“Shut…the front…door!”: Rachel Zoe, Bravo and the professional person show

I’m curious about the wife’s enchantment with this show. Her constant refrain while watching is: “who are these people?” Mostly her comments relate to Rachel, Rodger and Brad’s flat, affectless delivery and their tendency to accentuate a crisis with by finishing every sentence with this is a total “fashion [fill in the blank].”

As opposed to other Bravo shows, particularly those with housewives in them, Rachel actually works really hard. This is not to say that other Bravo starlets don’t do anything, it’s just that the things they do (starting a recording career, beginning a fashion line, making appearances at the mall) seem less like jobs and more like incidental (and made up) trappings of the show. Case in point, NYV housewife, Countess Luann’s big “hit” “Money Can’t Buy You Class” (a personal favourite…)

Instead of these made up activities and social events, Rachel seems to attend events that are not made up, like actual fashion shows. Even more to the point, she seems to work for the people who are a part of this world.

This season, as with every other, so far as I can tell, is built around the narrative event of having to find Oscar dresses for Demi and Cameron (only referred to by their first names, of course). Along the way, Rachel argues with her husband Rodger, and frolics with her fabulous assistant Brad.

On one level, I truly appreciate what Rachel does. As one of the best stylists in her field, her celebrity clients always looks great at the end of the season as they grace the red carpet. On the other hand, Rachel’s skinny presence on screen and marital tension with husband Rodger sometimes makes for ambivalent and uncomfortable viewing.

Zoe has denied all rumors of anorexia, to the point of it becoming the B-Plot in one of last season’s episodes. This may be true, but as opposed to everyone else on the show, who are almost always pictured eating something, there is a notable absence in the show, namely Zoe’s deriving sustenance from anything other than fashion.

Now I’m not one to judge on this. I really don’t know enough to comment, but the constant topic of conversation between the wife and I as we watch is the fascination that we have while debating the “is she?” or “isn’t she?” issue.

In Tuesday’s episode, the absence of food was notable as Rodger, Brad and Rachel sat down to dinner and the men ate big bowls of pasta, while Zoe had some tea. This creates an interesting tension within the series, as do questions of Zoe’s constant headaches, fainting spells and general symptoms of overwork. Her baggy clothes (and fluffy robes) only accentuate the issue, particularly when you can see the jutting rib bones of her chest.

We also talk about the two modes of dress on the show – formal and stylish vs. fluffy hotel bathrobe…

The other thing that interests me about the show this season is the seemingly increased tension between married Rodger, Rachel and Brad as the latter two spend more time working together.


Rodger’s arc this season seems to involve his dissatisfaction with the arrangement, as professed in almost every one of her interview sections.

This tension could speak to Rodger’s displacement in Zoe’s career, as he increasingly complains about his role in Zoe’s company, her workplace and her relationship with Brad.

More on all this later, but all of this seems to have coalesced in next Tuesday’s episode, which will resolve the ongoing pressure on Rachel to choose between having a baby and a career (bowing to pressure from her sister and husband) planning a big Seder dinner (where we may actually see her eat!) and coming down from her post-Oscar busy season.

More to come, including thoughts on Top Chef, Bravo in general and Andy Cohen – The New Jerry Springer?

(and as always with works in progress, etc…would love to hear your thoughts so feel free to comment)


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