First Contact: The Real Housewives of Orange County, Season 1

I don’t know about you all, but this year I celebrated Christmas in a way that truly honored the Spirit of the Season: by watching a decade-old reality television season and eating pepper jack by the block. Climb into my time machine, won’t you, and let’s revisit a time when Beyonce and Rihanna ruled pop culture, investors grew rich from a credit bubble, and a dangerously stupid president endangered us all with his incompetence.

Meet the five ladies who somehow sparked a chain of events culminating in a cancer scam, the tossing of a prosthetic leg, etc.

Jeana

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Main Storyline: Shepherding her (awful!) son through a baseball career he’s been forced into by his (awful!!!) father.

Pros: Uhhh I don’t know. Do you like baseball?

Cons: Holy shit the Keough family. At first Jeana seems relatively inoffensive in contrast to the garbage humans parading around her. Her sullen, unfeeling husband. Her entitled, closet-case older son. Her milquetoast younger son. Her pissy, spoiled daughter. They’re all monsters, and each individual relationship between any two of them is toxic and nightmarish, and that’s when you realize Jeana is just as bad as if not worse than the rest. She’s the one who created this family, and she’s the one who meticulously curates its awfulness through a mix of pitting loved one against loved one (yes let’s have the mom weigh in on which son is a better athlete) and absurdly transparent affection-buying (have a Beemer, kiddo!). Ugh where is Tamra already.

Jo

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Main Storyline: Acting as the human vessel for Slade Smiley’s avalanche of bad karma.

Pros: Jo transcended the humdrum trappings of early reality TV to give us sooo much snarky realness we are not worthy. I mean, who wants to hang out with their boring husband and his lameo kids when there’s margaritas to be had at the clurb? This profound marital conflict culminates in such scenes as Jo sobbing into a fishbowl drink, Slade removing her license plate, and a car chase between the two featuring a Hummer running over a flowerbed. God bless you Joanna de la Rosa.

Cons: Patient Zero for the Smiley Strain.

Kimberly

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Main Storyline: Almost dying from melanoma for the fifth time or so.

Pros: All of Kimberly’s best antics were off-screen, sadly, as she apparently lied to Jo that Slade was two-timing her with Lauri after their reconciliation, then quit before the reunion.

Cons: She’s sooo boooring. In fairness, part of it is just…the show doesn’t really know how to be entertaining yet. The other part is, she boring.

Lauri

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Main Storyline: Watching her nightmare family careen from disaster to disaster (e.g., her daughter’s car getting repoed as Lauri is attending her son’s second failed juvi hearing).

Pros: You really do sort of feel for Lauri at times, and God knows her life is darkly fascinating (especially when the darkest shit you’re accustomed to on this show is, like, Noel de Lesseps being caught with a vial of molly at a Die Antwoord show).

Cons: On the other hand, Lauri has almost-comically poor judgment, the kind you’d see in the first act of a Lifetime movie. She parses her personal weakness as a need to nurture people, but it kiiinda just plays out as straight-up letting people use her as their doormat. Even putting her son aside (spoiler alert)…she takes back her drug-addled ex. She lets her daughter move back in with no money, no life plan, and a gigantic dog she has no intention of caring for herself. It is painful woman get a grip!

Vicki

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Main Storyline: Everyone and I do mean *everyone* in her life informing her that she’s a controlling monster, an experience I’m sure she learns and grows from over the course of seasons 2-12.

Pros: Seeing Vicki screech at Donn or Michael or Briana or a family friend or a service person from across a room will always warm my heart. And that’s before you get into the really great deep cut Vicki microaggressions like crashing Briana’s date to inform her she cannot go out afterward. (What, she was next door at Rite Aid, and it’s not like she knew they were filming gosh.)

Cons: Why do I get the feeling that helping Lauri with her life is a bit like feeding a gremlin after midnight?

Next time: Hurricane Tammy Knickerbocker enters our lives. We will never be the same.

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