Bravo’s new show Princesses: Long Island finds six college-educated women in their mid to late 20s living pampered lives with their parents on Long Island while trying really, really hard to get married. That Princesses is basically a prequel to a Real Housewives series focused on the quest for a ring is impossible to ignore, starting with the way the premiere begins with princess Chanel distraught over her younger sister’s wedding as a sort of signal of her marital ticking clock. Seemingly every other talking head revolves around either the princess’ observed lack of available men, the dreaminess of the princess’ current boyfriend, or lamenting the princess’ old age in the wedding game. Each of the princesses is obsessed with finding a “Nice Jewish Boy” before getting too old, which they seem to agree is roughly 27 (the oldest princess is 30). The show’s worst, most unforgivable sin is the way the production actually encourages the princesses’ fear of being too old to get married—the only thing that appears with each princess’ name whenever she’s on-screen is her age.
Princess’ other big hang-up is the unstated first two words of its title: Jewish American (as in Jewish-American Princess). Chanel and Erica are introduced as contrasting Orthodox and Reform Jews, and Chanel claims the “stay at home until you’re married” lifestyle is a “Jewish thing” (it’s not, really, though the Orthodox Chanel has at least some justification). The princesses throw around words and phrases like “kosher,” “oy gevalt,” verklempt,” and even a half-hearted attempted at a blessing. As someone who has in fact been described as a Nice Jewish Boy, it’s easy for me to find most of the princess’ attempts at Judaism funny. I’ll admit, I know a few people from the area who are in fact worse than any of the princesses. But it’s hard to imagine what sort of impression you might from the show get without an intimate knowledge of both the difference between the South Shore and North Short of Long Island and the requirements for kosher packaging of meat.
As horrifying as it is in most ways, Princesses is actually obsessively watchable, if only for the ghastly Freudian drama. Most of the princesses play up their awfulness in a way that is both distracting and boring (Ashlee especially), in addition to the fake quality of all Bravo reality shows. Following their day-to-day lives just isn’t very good television, until they’re with mommy and daddy. The four princesses we spend the most time with (Ahslee, Amanda, Erica, and Chanel) all have frightening relationships with their parents, even considering they’re living at home in their late 20s. Ashlee goes on about how she wants to marry a man like her father (ten years older than her with “amenities”). During her normal routine, she gets pedicures with her father and calls him for advice on how to deal with driving through a middle-class neighborhood where she just wants to give all the poor people a hug (not money, though). And Amanda’s relationship with her mother, Barbara, is a caricature of someone trying to be their child’s friend instead of their parent.
Amanda’s life with Barbara and her boyfriend Jeff (a dead ringer for Suits’ Rick Hoffman) is simultaneously the saddest, funniest, and most existentially terrifying part of Princesses: Long Island. Barbara desperately wants to remain young, attaching herself to Amanda to the point of going shopping for beachwear with her daughter, inviting herself to her daughter’s parties, and cajoling Jeff into saying he finds her attractive in front of Amanda. Jeff is the Bob Benson of Princesses—he’s incredibly effeminate (if not straight-up closeted) and comes off as extremely creepy while semi-flirting with his girlfriend’s mom. At the same time, Jeff is by far the most engaging person on Princesses, if only because he’s so bizarre. Jeff, Amanda, and Barbara all bikini shopping together might be cringe-inducing, but I’d pay to watch them in a darkly comic Bates Motel-type spinoff.
Jeff is also, thankfully, at the center of the premiere’s big setpiece, a pool party at Erica’s house where each princess was instructed to bring the hottest guy they weren’t into. “Career women” princess Joey’s friend Sara approaches Jeff, saying that she was Facebook friends with him before he began dating Amanda. For some reason, Sara proceeds to call Jeff a “freako weirdo” and a faggot. The ensuing shouting match is enormously entertaining, but only because Jeff is at the center repeatedly telling Sara to “take a stroll.” By the time a series of talking heads shows the princesses trying to moralize about using the word “faggot,” the episode reaches a manic pace that makes it easier to forget about its many problems. The fight is riveting enough to hint at an addictive, minimally guilt-inducing version of Princesses, if only the show could cut out some of its flab and get even the slightest bit of distance from the even more twisted than usual values at its core.
- Princesses is probably a “B” for entertainment value but a “D” for how appalling it is, so there you go.
- I haven’t mentioned Joey, who seems comparatively normal. Here is her best moment in this episode: “Poking is creepy. People should not be doing that.”
- The rest of the “On this season of Princesses” montage really plays up the Judaism thing, from yarmulkes and Manischewitz to the almost certain future classic, “Shabbat shalom, go fuck yourself!”