The sitcom has taken on a new form: I haven’t laughed so hard at TV all month as I did while watching Bethenny Ever After, the joyfully inevitable sequel to last season’s Bethenny Getting Married? Bethenny Frankel possesses a gift for rapid-fire punchlines that, in an earlier era, would have landed her in the writers’ room of a comedy sketch series such as Your Show of Shows, where the likes of Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, and Carl Reiner threw verbal elbows.
On the premiere of Ever After, Bethenny (a magna cum mouthy graduate of The Real Housewives of New York City) goes with her husband, Jason, and their sweet little baby, Bryn, to Hazelton, Pa., to visit his parents. Whether she’s shopping for a suitable bra (''The hounds must be leashed”) or being taken to a grungy Hazelton bar Jason loves (''I feel like Jodie Foster in The Accused.… There was maybe one set of full teeth in the bar”), Bethenny is a nonstop barrage of acerbic one-liners. What saves her from soulless yammering is her vulnerable side: She adores that baby, and she tears up when Jason’s buddies toast her with shots.
Meanwhile, the Housewives show that launched the franchise that has virtually taken over Bravo, The Real Housewives of Orange County, returns for its sixth season with claws out. The focus early on is directed at Tamra, recently split from hubby Simon, or as she puts it, ''Now that I am a free bitch, I feel like I am my own person.” No, Tamra, you, like most of the O.C. Housewives, are a wiggly sex cartoon using embarrassing hip-hop slang while jump-starting camera-pleasing fights.
Whether they’re making fun of Alexis for calling her credit card an ''A-mex” or engaging in exchanges such as Tamra asking Gretchen, ''Were you calling me a bitch?” and Gretchen replying, ''Yeah, I totally kinda was,” these Housewives know that their job is to be ostentatiously rude in too-tight designer clothes.
I hate to end on a bum note, but I fear that The Real Housewives of Miami, the latest edition of the franchise, is a damp fizzle. The Miami women haven’t quite cracked Bravo’s crazy code they’re too self-conscious and too cautious to be much fun. Their ethnic pride consists of lots of boasting about ''Latin flair” instead of actually putting it into action, a mistake the Atlanta Housewives cast has never made. I’ll take Bethenny berating her husband (''Farting is now a hobby for you!”) over the Miami gals posing and pouting any day. Ever After: B+ Orange County: B Miami: C–