I was nervous about the arrival of the Real Housewives to our shores, and rightly so. Us Brits don't have the best track record when it comes to adapting American reality shows. Britain's Next Top Model looked like it was filmed in Lisa Snowdon's basement and Geordie Shore took Jersey Shore's catchphrases and lighthearted fist-fighting and replaced it with sexual misconduct and bedwetting. The Real Housewives has a formula that is simple but difficult to master: take 5-7 women, add a lot of money, a dash of drama, and take away all shame. Thankfully, ITV Be's Real Housewives of Cheshire manages the difficult task of getting all the ingredients right. It remains faithful to its predecessors while still feeling like a uniquely British Housewives.
The first episode centres around a charity event (interior designer Dawn Ward's Creme de la Creme ball), a well-trodden road for longterm Housewives fans, and the ladies certainly didn't make us wait for the drama. Within the first five minutes, Dawn starts a beef with feisty, football-obsessed mum Magali Gorré when she accuses Magali of angling for free tickets. Magali denies the claim and spends most of the episode debating whether to even show up at the party. Dawn confides in Leanne Brown over her issues with Magali. Leanne has relationships with most of the girls: she and Dawn have been friends for a decade, she greets her old friend Tanya when she returns to town, and she also knows Magali.
Elsewhere, Lauren Simon meets Ampika Pickston for a spa day in preparation for the ball. Lauren is the most outspokenly snobby of the group, who doesn't work but describes herself as a domestic goddess (despite having staff who clean her house). Ampika, on the other hand, is a career woman who runs her own salon. She is recently divorced and looking to meet a man, just not the ones Lauren seems intent on picking out for her.
Tanya Bardsley, the new girl in the group, feels like a breath of fresh air. Recently married, she is the only wife to even mention plastic surgery (she loves it) and her facial expressions are just dying to be GIFed. She is more than a little uncomfortable at the charity event where Magali is talked about as if she is some kind of devil woman. Don't worry Tanya, I'm sure you'll get used to sticky situations soon enough.
By the end of the episode, Dawn and Magali seem to have worked out their issues. They share an awkward encounter, but the two aren't exactly planning on clawing one another's eyes out. Leanne (who I had completely forgotten about) took Magali aside at the end of the party and tried to confront her in Dawn's place, despite having nothing to do with the original argument. It is here we get our first glimpse of just how amazing Magali could be: she shuts down Leanne's attempt to get in on the action and struts off into the night. Either ITV have the budget for a wind machine or Magali's hair just does that on its own.
There is a sense of familiarity in The Real Housewives of Cheshire when comparing it to other incarnations-but it comes off as comforting more than predictable. Most of the Wives show similarities to personalities that fans know, love, and even fear. Magali has the potential to be the breakout star of Cheshire, with her superior air and icy stare reminding me of one NeNe Leakes. Tanya could take on the role of the series' Greek chorus, filling the Bethenny Frankel slot of saying exactly what the audience is thinking. Leanne already has shit-stirring covered, perhaps as a tribute to the original Real Housewife, Vicki Gunvalson. I sense that Lauren could have a Sonja Morgan-sized ego inside of her, and Ampika Pickston has a Vanderpumpian penchant for a good sex joke.
I don't know why I love the Housewives so much. It might be the snootiness of the women that I find both hilarious and awful. A line like "It's not Prosecco is it?" from Dawn, delivered with not a hint of irony, along with Leanne putting her happy life down to her rich husband and big house make me wonder just where in the world these women come from?
Some excerpts from my notes on the episode:
- I am obsessed with the way Magali says Cheshire.
- I should take a leaf out of Dawn's book and get other people to speak on the phone for me while I stand right next to them.
- How can these women be so wealthy and so tacky at the same time?
- Does Magali's dog have a Twitter account yet?
- The guy behind the counter on Ampika's visit to the sweet shop could lick my lolly any time.
- Best quote of the episode goes to either Ampika ("We'll have the tightest minges out") or Lauren ("There's only so many blow jobs I can give").
- Dawn calling her daughter's girl group "terrible". When is her parenting book coming out?
- The only people who have sparklier dresses than these women are drag queens.