And we’re back. It’s been six years since the first season of The Real Housewives of Sydney failed to capture the imagination – or the ratings – of Australia, and probably the first big surprise of Season 2 is that, despite the first season fizzling out, two of the original housewives have returned.
Good news if you were a fan of Krissy (husband just back from China, three kids, speaks her mind) and Nicole (former Miss World contestant, now empty-nester), who seamlessly pivot to a whole new group of friends. Everyone else from the first season? Guess they’re off being real in the real world.
Of course, the whole point of the insanely popular Real Housewives franchise wherever it’s set around the globe is to focus on a group of women whose lives are about as far from most people’s understanding of ‘real’ as it gets. Expect plenty of expensive footwear, flashy outfits, and aerial shots of Sydney Harbour’s fanciest locations; while nobody’s openly talking about what their houses are worth, someone does mention their harbourside neighbour is selling up for $38 million.
What we don’t get a lot of, at least in episode one, is conflict. With seven housewives in play, it’s understandable that much of the time is spent establishing who they are. But those expecting high drama and personal drama right out the gate should lower their expectations; the real struggle here is between the lives these women lead and what most of us call reality.
Money can’t buy you eternal youth, but it can pay for a reasonable imitation. Early on, one of the more likeable additions to the cast informs us that it’s ‘basic manners’ to botox your forehead; while it’d be rude to speculate on who’s had what work done, a firm commitment to fighting the outward signs of ageing – even if it involves sitting on a swing in front of infra-red lights – seems a common theme. As Caroline (single mum, moved back from Bondi, loves travel, secretly poor past) puts it: ‘Ageing’s for the lazy – you’ve got to keep on top of that.’
What little story there is in episode one involves all the housewives meeting up (some for the first time) at a fancy ‘girl’s lunch’ put on by queen bee Terry (shoe designer, married to an ex-NRL player, one daughter). The tension slowly builds as we realise that Krissy may have once asked Caroline if she was a porn star. Caroline is a little upset at the memory, but she’ll deal; her friend Kate (successful self-made Bondi vet, firmly single, bit of an outsider) is less inclined to let it slide.
It’s small stakes (made even smaller by the surprise arrival of a saxophone player) but the focus here is as much on convincing us these women are down-to-earth types with real problems as it is inviting us to gawk at their luxe lifestyles. Sally (former TV host, breast cancer survivor, now runs a wellness business with her sister and husband) says ‘no one thinks I’m the fun mum’; being firm with the kids seems a theme. If you’re a teenage daughter who thinks she’s going to uni without learning how to use a washing machine or sew on a button, think again.
We’re provided plenty of trash and glam (oh look, is that celebrity hairdresser Joh Bailey?) but we’re also reminded that these women aren’t entirely cliches. They’re occasionally self-aware as well, which adds another layer to their world of pampered pups, peer pressure and pricey jewellery.
Sure, the houses are identically expensive, and the outfits are all about showing off what God (or your plastic surgeon) gave you. But when she’s not learning show jumping or displaying a worrying commitment to fur in her fashion designs, Victoria (big on fitness, drives a Bentley) gets to make an astute comment or two … right before she turns inviting a friend to come riding with her into a competition about the size of their horses.
‘We live in this bubble and we’re not leaving,’ someone says at the start of the episode. Honestly, who could blame them? But while the show gets across the glitz and glamour of their lifestyle just fine, so far the stakes remain a little low; an upcoming episode where some of the housewives visit a zoo for a bit of snake handling should fix that.
The first episode of The Real Housewives of Sydney premieres on Binge on 10 October, with new episodes dropping every Tuesday.