The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills seems to command the most respect from critics.
Did you hear the earth shudder for a moment? That was the sound of Australia getting its own chapter of the Real Housewives franchise.
But the shaking of the earth was not, as you might suspect, the sound of a thousand Christian Louboutin shoes striking the pavement at once in pursuit of fame, but rather our position on the World Quality TV Index slamming to the floor.
It’s flashy, it’s trashy and it is - to quote the celebrated culture commentator and former manager of the largely forgettable 1960s band The Ramrods, Paul Keating - the reality-TV franchise we had to have.
The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
Foxtel has commissioned 10 one-hour episodes of The Real Housewives of Australia for its flagship reality channel, Arena.
If you are unfamiliar with it, the format runs something like this: a handful of zillionaire wives, with nothing to do but argue about who said what to whom, socialise and attend functions, pursued by cameras which eavesdrop on their fascinating social interplay.
If it sounds like it’s the sort of show that would drive you to reach for the remote, then you’re what the network would describe as ‘‘outside the target demographic’’. If you’re excited at the thought of it, then Foxtel wants you.
The women of The Real Housewives of New York City.
And the disturbing news is: you’re not alone. The format, in its many iterations, has millions of viewers worldwide.
In many respects the announcement is long overdue, as there has been a persistent whisper a version of the series was in development locally for some time.
It will be produced by Matchbox Pictures, which will, presumably, make no mention of it when it is accepting its multitude of international awards for blue-chip productions such as The Slap, The Straits and the as-yet-untitled benchmark Gallipoli project slated for 2015.
The Real Housewives of New Jersey.
The show, says Foxtel, will take viewers on a wild ride into the extravagant lives of five of Australia’s most privileged, powerful and glamorous women. It will also, says Foxtel, introduce us to an elite group of women and reveal intimate and often outrageous details about their relationships, career triumphs, pitfalls and family drama.
So, cue big hair, nails as long as talons, shoulderpads that seem equally at home on a football field as in a runway show, and teeth that are whiter than white. Anyone with a small dog in their handbag, go straight to the front of the queue. Reality TV demands nothing less.
At present, the big questions remain unanswered: Sydney or Melbourne? Or indeed, neither, and should the show go in pursuit of gold bikinis on the Gold Coast, or actual nuggets of gold in Perth?
Does it go trashy or upmarket? Socialites and members of the old, monied establishment, or new money, with all the tizzy hair, trashy manners and gauche displays of wealth which make the genre glitter internationally?
The answers remain to be seen. The series is in development, and casting is said to be under way.
Competition between Sydney and Melbourne will be fierce, as both cities consider themselves to be the epicentre of polite society. But reality TV isn’t about polite society - rather, it depends on impolite society - so casting will be less about who you know, and more about how noisy you are when the camera is on.
Foxtel’s executive director of television, Brian Walsh, said the franchise had, internationally, ‘‘enthralled, bemused and dazzled millions, and we are thrilled to be commissioning a local version to air on Arena in 2013’’.
‘‘The Real Housewives of Australia will tap into the qualities and idiosyncrasies that are uniquely Australian while embracing all the drama, antics and extravagance we have come to love when observing these pampered wives of the uber-riche,’’ he said.
Accent on the riche. As in nouveau.
In truth, this isn’t just reality TV, it’s a zillion-dollar export business for US broadcaster Bravo and its parent company, NBC Universal.
The first iteration, The Real Housewives of Orange County, launched way back in 2006. There are now six versions of the series in the US: Orange County, New York City, Atlanta, New Jersey, Beverly Hills and Miami.
Of those, speaking broadly, Beverly Hills is the one that seems to command the most respect from critics, and that is largely off the back of the personal popularity of one of its stars, Lisa Vanderpump. (Side note: single-handedly holding the dignity of an entire program in your hand is no mean feat.)
There are three international versions of the show: Brazil’s Mulheres Ricas, The Real Housewives of Vancouver and Ireland’s Dublin Housewives. (Two other versions, The Real Housewives of Athens and The Real Housewives of Israel, were both binned in 2011. The lesson we learn from that: showbiz is many things, not least of which is fickle.)
Matchbox Pictures will start casting across the country for The Real Housewives of Australia in the coming weeks. So, ladies, start your hairdryers, get your spray tans on and start polishing your Christian Louboutin pumps.
And remember: Moët is pronounced with a hard T, Swiss is a tax haven not a vitamin and while money can’t buy class, you can certainly use it to distract your detractors with shiny gemstones.
The race is on ... may the trashiest housewife win.