Real Girlfriends in Paris? Non, Non, Non!

Thanks to, where this piece first appeared.

Yes, as the American songwriter Cole Porter penned: I love Paris in the springtime/I love Paris in the fall/I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles/I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles…

I lived there for seven years. I still love it. And, it seems, more and more Americans can’t get enough of the City of Lights, as the phenomenal success of Netflix’s appalling Emily in Paris shows. 

Emily in Paris stars Lily Collins as a twenty-something marketing executive (the only real joke in the alleged comedy), who leaves Chicago to take up her dream job in Paris. 

When she can be bothered to work between taking selfies and dressing up, she’s the toast of her industry because she thinks of doing things her colleagues obviously haven’t thought about doing after decades in the job. She’s also the target of every French man’s affection.

In my seven years, I was lucky if a miniature poodle came sniffing around me, let alone a member of the male species. The closest I came to a potential boyfriend was a chess Grand Master, but as he beat me in 12 seconds flat, I wasn’t optimistic about our future. I’ve had longer dates.

An enormous 77% of the viewers were women and put the show right up there with the country’s most-watched dramas, despite its being as far removed from the real Paris as the Eiffel Tower is from New York’s Freedom Tower. 

My heart sinks that series three and four have already been commissioned. In Paris itself, where the series has been met with derision, you can almost hear the collective sigh of horror.

On September 5th, Bravo’s new reality series Real Girlfriends in Paris premiered with its first two episodes. Any fan of Bravo (and I really, really am) knows that their reality is as unreal as real life gets – as it should be; I don’t want to watch a show about me sitting at a desk all day. Staged arguments, absurd plotlines, characters with Eiffel Tower-sized egos – their shows are celebrations of the excesses and absurdities of people you’d never want to know in real real life.

The six women featured – Adja, Margaux, Emily, Kacey, Anya, Victoria – claim that their show differs not only from Emily in Paris, but also from other series in the Bravo franchise such as Below Deck and Real Housewives. They say it’s because they are genuine friends and also claim that as ex-pats living in the city, they are delivering a more realistic view of Parisian life.  

On the strength of the first two episodes, I’d have had more fun being sent to the guillotine.’

Showrunner for both series is Darren Star – also behind the successes Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place and Sex and the City – but the feeling so far is that we’re in for yet another bout of tedium in which the only nod to the real Paris is the name of the city in the title.  

‘Watch Six Women Take Massive Leaps of Faith in Paris’ screams the website. Massive? It’s barely a hop, skip and a jump. They are all stunning twentysomethings (with the exception of Anya, who is an ancient 32) who all went to Paris in search of the Parisian dream, but their leaps really don’t seem to have been that massive.

Take Margaux. She grew up in Paris and has parents (divorced) who still live there. She couldn’t even work out how to open the window of her apartment, and when Daddy came to visit (he’s rolling in it, after selling a newspaper and investing in high end art), she bemoaned the fact that he was now giving her only 2000 a month when ‘I used to have 10k.’ Dollars or euros, who knows; but it wasn’t enough for the poor lamb and she was so stressed she had to reach for a cigarette. Yegods! Her ambition is to build an agency representing young artists but is ‘afraid of failure.’  

Afraid of losing the Bank of Daddy, more like.

Margaux’s other complaint, during a Thanksgiving dinner, was that she hadn’t had sex since August. ‘When was the last time you got laid?’ she asked over the meal (this was even before the turkey had been eaten). Answers varied from ‘This morning’, to ‘Last night’, to a bemused silence from Anya, who carries an air of superiority not unlike Lisa Vanderpump did on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

When bisexual Victoria started talking about a forthcoming date with a woman, she burst into tears as she was lovingly hugged by all the others. Except Anya, whose face was so frozen, you could have been forgiven for thinking she had entered the first stages of rigor mortis.

In Bravo’s tease for the series, Emily (there had to have been an Emily, of course) gushes over Anya, who has lived in Paris for 10 years): ‘She’s Miss Paris; she’s so intellectual.’

Anya is an art historian licensed by the French government to give tours, yet she appears to take more delight in her massive shoe collection. In a future episode, you will see her gushing over a pair with a croissant on each toe and pointing out, amid the footwear, a real Ritz cracker in a special drawer in her closet, ‘because I love the Ritz.’ There’s that scintillating intellect.  Simone de Beauvoir she ain’t. 

Adja joined the show as a result of ‘karmic energy’ and claims to have been putting out good vibes when she was selected (yeah; whaddever). She also says she ‘was not guided in any manner’ by producers during filming (yes, you were; you just can’t see it). 

She’s smitten by European men, who are more romantic, saying things along the lines of, ‘Your eyes are so beautiful in the moonlight; your hair is so luscious.’ Trust me: those are just euphemisms for wanting to get laid, as Margaux might say.

Kacey, who took French in high school in LA, teaches English and also plays computer games that she produced from their hiding place in her ample chest. There’s that producer again.

All six seem to be the usual kind of verbally challenged airheads that Bravo manages quite ingeniously to find for their output. They all have long flowing hair, squeak absurdly like the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills when they meet up, and fawn obsequiously over what they are each wearing. 

Whatever skills they might have, they’re being well hidden beneath the mirage of fluff and cliché.

Paris is ‘a fairytale’, ‘the fashion capital of the world’, and ‘If you can make it in Paris, you can make it anywhere’ – and so on.

Cole Porter and George Gershwin have a lot to answer for in fuelling Parisian fantasies, despite their own experiences being authentic ones and their works of art being moving tributes to the place.

Porter’s I Love Paris and Gershwin’s brilliant jazz composition An American in Paris (first performed in 1928) inspired several generations to seek out the romantic notions so evident in the music. In 1951, the musical movie of the same name won the Oscar for Best Picture. Woody Allen said that Rhapsody in Blue was the inspiration for his 1979 movie, Manhattan.

Sadly, American TV never even comes close to revealing the heart and soul of Paris in the way that, for example, Sex and the city did for Manhattan.

So far, the feeling is that we are in for another pointless ride up the Champs-Elysées of delusion.