Okay, I’ll just put it out there: I’ve never seen a single Real Housewives episode. In fact, I’ve never even seen a moment of an episode, not from Atlanta, nor Orange County, nor Miami, nor wherever else these so-called “housewives” live. I have, however, read People magazine (and the occasional Us Weekly) enough to know that these ladies are Just Like Us! except there’s a lot more plastic surgery involved. And cat fights. And heels that make me topple over just by looking at them.
When I was at the Y the other day, a group of moms and I were chatting about how our winter breaks had gone, about our ever-so-darling children, and about what was on our collective to-do lists for the week. We were amused to discover – despite the our kids’ differing ages and genders – just how similar our experiences had been. One of them joked that we’d make for a wild reality show – The Real Housewives* of (Suburban) Rochester.
* the majority of my local mom friends, like myself, do have jobs outside the home, and if you actually called any of us a “housewife,” we’d deck you with a shovel. But this is art, people. Work with me.
While I may not have seen an actual Real Housewives episode, I have watched my fair share of reality television (especially cooking shows), and I’ve seen more than a handful of episodes of Melrose Place and Desperate Housewives, so I’m confident that I have an excellent idea of what it takes to produce a successful show of this nature.
Real Housewives of (Suburban) Rochester.
We’ll call ourselves the Real HORz. It will be fantastic.
RHOR: Episode One
The opening credits are a delightful montage of local families – just like us! – enjoying the highlights of the region. The kids go for a spin on the Strong Museum carousel and giggle with awe as a butterfly lands on their fingers in the Butterfly Garden. Parents cheer their offspring on from the sidelines at Little League, lacrosse, and soccer games, and the audience chortles at how many layers the parents are wearing for these scrimmages on a thirty-degree October Saturday. People rocket down a sledding hill (snow!), followed by a quick cut to everyone cuddling together, steaming mugs of hot chocolate in their hands. Spectators beam from their seats while watching a performance by the Philharmonic, or perhaps Disney on Ice.
The music swells as fans cheer on a hit at a Red Wings game (while the camera zooms in to avoid showing that the stadium is only 25% full), and then pans to a crash! as players bump into one another during a hockey game on the Erie Canal (snow!). The seasons change, and now families walk (hand in hand, naturally) and bike and tote gorgeously groomed dogs along the canal path; fireworks burst overhead for a Fourth of July celebration. Children jump into a lake as parents watch adoringly from the dock. Next, cut to apple picking and going for a hayride… which morphs into a sleigh ride (snow!) through a powder-white field. People smile as they haggle over prices at the Public Market, and women clink their glasses together on a visit to a local winery. (Note: despite the wineries and Niagara Falls being equidistant from Rochester, there will be no Falls coverage in our montage; that’s Buffalo. We don’t do Buffalo.) The opening credits will, of course, end with a panoramic shot of Wegmans.
As our Real HORz day begins, Real HOR1’s kids are really in a tizzy: her oldest has left a mitten at school and her middle child accidentally wore a classmate’s boots home. Will there be outdoor recess today?? A quick check of the local weather shows that the wind chills will be in the single digits – well above zero! – and it’s not supposed to snow today, so yes, of course there will be outdoor recess. The Littles help themselves to breakfast (Wegmans cereal) while Real HOR1 dons yoga pants and boots to help her husband shovel the driveway before he leaves for work; his commute will take him approximately 12 minutes and he doesn’t want to be late. Real HOR1 drops off her youngest at the coop preschool around the corner, then takes off for the Y in her minivan.
The scene changes; Real HOR2 has successfully seen her kids off to school in their North Face jackets and is making breakfast out of their leftover toast. She takes a conference call in the kitchen, sliding a towel around the tiles with her feet in order to “clean up” the mud and melted snow. Satisfied that the floor is at least mostly dry, Real HOR2 finishes her call and jumps in her car (minivan!) to head to the Y. After the workout, she and the other Real HORz stand in the lobby and change out of their sneakers and back into their boots, discussing how nice it was when the sun came out yesterday for fifteen straight minutes.
