On the penultimate episode of Love & Marriage: Huntsville’s first season, two of the cast members, Marsau and his brother Maurice, visit a urologist for a consultation about getting vasectomies. The brothers quickly follow through on their plan, using the occasion to make jokes about not being able to have sex after the procedure, which amounts to a snip and a 48-hour recovery. It’s a fun bonding moment. But once Marsau gets home, his wife LaTisha wonders why he didn’t tell her he was moving ahead with a vasectomy after their initial conversation. Who gets a vasectomy without telling their wife they’re getting a vasectomy? This turns into a huge argument in which LaTisha’s mother, suspicious about Maurice’s motives, references earlier accusations about Marsau allegedly having affairs with “20 different women,” which has become a running “joke” of the season. Just another day in the life of a married couple being aired on a cable network!
Huntsville is a small-town docuseries, set in Huntsville, Alabama, about commitment and the ways in which marriage works and fails. The couples deal with everyday issues like running a business, domestic stress, and opposing views on parenting. They’re real friends and business partners who’ve allowed Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network cameras into their homes and bedrooms, who fight about shared adult responsibilities and best business practices, and whose personal investments in their relationships makes me personally invested in theirs. At the center of the show are three photogenic married couples—the Holts (the nucleus of the group), the Scotts, and the Scotts (two of the husbands, as mentioned, are brothers)—who also all work together as dysfunctional business partners in real estate. They’ve dubbed themselves The Comeback Group, and their mission is to build homes in their town through a six-person joint venture that utilizes their individual skills.
Most of what I enjoy about Huntsville, besides the obvious relationship schadenfreude (similar to Showtime’s Couple’s Therapy), is the group dynamic, which is sometimes like watching The Flintstones in a Jetsons universe because of the husbands’ frequent caveman mentality. LaTisha wants to become a better businesswoman, but Marsau is vehemently and stupidly against it. Their cast mate Martell has the audacity to, after his infidelity becomes public, publish an Instagram post about how he believes men should be treated like kings, otherwise, women risk losing a husband. “It’s like, don’t wait till I miss up and then try to start treating me right,” Martell tells his mom, of his wife Melody, whose story revolves around her filing for divorce while pregnant.
Instead of tapping the bucket of thirsty reality stars, OWN producers found a community of people who existed as friends (Melody and Martell Holt pitched the original show idea) and who continue to exist as friends, with dramatic enough storylines to erect a series; the Season 1 finale airs this Saturday with talk of a secret savings account (LaTisha and Maurice) and a gender reveal party from the couple who’s possibly getting divorced (Melody and Martell).
Reality TV shows have evolved into these type of docuseries that throw around the word “authentic” in their marketing. But I can’t emphasize enough how nice it is to see real people dealing with life events that are clearly unorchestrated, in a way that reminds me of The Real Housewives before the franchise turned into a dramatic series of group dinners and international vacation fights. Huntsville serves its tea with heavy perspectives on marital tension, friendship bonds, and the ties that bind married friends. It’s the constant cycle of tedious drama, homegrown business mixing with pleasure (there are constant meetings about whether they should continue the Comeback Group or not), and conflict resolution that fuels these real-life friendship circles. Reality TV is best when its scandals are based around regular people.