This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
I couldn’t tell you how many times this summer I felt like Vicki Gunvalson.
If you’ve ever watched The Real Housewives of Orange County, you’ll understand that no one wants to feel like a kindred spirit to the series’ polarizing former star. But this has been a relentless summer.
As record temperatures boiled the globe, a record time of 3.25 seconds was reached for my back-sweat to soak through my shirt as soon as I stepped outside. The escalation of gun violence has made it so there’s not a single public space I enter without an overwhelming feeling of unease. All of our rights are being stripped away. We all got COVID, and then immediately after I had to fight for a monkeypox vaccine appointment like I was trying for Adele concert tickets. I didn’t win the Mega Millions jackpot. On top of everything else, Christine Baranski wasn’t nominated for an Emmy.
That is to say that, by the time the Peacock reality series Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip: Ex-Wives Club rolled around and we were treated to a now-classic moment and line reading from Gunvalson, I felt her. I couldn’t believe it, but I really, truly felt her.
“If I die now,” she told her castmates, with an almost unsettling stoicism, “tell them she died sad.”
Histrionic? Morbid? Attention-seeking? Yes, yes, and duh. But relatable? Vicki, yes, I see you!
But I’ve turned a corner. Because of some projects we have coming up here at The Daily Beast, I’ve been revisiting recent TV series and major pop-culture moments, and have been reconsidering these past few months. I’m shocked, really, by how much fun they’ve also been—by how much I, and hopefully we, have laughed.
As such, I have decided to embrace a different iconic Real Housewives moment that, as the kids would have said several years ago and old people like me still say now, “lives rent-free in my head.” Let us never forget the time Jamie Lee Curtis channeled her inner QVC host to show off charity tchotchkes to the women of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and Dorit Kemsley couldn’t contain her hilarious fawning: “Jamie, let me just say, that is the chicest wind chime I have ever seen.”
So in the spirit of Dorit, I choose to gaslight myself and all those around me into thinking that a bunch of crap was actually fabulous. This summer so far? So chic!
Mostly, that chicness—and the aforementioned laughter—has been owed to one of the strongest summers for TV comedy that I can remember.
It’s still relatively recent that new series and new seasons debuted during the doldrums. I remember growing up when NBC used to tout its three months of reruns with the desperate commercial campaign: “If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you!”
Now, some of the strongest series—specifically comedies—of the year are airing during this hellacious season.
I sometimes wonder if we don’t cherish What We Do in the Shadows enough. Of course, the people who I know that watch are evangelists. But I don’t think there’s a show on TV with the laughs-per-episode quotient that this one has, and it mystifies me that Natasia Demetriou, Kayvan Novak, and Matt Berry aren’t gracing magazine covers that herald them as modern comedy geniuses.
That’s not exactly to slight the trio occupying most of those covers. Steve Martin and Martin Short are…Steve Martin and Martin Short, while Selena Gomez has been a revelation on Only Murders in the Building, particularly during this new season—which, coincidentally, I’ve been enjoying much more than its more careful, slower-paced first.
Barry, a comedy that maybe should be called a drama, was nothing short of brilliant. Evil, a drama that maybe should be called a comedy, was the same. The Boys, a gruesome superhero TV series that is an allegory for the dangers of Trumpism and also included a shrinking man spelunking into a urethra and then exploding inside of the penis, is perhaps unclassifiable. But it sure is fun.
“Though, as I mentioned, these are trying times, so who am I to judge anyone who manages to find their bliss.”
The Bear exposed the chaos and ultimate reward of working in a restaurant. High School Musical: The Musical: The Series exposed the chaos and ultimate reward of being a teenager at musical theater camp. Uncoupled exposed the chaos and (dear god, I hope) ultimate reward of being a gay man who is suddenly single in New York.
I’ve never loved anything in this life the way that straight people love Nathan Fielder. Let’s just say that The Rehearsal wasn’t for me. Though, as I mentioned, these are trying times, so who am I to judge anyone who manages to find their bliss.
But as for the comedy that gave me the fortitude to keep going this summer despite the number of times cashiers looked at my physical state after arriving at their establishments in this heat and asked, “Sir, are you OK?”: I have to give it to reality TV.
I do not care to admit how many times I have watched the clips of those Gunvalson and Kemsley moments, and I still howled as I wrote this piece. That’s not to mention how often the likes of Phaedra Parks and, surprisingly, Brandi Glanville pulled off comedy bits and one-liners better than most sitcoms on TV. (May we all learn to tell who is a lesbian by their eyebrows.)
The greatest comedic performers we have in society assembled for the all-winners season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars. If you’ve seen the series, you’re familiar with Ru’s uncontrollable giggle fits. That was me every single time Jinkx Monsoon was on screen, and never more so than during her Snatch Game performance as Judy Garland. It’s the TV moment of the year as far as I’m concerned. (Similarly, the Discovery+ series Trixie Motel, featuring Drag Race alum Trixie Mattel, is more than worth your time.)
And that’s only counting official TV series. How many times have I gotten out of breath laughing at the viral video of the Dirty Dancing finale set to The Muppet Show theme? Or stared entranced and bewildered at Drew Barrymore dancing in the rain? (Related: Be careful, Drew!) Or cherished every Keke Palmer clip, and every meme about Nicole Kidman’s AMC theaters monologue?
I hate to say it, folks, but I’m glad I am: This summer, we lived, we laughed, and we loved. Almost inexplicably.
In any case, something’s coming soon in this space—and out of it—that we hope will bring you joy. Hopefully this reminder of all the laughs we’ve already experienced has been a fond warm-up for it.
The post I Can’t Believe We Actually Laughed This Summer appeared first on The Daily Beast.