Bravo is the gold standard of network programming and the go to place for production companies looking to pitch shows. But what kind of characters make shows on Bravo so hot?
Every Bravo success has at least three necessary characters: a golden trio of personalities that when stirred together create an aroma of ratings and questions of character. These include any three of the following:
1. The Villain/Instigator
The Villain/Instigator is a key protein in the Bravo soup. They're always lurking, looking to pick a fight, bring in a psychotic psychic, or basically eff shit up. Villains also serve to make the rest of the cast look normal (uh, it's all relative) and basically torture the victim. The villain is often the least popular of the group, but likes it that way. It's easier to pull limbs apart. Examples: Danielle Staub, Camille Grammer, Jill Zarin, Zim Zolcyak
2. The Airhead:
The Airhead is a perfect antidote to the heavy ego-tossing that goes on in your Bravo Soup. Always smiling, somewhat to definitely clueless, and generally out to lunch helps make the rest of your characters stand out. The Airhead is friends with everyone else, but is probably the Karen of the clan. AKA, nobody likes her, but she's better than standing alone. Examples: Patti's intern, Jaclyn from RHONJ
3. The Victim:
The Victim adds an important amount of humanity to the Bravo stew. Whether or not the Victim is actually being blamed for whatever hubbub/drama is occurring, he or she is made to feel bad. Similarly, the audience feels for this person. Taylor, please divorce your husband. He is not nice to you. Examples: Patti's clients, Taylor from RHOBH
4. The Normal/Relatable Person:
I mostly wanted to include this to discuss Destin's amazing mowhawk, but the normal relatable person is the beacon to what us peons affix. Take Bethenny Frenkel, the relatable but also semi-tragic loudmouthed Jewish girl who is pretty adorable. But maybe that's just a similarly loudmouthed Jewish girl talking. The Relatable person is key because it shines the light on the epic amounts of crazypants on display. Examples: Destin, Bethenny, Nene
5. The Comedian:
There is often so much effing drama on these shows it's important to take a moment for comic relief and to exhale, realize that not everyone has a teeny weeny hamster/puppy named Jiggy, and put things into perspective. Nene, you're funny. Call me. Examples: Bethenny on RHONY, Everyone on The Fashion Show
These roles can overlap like a Venn diagram of money, a lack of self-awareness, general insufferability, and morbid curiosity. If you're Bethenny Frenkel, you just exhibit all above traits and become the most successful lovechild Bravo has ever seen. Four for you, Bethenny. You go, (all the way to the bank), Bethenny.
After choosing the three staples as a base for your program, be sure to put them in situations that will aggravate any and all insecurities said characters have. Situations that especially allow characters to compete for a prize, perceived or otherwise, work best. Prizes include most ridiculous display of money and/or baptisms (RHONJ).
Another key to concocting a Bravo success is to make sure to have a disproportionally large display of egos, all of which are in constant competition with each other. These egos do not have to be directly related to overall monetary success or intelligence.
They're probably inversely related.
These egos will boil together, often culminating around one specifically visual or verbally compelling moment: Theresa flipping a table, some chef burning some other chef's soup, causing Chef 1 to remove clog and beat the other chef (it's bound to happen eventually.) This moment of fury, joy, or sadomasochism will be the basis upon which Bravo will tease week after week until said moment happens and is anticlimactic. It is also best to leave said moment unresolved, dragging it out as long as possible, with possible national-level legal implications, i.e. the Salahis.
Eventually this constant teasing might devolve into Bravo just showing clips of a random middle-aged women streaking across the Golden Gate bridge threatening to jump before even announcing that its for the Real Housewives of San Francisco. Juicy.
The setting in which your Bravo success takes place also must make 99% of viewers extremely jealous and miserable about their own lives. You have to have a lot of money, live somewhere impressive and be obsessed with wealth and luxury. Remember that time the chefs got to deliver food to Padma in bed? I promise no one remembers which hotel that was or what city it was in, but you still wanted to be there. High thread-counts, people.
The last piece of this puzzle, of course, is Andy Cohen. Lovable gay man and friend to all, A. Co has the ability to rile up diamond-encrusted bankrupt mafia dames, while maintaining his cool. He could almost be in your living room, sitting with you in a Forever Lazy, his veneers shining.
Bravo soup best served with an ambiance of auto-tuned middle-aged woman. Because money can't buy you class, but it sure can buy you some awesome wigs. Stay tuned for Anderson Cooper Presents: My Boo Nene.
Meredith Fineman writes Fifty First (J)Dates, a somewhat humorous dating blog that chronicles her endless pursuit for a Jewish gentleman caller, the philosophy behind jeggings, and why Boo the dog should be Speaker of the House. Follow here on Twitter here.