We follow Real HOR3 as she returns to her car (minivan!) and brushes off the snow, then heads back home to let the dogs out and take a shower. She slops up the kitchen floor with a towel, then gets cleaned up and gets dressed, putting on fresh boots. She finds some Rainbow Loom bracelets to match her outfit, then realizes that she needs to grab some snacks for the Boy Scout meeting later that week, so she hightails it to Wegmans. The employees in the produce department know her by name (after all, she was just here two days ago); she laments how frequently she’s been to the store this week to Real HOR4, whom she’s bumped into by the canned goods. They bond over purchasing ice melt and organic juice boxes (lest the other Boy Scout parents doubt their dedication to keeping their kids healthy).
A friend has suggested that she and Real HOR4 meet for lunch, but there’s a road crew repairing the potholes – which causes delays – so it takes a godforsaken twenty minutes to get there in her Suburban. (Insert several frames of footage of drivers in the left lane refusing to turn left even though they have plenty of room, and other drivers refusing to go around them on the right. Viewers in NYC and Boston are warned that they may suffer coronaries while watching this ten-second segment.) Once seated, they discuss how many times their kids have listened to the Frozen soundtrack in the past thirty-six hours, administer a stern admonishment of Common Core, and grouse about how long it took to help their children with their math homework last night. Real HOR4 confesses that, even though she’s trying to shed pounds from the holidays, she couldn’t resist Abbott’s custard yesterday; her friend murmurs her support – an Abbotts craving is impossible to ignore. As they’re finishing up, the friend looks outside and notices that it’s snowing quite heavily (the audience will already have known this because the clever, baiting producers will have cut away to footage of the snow coming down during lunch, with the friends blissfully unaware – the drama!); Real HOR4 remarks that she didn’t think it was supposed to snow today.
Real HOR1 brushes the snow off the van and stops by the ad agency to go through her emails, then picks up her youngest from the coop and makes it home just in time to wipe up the kitchen floor before the bus drops the older kids off from school. There are hugs and how was your day?s and arguments as the children disagree about who actually left the Old Navy jacket and one snow boot in the middle of the front hall. The madness continues during snack (an organic apple and Cheez Its, because no one is perfect, for God’s sake) and Real HOR1 decides that they need to blow off steam outside, but the children whine that a) it’s not good packing snow, b) they’ve already gone sledding in the neighbors’ yard three times this week, and c) their snow clothes are still wet from recess. Real HOR1 reminds them that they have extra snow pants in their closet – this is Rochester, after all.
In a house around the corner, we meet Real HOR3’s children, one of whom is in tears because he forgot it was Team Spirit day at school, so he was the only classmate not in a Buffalo Bills or Syracuse Orange jersey. In a moment of temporary insanity, Real HOR3 offers to take him and his sister to an indoor play place, and there is an animated discussion over which of the 836
overcrowded sweaty bacteria-infested super fun options will be best. The conclusion has just been reached and they are just about to stuff themselves into the car when Real HOR3 realizes that it’s snowed enough in the past 90 minutes to need to shovel the driveway again. Donning her parka (second-hand from a local shop; people give away fabulous things here) and boots, she grabs the damn shovel as the kids are just about to begin wrestling the dogs… when one of them fires up Let it Go on the iPad, and suddenly they’re racing around the front yard – no hats or gloves, L.L. Bean coats unzipped – screeching about how the cold never bothered them anyway. The cameraman eggs them on, and the scene ends with a plop of snow thrown directly at the lens.
Post-commercial (likely for a car dealership or a personal injury attorney), we see that the salt crews have already been out, so the roads aren’t too bad, but it seems that half of the Rochester population has had the same idea because the jump club is packed. No worries, though – the kids race off to bounce themselves into sweat-covered oblivion as Real HOR3 finds Real HOR2 amongst several other parents in the sitting area, and they open the bottles of water they’d brought for their kids while squatting at a table to wait it out until their darlings have exhausted themselves or someone is bleeding. They lean conspiratorially into the table as one of the other parents shows off a new starburst bracelet – she made it herself last night after the kids went to bed, and if they knew she’d used their Loom, they’d be furious! Another parent asks if anyone knew it was supposed to snow today, and Real HOR2’s daughter emerges, a sweaty mess, and asks for a sip from her water bottle. Real HOR2 looks sheepishly at her child as she hands over the (now empty) bottle.
