“It’s not about the pasta, Lala!”
These eternal words will be forever etched on my brain. When you hear the title “Vanderpump Rules,” one would not be remiss to immediately assume it’s some kind of gym or low-budget porno. “Vanderpump Rules” is simultaneously both and neither of those things, a total celebration of depraved, image-obsessed functioning alcoholics with zero ethics and voracious appetites for emotional destruction. Oh, and it’s also one of the best shows (reality or otherwise) currently on TV.
The series follows a group of young, charismatic servers at a popular West Hollywood restaurant and bar, appropriately named SUR (Sexy Unique Restaurant). The place is as over-the-top and nauseatingly garish as it sounds, featuring purple mood lighting and giant indoor trees. It’s like Cirque de Soleil barfed on an Evanescence music video set. The mastermind behind the operation is multimillionaire restauranteur and “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Lisa Vanderpump, who expertly alternates between surrogate den mother and no-nonsense boss bitch. She simultaneously supports her staff while also stirring the pot, the calculated master of some exceedingly deranged and morally bankrupt puppets.
Despite Lisa’s ultimate rule, the SUR staff stands on their own. There’s Stassi, the self-appointed SUR queen bee, whose vindictiveness and unrelenting dedication to always being right is both frightening and admirable. At one point, she says, “I want to wrap a dildo in acid and give it Kristen as a present so it tears out her insides.” Take that in for a second. That’s a real thing that someone said. Move over, Shakespeare.
Then there’s James Kennedy, the cocky British DJ who conceals his childhood mommy issues under arrogance and copious amounts of Redbull vodkas. Tom and Katie are the show’s central couple (their wedding served as the season five finale), yet their exhausting, volatile relationship is frequently a source of scrutiny and drama. They don’t call her “Tequila Katie” for nothing.
My personal favorite is Kristen Doute, the most blissfully unaware beacon of ambivalent pettiness that has ever graced reality television. However, you can’t do a profile on “VPR” without mentioning Jax Taylor. Over ten years older than the rest of the cast, Jax is the Matthew McConaughey in “Dazed and Confused” cog of the group, a former model turned bartender desperate to recapture his glory days. It’s all borderline Tennessee Williams.
There’s often debate about how “real” reality television is, and “VPR” is not immune to these conservations. “Vanderpump Rules” could so easily fall into the trappings of your typical MTV-style reality show. In fact, most of the cast are struggling actors and musicians, so the ability to stage drama in a semi-believable way wouldn’t be lost on them. But what makes the show work so well is that it frames thing from an anthropological perspective, finding entertainment value in the fragility and expendability of friendships along with the deep-rooted selfishness and personal trauma that motivates each cast member.
Notably, unlike your standard fare, “Vanderpump Rules” isn’t a roster of relative strangers thrown together with the sole intention of making good TV. The cast is made up of real-life, longtime friends who have worked together for years and actually hang out OUTSIDE of filming. Some are dating, MANY have slept together. The history that these people have is what makes their interactions so rich and multilayered.
The explosive arguments and near-constant shifts in loyalty, while sometimes unwarranted and maybe a tad manufactured, are thrilling and unpredictable. The stars of SUR have been downright despicable to each other at times, constantly swapping partners and stabbing one another in the back in the most brutal, deliberate, unforgivable ways. Throughout six seasons, there have been physical assaults, glass smashes, drink tosses, cheating, and drug abuse.
In the show’s most recent sixth outing, there’s even an episode-long argument about pasta. It’s can get extremely bleak, but at the end of the day, these crazy kids still manage to come together and have each other’s back. It’s like “Friends” on PCP. We’re truly unworthy of the madness.
All seasons are currently streaming on a Hulu. Season seven premieres December 3 on Bravo. In other words, you have no excuse not to watch. As Stassi says, “Working at SUR is different from working at any other restaurant. The servers all want to be models, actors, writers singers. The servers at other Hollywood restaurants just want to be waiters at SUR.”