The laws of supply and demand apply equally to real estate and reality television. In a marketplace saturated with options -- Kardashians, Real Housewives of Anyplace, etc. -- the value of each individual property is diminished.
So how can Million Dollar Listing Miami, Bravo's spin-off of its similar series in Los Angeles and New York that premiered last night, gain a devoted audience in the ever expanding, increasingly exploitative reality TV landscape?
Two words: naked ass.
You wouldn't expect a reality show about real estate agents to show off the goods. But Chris Leavitt is not your average suit-and-tie agent, and he wants you to know it. Like, a lot. So much so that he strips down to take a bath -- one of 16 he takes daily, he drawls -- right there in front of the Bravo cameras. So yes, if you happen to catch the first five minutes of last night's premiere, you were treated to a hearty helping of white guy butt. That's roughly the same nudity ratio as Game of Thrones.
As Andy Cohen almost certainly squealed when he saw it, "Hell-o, moon over Miami!"
Is it a cheap ploy to keep viewers watching? Sure. But this is Bravo, and this is Miami; we are not above cheap nudity. We are going to do whatever it takes to keep your eyes on your TV screen, the MDL producers seem to have decided. And Chris is totally on board. Of the three "stars" in the Miami cast, he's the one who's trying the hardest to be memorable. In addition to his 16 baths a day -- a number he rattles off without irony as he sips some freaky green juice in the tub -- he has also nicknamed one of his clients "Madame," spends a lot of screen time flopping dramatically onto various lounge chairs, and quantifies his biggest success in terms of plastic surgery.
"I sold a $34 million condo, the most expensive in Florida history," he says. "Do you know how many lip injections that could pay for?" Before you can speculate, he does the work for you: "A lot." Based on Chris' face, that would've been your answer anyway.
Chris claims his affect isn't, well, affected: "A lot of people will say, 'Is that acting or is it real?' It's actually real," he told New Times this week. That's not how he comes off, but whatever. No matter whether his over-the-top, easy-to-love-to-hate personality is fake or not, Chris knows it's making for Bravolicious television. He's easily the best and worst character on the show.
The same cannot be said for his co-stars. Samantha DeBianchi should be a hero to Bravo's largely female audience; she's the first female realtor in the Million Dollar Listing franchise. You would think this would make her a tough-as-nails glass ceiling-breaker who's not afraid of the word bitch. But you would be wrong.
Samantha is a relative newcomer to the Miami market, she admits in the episode. But we see she already has the little dog and the Louboutins, so she's clearly done her research. Still, she insists, "I'm not a cookie cutter realtor," as b-roll of her standing in an upscale home wearing a giant Finding Nemo cartoon head plays. There is absolutely no context given for the weird cartoon cosplay. "I can't be in a box," she continues, and you believe her, because that giant fish head would never fit in your average box.
Sam knows her role on the show: fiesty female ready to take on the world. Unlike Chris, however, she can't seem to play it. She tells us about her boyfriend, who she's been with for one year despite the fact that he tried to leave her. "He ran, but he didn't run far enough," she tells the camera, but her face says "This is not as funny as I am trying to make it sound; it was a difficult time in my life and I'm still not over it." Ha-ha?
Later, when Sam meets with a colleague to discuss partnering on a listing, she tries to go all scary professional. "Fair warning, I'm very intense. Very intense." She says this with a long, awkward pause, wearing a face like a droopy bloodhound. Intense! "Sam doesn't stop." Except between sentences. Because she is still pausing. This is so weird.
Meanwhile, Chad Carroll is a robot. No, wait, that's mean. Chad Carroll is aggressively normal. Watching him on screen, you get the sense that he's just being the most professional version of himself -- not putting on airs, but not really letting loose either. And the result, especially compared to the swirly sideshow that is Chris, is Ambien-level boredom.
Here is everything you need to know about Chad: He does push-ups in his underwear. He has a girlfriend named Jen, and claims she "keeps him in line" in that way that men do when they want to sound both exciting and reliable. He's the executive vice president at the real estate firm Douglas Elliman, whose signs you see all over the damn place around town. And he is the very image of a "power broker," which is to say he wears suits and is otherwise unremarkable. You've gotta respect the guy for staying true to himself on camera. But you probably won't, because if you wanted to feel anything like respect for a character on television, you wouldn't be watching Bravo.
Last night's episode was mostly about getting to know the three main characters, and not so much about the plot. Chad struggled to convince his client, husband to a part-time employee at his firm, to lower the price of his house. Sam creeped out developer Gil Dezer with her long pauses, dead-eyed stare, and admission that she has a Google News alert set up in his name, then tried to sell his pricey penthouse by throwing a $25,000 party with cheesy champagne-wearing chicks. Chris tried on his client's fur and twirled around in it on the beach, as is his wont.
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The rest of the season, according to the episode-ending teaser, will include a lot more droopy stares from Sam. There'll be some manufactured fights between Chad and Jen; Chad-bot will throw a glass because it knows that sometimes humans do that when they're angry. But if Million Dollar Listing Miami's producers know what's good for them (and, questionably, for us), they'll keep the other characters' drama to a minimum and focus on the D-list goldmine that is Chris. He's not the reality TV hero Miami needs -- that is and will always be Real Housewives of Miami's Mama Elsa -- but if you're going to keep watching this nonsense, he's the one you deserve.
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