Even if I didn’t love the latest season of Selling Sunset, Million Dollar Beach House reminded me not to take the Oppenheim Group for granted
Selling Sunset introduced the world to real estate reality TV, and set the bar for future occupational reality shows: the cast must be experts and they must be hustlers, fighting to be the best in their field. However, they also have to be glamorous, out-spoken, and provide insight into a life that its vast audience can only dream of.
Reality TV doesn’t exist to show us basic, mundane versions of reality; it exists to show us the superlatives. The most opulent occasions, the most outrageous arguments, the most glamorous dresses. We don’t watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians because we think our lives could be like that – it’s aspirational escapism.
Netflix have misread their audience with Million Dollar Beach House if they’re really trying for an East Coast answer to Selling Sunset. If you’re not watching Sunset for the women and their drama, you’re watching it for the gorgeous houses, stunning interiors, and sweeping views of Los Angeles. Everything is extreme opulence, from the realtors’ hair down to the houses’ wood floors.
However, Beach House‘s trip up is right there in the title: beach houses are second homes, so we’re not looking at quite the same level of real estate as Sunset, nor are people seeking the same level of opulence and the same sweeping views. The houses are still up there in the millions (of course), but the bar just isn’t as high, especially for the realtors.
Uncertainty as to how many bathrooms there are, a poor eye for staging homes, house prices plucked out of thin air, complicated relationships with their clients: the Beach House realtors just aren’t as slick as the cast of Selling Sunset. Sure, the Sunset realtors don’t always get it right – but they never get it quite so wrong as Beach House.
This is not exactly what I had in mind when Beach House was pegged the ‘new Selling Sunset’: the same sexist issues.
A lot of this comes back to idealism: the cast of Selling Sunset are trained and adept at creating fantasy, both for their clients and their viewers. We know house prices, commission values, and we can tell that the cast are glammed up and hot off their latest vacation – but they’re not so callous as to tell you they’re in it for the money like the Beach House cast are.
Beach House is a show of hustlers, hungry for money but negligent of actual selling skills. The series begins in the same place as Sunset, showing us the business, the realtors, the office, the friendships. But where Sunset soars on its post-work swanky dinners and hot gossip, male-dominated Beach House relies on bro things: skateboarding, beers on the beach, boredom.
This is fine – perhaps there’s a market for male-led real estate shows. But where Sunset thrives on woman-led drama – with a few interjections from Jason and Brett Oppenheim, and the icon that is Romain – Beach House falls flat. When drama is inevitably created (between the show’s only woman realtor and only black realtor, no less), it doesn’t hit right: Peggy (our leading lady) is not Christine Quinn, and the men are nothing like the Selling Sunset women. The drama is forced, awkward, cringey, and just plain boring.
Perhaps it wouldn’t be too plain if the men weren’t so arrogant. Though she is flawed, it’s painful to watch Peggy – the only woman realtor in the office – fight to be respected, especially after Sunset worked so hard to smash the stereotypes and demonstrate how women can thrive in real estate, and can do it in six inch heels.
It is similar, however, to watching Maia and Davina fighting for respect and listings from the Oppenheim brothers. This is not exactly what I had in mind when Beach House was pegged the ‘new Selling Sunset’: the same sexist issues. What’s more, Sunset challenges these issues, where Beach House reinforces them.
There are some wholesome moments that make for nice watching – men chatting about relationships, fatherhood, their friendships – but ultimately even the panoramic shots of nice houses don’t redeem the stale narrative of Beach House.