keeps this up, that we’ll start getting those people as the stars. And eventually, we’ll see people going on these shows before they hit the downward curve of their fame. The boundaries between the kinds of celebrity will collapse.