'Princesses Long Island' review: Turn up the stereotypes
THE SHOW "Princesses: Long Island"
WHEN | WHERE Premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on Bravo
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Let's have cast member Joey Lauren Brodish (aka Joey Lauren) tell us: "The typical Long Island girl... drives a BMW, shops at Roosevelt Field mall, has a Prada bag and her mom has big boobs," she says in the opening episode of Bravo's newest reality series. Joey, 30, of Freeport, is one of six "typical Long Island girls" on the show: There's Amanda Bertoncini, 27, of Great Neck Estates and Chanel "Coco" Omari, 28, of the Village of Saddle Rock; Casey Cohen, 28, Jericho; Erica Gimbel, 29, Old Westbury; and Ashlee White, 30, Roslyn. They are, for the most part, children of wealth and entitlement. They're also unmarried, and in no rush to vacate the opulence of their parents' homes. Reasons vary. Chanel explains that as an Orthodox Jew, she's required to stay at home until she weds. But her friend Erica brushes off living at home as a "Long Island thing."
In the relationship department, Ashlee wants someone "assertive. I'm having a hard time finding a man" -- meaning a man like her father. Erica has reignited an old flame. Amanda recently hooked up with Jeff -- they met on the LIRR -- but her mother wants to keep her around the house forever.
Sunday's launch interlaces a couple of stories. Ashlee's off to buy a dress for her 30th birthday party; and Erica throws a party at a friend's place in Old Brookville. At the party, Joey brings along some friends from the South Shore. Drinks flow. Cultures clash. Words fly. The censor's bleeper works overtime.
MY SAY Settle down, everyone. "Princesses: Long Island" is not nearly as moronic as it could have been. Certainly some sensibilities -- say, those TV tastes hermetically sealed in a "Downton Abbey" bubble -- will be offended. Anyone familiar with Bravo's "Real Housewives" franchise will recognize the same old reality TV tricks for what they are. These are like life stories scrawled on a bubblegum wrapper, and if these young Jewish women occasionally come across as stereotypes (they do) or fools (that, too), they have no one to blame but themselves. That's the reality TV bargain.
But at least on the awfulness spectrum, "Princesses" is nowhere even in the same vicinity of "Jersey Shore." MTV cast a bunch of cartoon characters, got them drunk, then into bed and let the cameras roll. "Shore" was so patently outrageous and offensive that it instantly raised the ire of Italian-American defamation groups. "Princesses" hasn't yet drawn that kind of heat from Jewish organizations and may not, possibly because the show is pulled directly from that "Housewives" playbook. The idea is to sketch some portraits so broadly they'll be instantly recognizable to anyone from Minneapolis to Mineola -- and then manufacture the conflict. It's not called a "formula" for nothing.
Certainly some viewers will look at this show to confirm their inherent biases -- that's the danger of reality shows that traffic in caricatures. But assuming "Princesses" gets another season, these characters could at least evolve. It's far from certain that the portrait of Long Island will. The Long Island of "Princesses" is one of affluent privilege -- of palatial homes, and wide lawns. Freeport gets a fleeting -- and sneering -- close-up, then it's quickly back to Old Brookville, lest the mirage of vast wealth be shattered.
BOTTOM LINE Good news, bad news. First, the good -- "Princesses" is not nearly as offensive as "Jersey Shore." The bad: It's still pretty dumb.