Bravo's newest offering, Married to Medicine, may not be worth watching week in and week out. But it is worth taking a few moments to mull over... at least after the glittery gem-toned enamel that Sunday's premiere was coated in stops blinding your eyes.
As bizarre as the longevity of this trend might seem, we're still in a white-hot cultural moment for shows about glamorous women enjoying lives of luxury thanks to their successful husbands. (See: The Real Housewives franchise, Basketball Wives, Love & Hip Hop, etc.) The grueling year-round schedule of Housewives in particular keeps Bravo viewers tethered to their TVs as the cameras hop from gaggles of shiny-haired women in Atlanta to New York to Miami to New Jersey to Orange County to Beverly Hills and back again. So it's little surprise that Andy Cohen and his Bravo minions would seek a way to tap further into this zeitgeist while angling for a new and interesting twist. Enter Married to Medicine's group of female black doctors and wives, both white and black, of doctors.
Black female doctors don't seem like the obvious target for a network like Bravo, which trades primarily in fake-tanned, forty-something women yanking out each others' hair extensions and throwing glasses of chardonnay at poolside gatherings. And that's exactly why the announcement of Married to Medicine triggered some upset, particularly in the black medical community. Students at Howard University even went so far as to set up a petition on Change.org asking the network to cancel the program "for the sake of integrity and character of black female physicians." As they point out in the petition, commercials for the show look to associate "black females in medicine with materialism, "cat fights," and unprofessionalism."
Clearly, the petition went unnoticed by Bravo. And if last night's premiere episode of Married to Medicine is any indication, cat fights and unprofessionalism are the name of the game with this group — which includes relatively few actual black female doctors.
The series opens with a birthday party at self-described "Queen Bee" Mariah's house, where we meet fellow cast members Toya, Kari, and the all-out lunatic of the bunch, Quad. None of them are doctors. Instead, their husbands are successful doctors. And it appears from their bios that their time is filled managing their households, doing charity work, and planning parties. Remember, after all, that this is a Bravo show, so the majority of interactions (read: fights) between the women need to take place at each other's events (read: shoe launch party, child's birthday party, etc.). Meanwhile, the two actual female doctors of the group, Dr. Simone Whitford and Dr. Jackie Walters (both OB/GYNs), come across as levelheaded and self-aware. In other words, they could not seem more out of place.
It's always tough to get a full read on the cast of a reality show based on the first episode because there's so much track to lay down. But Married to Medicine makes an especially bizarre choice by racing into a boiling fight between three of the non-doctor cast members — Toya, Kari, and Quad — within moments of the show starting. It's weird. Viewers have no idea who to root for (an integral part of watching reality show fights), but also no idea where we even are or what these women have to do with one another. Needless to say, it's a confusing fight — based on a text message we're not present for or made to understand very easily. It really only serves to quickly establish that these women have signed, sealed, and delivered a promise of Bravo-style drama, hot and ready.
As we tag along with these ladies for the rest of the episode, we learn their various allegiances and rivalries. (Mariah is the central player and, not coincidentally, a producer on the show.) And it becomes clear that the great divide Bravo hoped we wouldn't notice is glaringly obvious. Namely, the fact that the two actual doctors would likely have little to nothing to do with these other four women in their actual lives. The two doctors' presence is vital in helping to hide the show from looking like another "Married to Wealth" project, but reads more as a copout than anything else. Rather than finding a group of interesting and complicated female doctors, it's clear that the producers just found two perfectly nice and accomplished women who were game to play ball with a clique of materialistic reality TV crazies. It's a shame and a missed opportunity, even if it would've been tricky to find a group of female doctors willing to open their lives up to the cameras. At the end of the day, the reason why is obvious: It's not what Bravo does. And, voila, we're stuck with two brainy, accomplished women shoehorned into a show about some more rich wives.
Having aired that important grievance, there's still a lot for the casual viewer to sit back and enjoy. As any fan of the Real Housewives of Atlanta franchise knows, the city has a flair all its own, and a compelling mix of cosmopolitan and Southern charm. And on Married to Medicine, there's something decidedly Atlanta-esque about Quad declaring Toya and Kai to be "too treacherous. After all, birds of a feather all flock together." These ATL ladies also give the Beverly Hills gals a run for their money in terms of eye-popping jewels and teetering heels. At this point, there must be a lengthy audition process to get on these shows that culminates in having to down four glasses of white wine and pretend to chase an upset friend while wearing red-soled, Christian Louboutin stilettos.
If you're in the market for fiery and sometimes nonsensical scenes — nothing to be ashamed of! — then Mariah and Quad certainly deliver. Kari can also bring the crazy, illustrated during her "at home" scene with her husband, in which she parades her pale, sinewy body around in a negligee at dinnertime for reasons that remain unclear.
But here's the real hope for Married to Medicine: That Dr. Jackie and Dr. Simone get to be more than token doctors and show the audience what it's like to be a successful black female physician in a profession dominated by white men. While they may not have the off-the-bat lunacy of Quad, their lives are genuinely interesting and something that hasn't found a home on reality television yet. The great question is whether they'll have to stir up the drama or be stirred into it to get more time in front of those cameras.
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