We cut to Real HOR4, who has just dropped off her daughter at gymnastics and is now taking her son to swim lessons. He moans that he’s hungry, and she fishes out some Oreos from an old package in the driver’s side of the van to tide him over until they can dig into the pulled pork that’s been cooking in the crock pot all day (thanks, Pinterest!). After her son’s lesson, his hair is still wet as they head to the car and it freezes slightly to his head; the camera zooms in to show us the ice crystals just as the commercial begins.
Real HOR1’s preschooler squeals with displeasure after he shrugs off his Target jacket and then steps — sock-footed — into a pile of snow by the front door. Real HOR1 mops up the mess with a towel, then fields a call from her husband, who informs her that he needs to pick up a prescription at Wegmans, and should he grab dinner? Real HOR1 is visibly relieved, shouting, OMG, YES, anything from the prepared foods section, and then sits down to help her middle child with her math homework. They are still at it forty-five minutes later when her husband comes home, rotisserie chicken and mashed potatoes in hand, and they hiss about why can’t kids just learn their damn times tables the old-fashioned way anymore.
Her husband enjoys it, but Real HOR4’s children aren’t crazy about the pulled pork – her son requests a Zweigle’s hot dog instead – and she explains that this isn’t a restaurant; they get what they get and they don’t get upset. Thirty minutes before bed, Real HOR4’s daughter remembers that the Family Snowman – a project that they’ve had two weeks to work on and will require glue and scraps of fabric and maybe some dried pasta – is due tomorrow. The scene ends with Real HOR4 pouring herself a glass of wine as her husband opens some Elmer’s.
We officially meet Real HOR2’s children after they’ve emerged from the shower (to wipe off the grime they accumulated while bouncing). Her youngest pretends to be Olaf, the snowman from Frozen, and melts into a puddle, draping her towel around her, while her sister drops blue Rainbow Loom rubber bands on her from above — it’s summer, Mom, so it’s raining! Once they’ve cleaned up the bands and hung their towels, it’s time to pack their snow gear into a reusable Wegmans bag to take it to school tomorrow. Real HOR2’s oldest daughter reminds her mom that the school secretary said “snow clothes look alike; they need to be labeled!” and Real HOR2 sighs as she finds a Sharpie and writes her daughter’s initials inside her boots.
The show ends with Real HOR3 sipping a glass of Pinot and checking out her profile on Match.com. She tugs the Rainbow Loom bracelets off her wrist as she opens the email from the Boy Scout troop leader — there’s been a mix-up, and Real HOR3 needs to bring drinks for twelve boys, not just eight. She lets the dogs out one last time – it’s snowing again? Was it supposed to snow today? – and scootches a towel along the kitchen floor to clean up the mud. She takes off her boots before climbing the stairs, nearly tripping over her son’s hockey stick. One of her kids has let the toilet paper run out without replacing the roll, and Real HOR3 is dismayed to discover that there is only one extra roll.
But wait, that’s okay… She needs to go to Wegman’s tomorrow for more juice boxes anyway.
The rest of season 1 is basically a repeat of the first episode, but it takes us through two more months of winter, mud season, and spring (will Real HOR1’s preschooler enjoy his first trip to the Lilac Festival??), before culminating in a riveting finale that features the Real HORz debating the merits of the Garbage Plate while attending book club.
Although I’ve never envisioned myself as good reality material, I think I may have been wrong. Real Housewives of (Suburban) Rochester is gritty and, well, real, but also exceedingly family-friendly. There’s very little Botox (boring) and lots of shoveling (also boring, but as-yet-unseen on other Real Housewives episodes). We could absolutely rule the airwaves, probably taking over the primetime slots in several key markets.
If anybody knows an agent, please pass my info along. Thanks.