A bit of fudging is necessary to turn “Wives and Girlfriends of Sports Stars” into the acronym “WAGS,” but no more so than is required to construct this conceptually loathsome E! reality show around beautiful women who are, in this context, defined completely by the wealthy and famous men in their lives. One needn’t be an ardent feminist to grow queasy watching the participants discuss jealously guarding their men from the “ho’s” eager to sleep with and steal them. Abbreviate it any way you like, but “Women Abetting Gross Series” seems every bit as applicable.
Throwing its key players together in a pretty obvious bit of casting to maximize drama, “WAGS” finds an especially pliant lot, more than willing to refer to themselves by the show’s title, as if they all had the acronym on their business cards. And in terms of how the series depicts them, they probably should.
The show quickly establishes a pecking order, separating those who have secured the gilded ring — literally, as in “If you like it, then you better put a ring on it” — from the pretenders. “The wives definitely look down on the girlfriends,” explains Ashley North, engaged to the Washington Redskins’ Dashon Goldson, while Olivia Pierson — who has been linked to multiple athletes — explains that in terms of cheating, “Our men live in a tempting world. … Millions of people want your man. It’s like a war zone.”
While it’s well known that there are groupies for pro athletes in every city, approaching that dynamic strictly from the perspective of the women sweating out those road trips hardly feels like progress. If anything, it’s embarrassing for both halves of the equation, with one of the women stressing the pressure to sleep with her husband by saying, “If you don’t want to give it, he’ll go find it someplace else.”
The women, meanwhile, mostly revel in being rated for their “hotness,” touting statistics like their Instagram and Twitter followings. As for how heavily the project is produced, the premiere features one trip to Las Vegas, and another to consult with a “vagina specialist.” Seriously, gang, try to save something for episode four.
What “WAGS” sorely lacks, initially, is any reason to sympathize with or care about its seven primary characters, who, in one instance, appear to think nothing about shelling out $80,000 for a five-carat necklace. So the question of whether Angela will actually get married, or Barbie Blank — the WWE Diva engaged to hockey player Sheldon Souray — will punch out Olivia and/or her cousin Natalie Halcro, just feels like a pallid “Real Housewives” knockoff, only with brawnier husbands or boyfriends.
“WAGS” isn’t the only show trafficking in this sort of fame-adjacent real estate, including VH1’s “Basketball Wives,” an obvious source of inspiration. Ultimately, there’s something distasteful about a show where the only real message is to marry a rich guy while trying to stay “hot” enough to protect your assets. If women — presumably the target audience for this show — turn out in sufficient numbers to make this show viable, then the tail really is wagging the dog.