The Binge-Watch List: Real Housewives get really parodied

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It’s not hard to find TV shows to watch these days. But finding good ones to watch amid all the streaming video services fighting for your attention and your eyeballs? That’s more of a challenge. Every other week, we’ll help you separate a would-be House of Cards from the rest of the pack, as we look at which streaming TV shows are worth your time.

It seems like no matter where you go, you’re going to be overrun with Real Housewives. They started in Orange County, but they’ve since spread out to various places across the United States, both classy-sounding (Beverly Hills, Miami) and less so (New Jersey). And Hulu has a note-perfect parody of the whole franchise, entitled The Hotwives of Orlando. Why Orlando? Because it’s funny to hear people wonder if God could make a Heaven as beautiful as Orlando, that’s why.

What it’s about

Imagine a world where people are constantly declaring they don’t want drama, while simultaneously doing everything they can think of to instigate it—where the worst thing you can say to someone is “Calm down,” because it’s guaranteed to cause a hugely violent overreaction. It’s a world where the same people are constantly convening for parties, whether they’re trying to raise money to buy shoes for dogs or learn how to be prostitutes and pimps. And do people make giant scenes about how they’re no longer friends, only to reconcile two minutes later? What do you think? (Answer: They do. Just to clear that up.)

What makes it interesting

It’s funny! This isn’t some half-baked parody put out by a bunch of YouTubers. The cast is full of people that you might recognize, depending on how immersed you are in the world of Los Angeles-based alternative comedy. You’d probably recognize Casey Wilson from Happy Endings and Angela Kinsey, who played Angela on The Office. And you might recognize Kristen Schaal, if not from Flight of the Conchords then from her voice work on either Bob’s Burgers or Gravity Falls. If you’re in deep enough to recognize the likes of Matt Besser, Seth Morris, and Kulap Vilaysack, you’ll understand the kind of talent we’re working with here. If you’re not, then perhaps their fine work as an obvious criminal, an extremely Christian husband and a prostitute (respectively) will persuade you to seek them out.

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On Hotwives of Orlando, Amanda Simmons (Kristen Schaal) is a former child star and current adult wreck, as you might have guessed from the picture.

It’s also worth noting that Hotwives (as I assume people call it) is written and performed mostly by women. Dannah Phirman and Danielle Schneider were in an improv/sketch troupe called Respecto Montalban at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York, along with Paul Scheer, Rob Riggle, and Rob Huebel. They created, wrote, and star in this show. It’s fun to see women being successful enough that they can create parts for their husbands, even in cases like this where said husbands (Mike Phirman and Matt Besser) are successful in their own careers.

Hotwives is a little like Burning Love, featuring some of the same people, which was a parody of The Bachelor (and The Bachelorette and Bachelor Pad). But where Burning Love started out as a webseries and moved onto actual television, Hotwives’s Hulu pedigree means that it’s basically an actual television show even while it’s streaming only.

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Danielle Schneider is a co-creator of Hotwives of Orlando, but spends most of her on-camera time looking like this.

What makes it not so great

Well, what if you haven’t watched the source material? Then you probably lead a rich and fulfilling life. But you also might not know that a Hotwives character is a combination of those three real people or that the scene where someone who can’t sing records a single is pretty much exactly what happened in the original show. Take out the parody and you’re just left watching talented comedians swear at each other a lot. In that respect, it’s probably a lot like going to the Friars Club in 1954. It’s also possible that you don’t like the idea of mocking the foibles of actual people, although the Real Housewives have done everything they can to get their foibles out into the open air where they can more easily be mocked.

And even if you like it a lot, Hotwives lasts only seven episodes. It doesn’t seem fair to enjoy something and have it end so quickly. People in England go through this all the time, but some of us are used to seasons that go on a bit longer.

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Anthony (Matt Besser) and Shauna try to deal with the decision of Rodney (Jerry Minor) to show up to a Hotwives of Orlando party dressed as an elephant.

What’s the math?

The Real Housewives of Orange County divided by reality times self-awareness. Plus Orlando.

So how is it?

It’s really funny. It will come as no surprise to anybody that there’s a lot to make fun of in the Real Housewives franchise. And even if you’re charitable enough to assume that at least some of the Housewives are acting that way on purpose, their behavior is so exaggerated that it doesn’t take much to push it over into comedy. And there’s even comedy that’s not based directly on any Housewives show, as far as I know, so that’s nice.

How many hours should I watch at a time?

Two and a half. Come on, it’s only seven episodes. Just watch the whole thing and you can get on with your day. You’ll even have time to go back and watch some Real Housewives to see if it’s funnier now.

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