This headline is perhaps a bit of an overstatement, but not by much. As someone who watches a lot of reality television, I have a deep catalog of knowledge with which to assess WAGS and, also, this shit is pretty damn fake.
Some might argue a Love & Hip Hop [Insert City] or perhaps Storage Wars contains even fewer truths than WAGS, but we’re grading on a bit of a curve here. There’s a self-awareness to shows like Love & Hip Hop that isn’t remotely present on WAGS, which makes me love it even more.
For many reality television shows these days, the word “reality” is merely a suggestion—a general air or concept that may or may not pan out as the series progresses. As we’ve discussed, WAGS follows the wives and girlfriends of professional athletes on their quest to go from ho to girlfriend to fiancé to wife in order to secure the inane hierarchy necessary to keep the concept of the series in tact. On the surface, it’s a Basketball Wives knockoff with different sports and less money. Still, the show has managed to come into its own due to the rather delightful and totally obvious unreality of the entire production.
The issue, or perhaps the beauty here is that these women are truly horrible reality TV actors, which may sound like an oxymoron to those who don’t watch reality television. Alternatively, what cast members bring to the table may be so entertaining that you don’t care if the entire storyline is a very obviously untrue. There is an art to acting real on a mildly to mostly fake television show and not everybody has the chops.
Take, for example, the pros from the Real Housewives of Orange County. Feel however you may about Tamra Judge, but the woman knows what her job is and she does it well. Is much of what she does on the show completely manufactured for maximum drama? Of course, but she, like most of her Real Housewives sisters, can sell it like their ability to keep paying for mortgages they can’t afford depends on it.
There’s also a degree of recklessness many reality show stars employ to make the show better. They’re sharing decent chunks of their real lives, which can and often does have real life consequences. What I appreciate about WAGS is how we know almost nothing about who these women really are and yet here I am, still watching.
The second season of WAGS, which wrapped up Sunday night, followed the saga of perhaps the fakest relationship I’ve ever witnessed on television. At the end of Season 1, we watched Olivia Pierson go on a date with Jacksonville Jaguars player Marcedes Lewis. Having passed his on-camera test, Marcedes was brought on for the second season as her love interest.
Watching the two of them—who I do not believe spent more than a total of 72 hours together—feign a relationship was rather brilliant in its unabashed phoniness. Literally nothing about this seemed genuine.
The real problem, of course, is that both Olivia and Marcedes are deeply terrible actors. Marcedes looks like he’s constantly reading from cue cards while Olivia seems like she prepared by watching YouTube videos on “how to look sad with a face full of botox.”
One thing I will say is that Olivia takes direction pretty well even if she can’t act. Some producer gave her a script about “trust issues” and “getting to know each other” and “putting myself out there” and goddammit, she stuck to them.
Fake television relationships are not new. Never forget Kim Kardashian married a man for television ratings. It’s not that the relationship ever seemed particularly real, but at least she and Kris Humphries committed. You almost never see Olivia and Marcedes kiss or even touch each other beyond a quick hug. This was all made very clear when Marcedes bailed as Olivia’s date to cast member Barbie’s wedding; it was obvious that, after accepting the invite, there’s no way he’d actually be attending the wedding, if only because that was Barbie’s actual wedding and she probably secured the guest list months ago. (Don’t even get me started on the laughably fraudulent plot line of Marcedes texting Olivia’s awful sister behind her back.)
Perhaps what’s funniest is how these women are only on the show because of their relationships with athletes, and yet most of those relationships are fake or barely there. (Consider new cast member Tia, who I believe either lied or greatly exaggerated dating a football player named Greg Toler in order to be on the show.) It makes sense, then, that they’d have to manufacture a relationship for Olivia, thus making the entire premise for her being on the show a sham.
My other favorite hoax of WAGS are the endless photo shoots with magazines nobody’s ever heard of. Nicole Williams is billed as a model—“the real deal.” I do believe she’s a working model but I don’t believe much else.
The producers are very interested in presenting a world where these women have serious careers, which I honestly don’t care too much about. That’s not what I come to WAGS for! I came because the premise was irresistible in its promise to feature a group of people who take an incredibly silly thing very seriously. I stayed for the identical hair, makeup and clothing, the abysmal acting and reminder to never date a professional athlete.
This brings me cousins Natalie and Olivia and the curious case of their blog that somehow makes money without any advertisements or obviously sponsored content. Their days are supposedly spent as beauty and fashion bloggers at their site, Jerome by Nat and Liv. The blog exists and no doubt helped them get on the show, but again, the truth pretty much stops there.
The site’s last update was on January 18th, 2016. Their YouTube channel is a bit better having been updated two months ago. Still, the channel only has 13 videos which seems rather low for two people who supposedly make a living off of making YouTube videos. Granted, they are 13 videos with a lot views, but still, just 13 videos. I also don’t know how much of the traffic came after the show aired.
The lie of their blogging “careers” is rather innocuous and lord know they’re far the first two people to make up a job for the purpose of a television show (remember LC and her Teen Vogue internship?). Still, I respect this non-hustle and their devotion to acting (poorly) like it’s a serious source of income.
You’d think for a show as fake as WAGS there would be more product placement. You have your standard complimentary vacations and trips to salons for free treatments, but it wasn’t until the last two episodes of this season where we really saw them swing for the fences.
One scene included a Fabletics product placement and the degree to which it was not remotely natural is rather stupendous in its boldness.
But the true culmination of this season was Nicole’s boyfriend Larry English finally proposing to her after she incessantly begged him to put a ring on it for two seasons. This obviously meant an on-camera ring selection which included a staged, private home shopping experience with two diamond men.
Listen, I don’t know what Larry’s bank account looks like, but I’ll say this: right now he’s a free agent, meaning, unemployed. It’s difficult for me to believe he’s dropping $400,000 of his own money on a ring—a ring from a diamond company Nicole happens to model for. Probably because he didn’t.
Nicole’s role on the show is as the paranoid girlfriend who desperately wants to be a wife. However, she performs with the subtly of a bullhorn and Larry can’t be bothered to act like he gives a fuck. It gets to the point where there’s no way you believe he has any interest in being with her unless everything we’re seeing is fiction.
No doubt, a good amount of it is probably editing. Last season Larry was edited to look like he was constantly running off on Nicole with the suggestion of course being that he was cheating on her. Was Larry cheating? I have no idea because it is impossible to glean a single nugget of honesty about their relationship beyond Nicole really, really, really wanting to get married.
For good measure, the season finale featured some of the worst continuity errors I’ve ever seen. Half the footage was from the episode before despite the fact that we were ostensibly watching footage from days later.
Part of the WAGS authenticity problems stems from the fact that the season is just 12 episodes long. One cast member Autumn begins the season with major conflicts with half the cast, but by the time they take their trip to Thailand, it’s like nothing ever happened. Granted, reality television cast members fake fight and make up all the time, but at least the narrative makes more sense across a 22 episode arc.
WAGS is probably the best example of what we and our reality television obsession has created. Even when the goal is some degree of truth—or a truth easily moldable by a producer—almost no one coming onto a reality show in 2016 doesn’t have an extensive knowledge of how the game is played.
The result are faces full of makeup, an acute awareness of camera angles and wooden responses to predetermined situations. Additionally, unlike its fairly recent predecessors in the reality TV canon, there’s little demonstrated evidence of genuine relationships between the cast to keep things somewhat believable.
That said, I don’t know how much I truly care or if knowing any of this impacts my ability to enjoy these shows in the slightest. I offer no solutions. Rather, with a heavy dosage of irony, we should all just sit back and accept this as the new blatant un-reality of reality television.