Look, I don’t want any drama—I don’t want any drama—but I’m also not totally on board with The Hotwives of Orlando, a new Bravo-spoofing comedy that debuted on Hulu at midnight Tuesday. (Hulu Plus subscribers can watch all seven 22-minute episodes right now; Hulu Plus-less plebes can only see the first two today, while the rest will be released on a week-to-week basis.)
The basic gist: A large ensemble of ladies you already love (or should love), including Casey Wilson, Kristen Schaal, and The Office’s Angela Kinsey, don an assortment of skintight dresses and tacky wigs to play the titular Hotwives, archetypes familiar to anyone who’s caught an episode (or 500) of Bravo’s indomitable Real Housewives franchise. Wilson is Tawny St. John (chyron: “Trophy Wife”), a Gretchen Rossi-esque bimbo who’s both having a hot affair with her trainer (played by… Joey McIntyre?!) and caring for her deathly ill husband (played by the delightful Stephen Tobolowsky; the joke is he isn’t actually dying). Schaal is Amanda Simmons, a Kim Richards-ian former child star (read: she appeared in prune juice commercials) whose drug addiction and alcoholism is played for uncomfortable laughs. Kinsey is Amanda’s sister Crystal, a devout Christian modeled on Orange County’s Alexis Bellino.
The cast is rounded out by three more Hotwives, all of whom also have clear Housewives inspirations: Series co-creator Danielle Schneider takes the role of Teresa Giudice avatar Shauna Maducci, a bundle of Jersey stereotypes who comes complete with a debilitating shopping addiction and a husband who hates her (him: “You are such a dumb idiot!” Her: “I love when you say things like that”). Andrea Savage tackles Veronica Von Vandervon, who’s a British sexpot of a certain age obsessed with her dog, just like Lisa Vanderpump. Finally, there’s Tymberlee Hill, whose Phe Phe Reed is sort of like every Atlanta Housewife rolled into one irresistible package; she’s a tireless multitasker who counts law, cake designing, Zumba, and taxidermy among her many vocations. And her husband’s a professional mascot. And she’s determined to make “I gotta be Phe Phe” into a catchphrase.
Get the picture? The issue here, in as much as there’s an issue here, isn’t that the jokes aren’t funny—it’s that they’re kinda lazy, especially coming from a group this capable. By this point, the real Housewives are so utterly bonkers (Scary Island happened four years ago, guys) that picking on things like their dumb charity projects (Tawny’s raising money to give high heels to needy Orlando dogs) and their general hypocrisy (everyone says they don’t want any drama, even though they tooootaaally want drama) just seems like making jam out of low-hanging fruit. Plus, Housewives parodies have been done before, and done well; 30 Rock’s “Queen of Jordan” remains the gold standard, mostly because of the way Angie Jordan says the word “ham,” but Kevin Hart’s Real Husbands of Hollywood has deservedly earned a following of its own. If Hotwives wants to set itself apart, it’s going to have to do more than give Veronica lines like this one: “Do you get it? I made an orgasm joke. ‘Cause dogs come, and men do the other kind of coming. It’s kind of a play on words because I’m so naughty. Do you need me to explain that again?”
That said, if you like Bravo originals already, you’ll definitely get a kick out of the Hotwives—and the show is spot-on about some of the franchise’s more specific fixtures, like That Woman Who’s Friends With the Housewives But Isn’t Actually a Housewife Herself and the overarching creepiness of Andy Cohen (here, he’s called Matty Green and he’s played by Paul Scheer; he appears at the end of each episode to plug his after-show, The Hotwives Cooldown, and season 1’s finale is a “reunion special” he’ll host). A few bits also sail past easy punch lines to reach a place that’s deeper and weirder, like what happens when party planner Antoine (Jeff Hiller) appraises Tawny’s ostentatious living room: “This candle is terrible. This book is wonderful. I like this table, but not a lot.”
If Hotwives embraces this aspect, getting weirder and less predictable as season 1 continues, it might reach the same level as Burning Love (which, like Hotwives, is produced by Paramount Digital Entertainment), or Childrens Hospital, or Kroll Show—genre parodies that eventually transcended their premises to become something new and exciting. And hey, even if it doesn’t, the series is amusing enough to qualify as a good summer diversion—if not exactly must-see TV.