Bravo is in a rut, and as proof, look no further than the cookie-cutter blue-sky series the channel is trotting out right after New Year’s: “100 Days of Summer,” about Chicagoans during that third of the year when they can actually expose some flesh; and “Toned Up,” about two wacky friends who started a workout business, and (Holy “Three’s Company,” Batman!) share an apartment with one woman’s overwhelmed fiance. Carefully massaged and clearly staged, these kinds of shows have become increasingly challenging to launch, mostly because without a clearly defined premise they’re so hard to distinguish from the pack.
The Chicago series is essentially built around a single quote uttered by one of the participants: “As soon as it gets hot, we don’t know what to do with ourselves, and we just go nuts.”
But the loose-knit assemblage of friends at the show’s center seemingly have little in common, other than the fact they were attractive (and inevitably, diverse) enough to survive the casting process – a description that also applies to “Blood, Sweat & Heels,” a third Bravo series premiering as part of this post-New Year’s anti-snow flurry, loosely devoted to “up-and-coming movers and shakers in New York’s elite circles of real estate, fashion, and media,” which mostly just sounds like an average issue of the Hollywood Reporter.
The problem is without any clear sense of connection among the players, everything in “100 Days of Summer” (which piggybacks on the title of a much better movie, incidentally) feels as phony as a pair of breasts that one of the women calls “the best present I’ve ever got myself.”
Moreover, a few of the women instantly find themselves at each other’s throats (most of the drama centers around Pascale, who people hate, apparently, because she’s beautiful), reflecting the cattiness that’s become such a familiar part of the formula.
If “Summer” is warmed-over suds on Lake Michigan, “Toned Up” is all fluff in Manhattan Beach, where pals Karena Dawn and Katrina Hodgson (no, seriously) finish each other’s sentences and, we’re told, have made quite a splash online pushing their fun-in-the-sun fitness regimen.
As a show, however, the whole exercise has about as much depth as a Gidget movie, to be embraced for its giddiness or written off as irritating, depending on one’s point of view.
The only modest wrinkle is Kat’s fiancé Brian, who patiently puts up with being the third wheel in the living quarters, show and relationship, at least as presented in the premiere. As for the situations, just think Lucy and Ethel if the two had washboard abs.
Bravo has certainly done reasonably well with a slew of similar fare, although there’s an inherent cynicism in the age-old strategy of throwing on beach-blanket shenanigans in January and assuming everyone wrapped in parkas will dutifully tune in.
If that works, it’s merely proof that it’s possible to “go nuts” while still being cooped up inside.