If you’re a pop culture obsessive like I am, you’ve probably heard The Theory of the First Season. If not, it goes something like this: in any reality show, the first season is the only one that’s pure. There are a variety of reasons that that’s usually the case, but mostly it’s because the people that populate the show’s universe haven’t seen themselves played back in HD yet. Instead of performing the roles that have developed for them over time, they’re just flailing about, being mostly themselves. Which is exactly what we got on the series debut of Kell on Earth last night.
If you really love fashion – and not just pretty things, but fashion – you need it be watching Kelly Cutrone‘s show. For the first episode, Bravo dropped us behind enemy lines at New York Fashion Week to watch while the people of People’s Revolution fought a famous hooker, the office computer system, each other, and the always-ticking clock in an attempt to pull off not one, but two fashion shows.
As with any narrative, it’s important to meet the agents of action. For Kell on Earth, that’s mostly the motley crew of office staff and assistants that make up the boutique PR agency. It’s a combination of super-earnest barely post-college girls (or interns that are still in college) and a handful of gay men that Kelly hired because she got sick of the super-earnest chicks.
Her business partner Robyn (who actually lives in some dark corner of the office) will obviously figure prominently, but my favorite was her goth/glam/gay personal assistant Andrew, who Kelly chose because he was dressed in all black, including bondage jewelry, and was possibly wearing a skirt when she met him. Kelly is currently trying to find him a boyfriend, with minimal success so far.
The only problem I had with the office staff was that there were two blonde Stephanies, and that’s one too many blonde Stephanies for me. Look: decide which one is less important and make her go by her middle name. I have no time for confusingly named office minions in a reality show, particularly when they have the same hair color (that’s generally the only way I can tell anyone apart in the first few episodes), and now I’m stuck trying to remember which is which based on the fact that one of them looks like she’s from California and the other looks more East Coast.
Thankfully, my Stephanie double-vision was more than than assuaged by the wonderful salve of Kelly explaining what couture is (and, more importantly, what couture is not) for all the people out there that so grossly and frequently misuse the word. You tell ’em, Miss Cutrone. Combine that with her love of black clothing, her general refusal to adhere to traditional beauty standards and insistence on doing things her own way, and I think she might be my idol. When she called trophy wives and herself hookers, I almost cried tears of pure joy (programming note: I don’t necessarily believe that trophy wives are the same as hookers. I just find it refreshing when a powerful woman doesn’t look down her nose at sex workers).
We didn’t just meet her employees, however. She’s raising her adorable daughter Eva as a single mother, which is aided by the fact that she lives on the floor above the office. One of my favorite moments of the episode was when Kelly was talking to her about coming to a fashion show – she told her that she would be able to sit up front and then asked her if she was going to dress up, to which she replied, “I don’t want to dress up if I’m going to be in the third row.” From a seven-year-old. Her daughter is fiercer than 99% of human beings.
Kelly and her charges were charged with creating shows for Chado Ralph Rucci and a Spanish designer whose name escapes me. The storylines of these events were a bit jumbled, as I’m sure they were in real life too. Surprisingly, unlike a lot of reality shows, this one actually seemed real – all of the employees looked like they were stressed almost to their limit and drowning in papers of indeterminate importance. During fashion week, that’s EXACTLY what their office should look like.
For a group of viewers that probably also watch The Hills or The City, I’m sure that this episode was in stark contrast to a lot of preconceptions about the fashion industry that just aren’t true – it’s not all glamorous. The women aren’t model beautiful and they don’t all leave the house perfectly coiffed every day. And they actually do a lot of work. Shock of shocks, I know.
That work included chasing expensive hooker/friend-of-Kelly Ashley DuprÃ© away from Fashion Week, putting together seating charts (which are basically giant, 2,000 person egomaniacal puzzles), and making sure that no one took pictures of naked, underaged models while they were changing clothes backstage. People got yelled at, photographers were humbled to near tears, and one of the blonde Stephanies almost had a nervous breakdown over printer problems. I used to work in an office that was highly dependent on a very finicky printer, and watching her come unglued brought out quite a bit of residual anxiety on my part.
The episode’s narrative seemed a little rushed, but in contrast to almost every reality show on television, it actually seemed like stuff happened – and by stuff, I don’t mean that a few vacant blondes went out to lunch and picked at salad while staring each other down silently. If they can slow things down enough that non-fashion people can understand what it is that these people do, then Kelly Cutrone going to have a huge hit on her hands. I’ll enjoy it either way.