Bravo continues to traffic in Southern California stereotypes, from Orange County’s surgically enhanced “Real Housewives” to Beverly Hills’ aerobically toned “Work Out” to this latest (TV) listing, which might charitably be called “The Real Realtors of L.A. County.” Granted, million-dollar homes actually aren’t that exotic in what’s been an overheated market, but beyond its educational footnotes for potential buyers and sellers, this six-part series is mostly a cartoon, reducing its rotating “stars” to labels like “the Blond Bombshell” and “the Schmoozer.” If this is Bravo’s best offer, then sorry, but no sale.
Focusing on real-estate agents serving Malibu (ooh) and the Hollywood Hills (aah), “Million Dollar Listing” features two homes within each installment, feebly seeking to build suspense about whether deals will close. Yet while there is big money at stake, the hoped-for tension fizzles amid uninspired casting, playful jabs at humor and a condescending tone toward just about everyone involved, which includes one emotionally vulnerable seller characterized as a “neurotic” divorcee.
All this is somewhat disappointing given that producers Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey are responsible for some of Bravo’s more intriguing docu-reality entries, among them “Show Biz Moms & Dads,” as well as docu features including “Inside Deep Throat.” Here, however, the puppetmasters can be seen manipulating the strings, whether it’s an awkward confrontation about a pending sale at “the Condo Queen’s” wedding or the aforementioned bombshell, Shannon McLeod, trying to sell her ex-fiance’s house.
Showcasing a variety of agents at Hollywood’s ReMax office and Coldwell Banker in Malibu, the series doesn’t build up much equity in any of them. Indeed, listening to the agents haggle over deal points and inspection repairs is less of a window into a secretive process than a reminder that the immediate reaction to such transactions is to say, “Screw ’em all.”
Perhaps foremost, by reducing the agents and their clients to facile nicknames like “the Diva” and “the Angry American” (in the latter case, a gay guy who wants to flee George W. Bush’s presidency), the producers adopt a cynical shorthand in lieu of developing storylines or providing insight into the participants. It’s an obvious cheat, and a lazy one that at.
On the plus side, the show does provide enlightening pop-up-style onscreen tips about buying and selling, suggesting that a straightforward documentary about the real-estate biz might have proved more worthwhile. Instead, the show seems preoccupied with how fabulous everything is, including factoids about which celebrities (Leonardo DiCaprio! Eva Longoria!) a Hollywood Hills buyer might encounter at the local Whole Foods.
Then again, Bravo and fellow cable nets keep peddling this glamorous image of L.A. as an utterly vacuous place where the wealthy, famous and frequently gay obsess over their bodies, their homes and what’s happening in their neighbor’s living room.
Much of that is true, of course, but with such a limited view, it’s perhaps wise to keep searching for programs in a better location.