The principal mystery surrounding “Ladies of London” is why Bravo didn’t take the obvious next step and present the series under the “Real Housewives” umbrella, which would certainly save some time and money on marketing. As is, this unscripted (OK, loosely scripted) series — consisting primarily of American ex-pats, with a few snooty Brits thrown in — focuses on the usual money and status grabs, with the extra affectation of the snobbery that goes with titles and proximity to Royalty. Cattiness abounds, naturally, but in the boring premiere, everyone seems much too polite to overturn a table in a fit of anger.
“In London, money can only get you so far,” one of the ladies states at the outset, only one of the many cultural stereotypes freely tossed about by the ex-models and others who comprise the show’s central core.
As usual, the women appear to have been thrown together largely for casting purposes, with an emphasis on creating friction. They are then dispatched to events like high tea and polo matches, with some of the Yanks fitting in better than others. At one point, British-born model-socialite Annabelle Neilson — seemingly determined to channel “Downton Abbey’s” Dowager Countess, in function if not form — lauds fellow model-turned-lingerie peddler Caprice Bourret for being “as accepted as any American could be” in British society.
Bravo clearly employs a formula with these shows that has worked plenty well for it, but it’s still rather disheartening to see the London skyline — and the chance to slightly broaden “Real Housewives’ ” geographic horizons — reduced to being simply lifted and planted near Big Ben. (It’s also hard to remember a show not specifically devoted to fashion that’s been more inclined to initiate sequences by zeroing in on the participants’ shoes.)
In terms of the characters, there’s a sameness to the ex-pats in the premiere that makes their personal travails all but blend together — rough edges that should be smoothed, in theory, for those who hang around long enough to get to know them better.
While some no doubt will, based on first impressions, these “Ladies” aren’t worth the waiting.