What allows reality TV to exist so plentifully, and to be so successfully engineered, is perhaps our human tendency to experience the same event different ways. Liquoring up scared, fame-hungry young people gets you most of the way there, but it’s the producer-prodded endless parsing of what historian Daniel J. Boorstin termed “pseudo-events” that fill the hours and hours of cable programming we so happily consume: fights over who is a drunk, fights over who said who is a drunk, fights over what actually happened when everyone was drunk, and so on. (Mr. Boorstin also gave us a handy phrasing for the contemporary definition of a celebrity: “a person who is known for his well-knownness.”)
To test these theories, on Monday, The Observer embraced a full evening’s schedule of pseudo-events featuring celebrities and took a Rashomonic approach to the premiere of the fifth season of the wildly, bafflingly successful reality show, The Real Housewives of New York City. We sent three correspondents with varying degrees of RHONY knowledge to three premiere parties hosted by Housewives, and asked them to write honestly of their experiences.
What we learned: Despite perhaps being unwelcome, ex-Housewife Jill Zarin made the rounds. A couple of the Housewives will really miss their extra-large Diet Cokes (thanks a lot, Mayor Bloomberg). If you hang around with a Housewife long enough, you might run into someone actually famous (Liza Minnelli!?). And the show, when viewed with the celebrity cast members present, is even more uncomfortably hyperreal.
Thus we present: the Occasional Viewer’s Story, the Fanboy’s Story, and the Party Crasher’s Story. Read More