The show I was talking about in the other thread. Was curious to watch it before, but now after this... an Iranian Jersey Shore ugh
The Children of Old Tehran Go Hollywood
‘Shahs of Sunset’ on Bravo, About Iranian-Americans
That “Shahs of Sunset,” a reality show about affluent, not-so-young Iranian-Americans in Los Angeles, is coming out while war with Iran is being discussed might seem opportunistic. But “Shahs” could actually serve a valuable function. You can imagine the average contemporary Iranian watching it and thinking: “Ah, that’s why we needed the revolution. To get rid of these people.”
Not that “these people” actually exist. The stars of “Shahs,” which begins on Sunday on Bravo, are members of the reality tribe, defined not by ethnicity, nationality or religion, but by preening, boastfulness, obsession with appearances, crassness, conformism, thin skin and a tendency to violence. As the wrasse has evolved to keep other fish clean, the reality star has evolved to keep us entertained and make us feel superior. After which we could really use a wrasse.
The resolutely generic “Shahs” has been pre-emptively categorized as the Persian “Jersey Shore” and compared to the “Real Housewives” shows (also on Bravo) and the Kardashian family shows (also from Ryan Seacrest Productions). But the closest comparison by far is to the gloriously shallow, comically aspirational British series “The Only Way Is Essex,” which people involved in “Shahs” must have studied closely.
The difference is that the British, maintaining some pride in craftsmanship, take the trouble to turn “Essex” into a stylized, streamlined work, nearly indistinguishable from fiction. The lazier, broader, pseudo-documentary American approach is on display in “Shahs,” which, like so many domestic reality shows, has a snappy opening montage front-loaded with the best bits — “We don’t work in buildings, we own them!”; “I don’t like ants, and I don’t like ugly people” — followed by an hour of random irritation and spirit-sapping triviality.
And yet the real estate agents, real estate developers and real estate investors of “Shahs of Sunset” are a more diverting bunch than the high school football coaches and community activists of the well-meaning, admirable but prosaic “All-American Muslim” on TLC. As “Shahs of Sunset” moves through familiar reality TV scenes — the catty boutique visit; the acrimonious dinner party at which bigotries are aired; the silicone-injected, jealousy-ridden pool party — there are wayward moments that raise us out of our torpor.
The proudly gay developer who speaks of the difficulty of coming out makes Mexican jokes as he walks through a dilapidated building. The artist who is labeled a hippie loser by her friends arrives at the pool party in a chauffeured car. The balding, paunchy, rich guy who hosts a pool party provides a caged tiger for his guests’ amusement, though we can’t be sure if that was his idea or if it was suggested by the show’s producers.
There’s actually a terrific story beneath the tawdry surface of “Shahs of Sunset,” about a generation of cosmopolitan Iranians who prospered under the Pahlavi dynasty and fled to America, where they tried to recreate their lives in a Southern California enclave. But that’s the story of these people’s parents, who are a peripheral presence in the show’s first episode. You can imagine that fictional Iranian citizen muttering about trust-fund babies and wondering exactly how much cash these families carried out of the country 30 years ago.
The one really unfortunate thing about “Shahs of Sunset” is the way it exploits, and will in turn amplify, a previously localized phenomenon: the longstanding stereotyping of Los Angeles’s Iranian-Americans as vulgar, materialistic show-offs who don’t fit in among the city’s supposedly more cultured elites. Perhaps future episodes will take this on, exposing the superficial gloss of Southern California tolerance, but that might be a little too much to ask.
Shahs of Sunset
Bravo, Sunday nights at 10, Eastern and Pacific times; 9, Central time.
Produced by Ryan Seacrest Productions. Ryan Seacrest, executive producer.