"It's a great day in South Carolina" was not likely whispered from Gov. Nikki Haley's lips after the first episode of Charleston's plunge into the media spotlight, Bravo's "Southern Charm."
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We are supposed to swallow the cast as the "new" Southern elite in Charleston - "playground for men that never want to grow up." There's not enough bourbon in the state of Kentucky to numb the pain this causes the brain, and there's not enough white eyelet and lace to pretty up the stain of shame that may leak onto our seersucker suits.
We first meet T-Rav, a/k/a Thomas Ravenel, 51, the only Charleston native on the show. His "unfortunate incarceration" in 2007 for a cocaine distribution conspiracy is discussed more than expected. Perhaps it was just an oversight that the PR folks at Bravo listed him as 48 years old. I thought only Southern women disguised their true age. But he's still got good hair. And he's the only one who can woo the ladies by saying that our bridge is named after his Daddy.
Next up, Shep Rose, 33, most recently of Hilton Head Island. He prefers the life of luxury. In fitting with the Peter Pan Syndrome theme of the show, he's a little too old to be "spinning his wheels," but he's got a smile that will knock your socks off and exceptionally good hair.
Shep meets up with his cool and pretty gal pal Cameran Eubanks for a lunch at 82 Queen, and they discuss his attempts at picking up women and how he can get away with not having to work. Cameran, 30, a South Carolina native, discusses how "there's not a lot of career opportunities selling real estate," but considering that's her new job after spending 10 years in the "cosmetic industry," whatever that means, we're keeping our fingers crossed that her new friendship with commercial real estate mogul T-Rav will prove to be fruitful.
I say more power to this non-independently wealthy young woman who is no stranger to reality TV, after being a cast member of MTV's "The Real World: San Diego." You gotta get in there and make friends with rich people who have their own reality show so that they can jump-start your career.
Then there's Whitney Sudler-Smith, age unknown, who shares a downtown manse with his mother. Yes, he lives with his mother and she (martini in hand) and their personal chef tease him about the women's clothing (and other items) in a pile on his bedroom floor. He decides he needs a love shack in town. It's a good thing he knows Cameran, who happens to have just passed the real estate boards.
Whitney appears to be the true center of this universe. He has a confidence that doesn't come across as too arrogant and he looks like the lead singer of Train.
We can't have Southern "reality" without a lawyer in there. Enter Craig Conover, 25, a native of Delaware, law student and clerk. He's bummed because he can't make his friends' 2 p.m. parties. He's chastised for tardiness by his supervisor and cautioned about being judged by the people he hangs out with. It was so stilted that I almost forgot it was a reality show. He's got the good hair and the good clothes, but there's an undercurrent of something else.
Noteworthy: Delaware is to the right of the Mason-Dixon line, not under it.
Jenna King, 28, and originally from Sumter, has lived in Miami, New York, and Europe - you know, all true Southern hubs. She's got an edge, so when she picks Whitney up in her "starter Benz" and they go boutique shopping, you know that this girl with a mohawk is going to be a real piece of work.
Nutshell: Everyone is real pretty and has really good hair and they smile a lot. But that's probably because there's always a cocktail around.
Whitney hosts the quintessential Charleston garden party, but he butchers a perfectly simple recipe for Scarlett O'Hara punch by making it "taste like drunk." When his friends suggest a beer run instead, he's mortified. A friend of Shep's ex-girlfriend calls him arrogant so he hits on her - in front of the ex-girlfriend. There is a grotesque amount of hair flipping from the young women and rich men flirt just as obviously and horribly as poor men.
Whitney and Jenna "run into" Cameran at The Rooftop Bar at The Vendue Inn. It is such sweet serendipity that Jenna and Cameran, who knew each other in high school, just happen to run into each other while filming the same reality show. You know, because Charleston is "such a small town."
There is a lot of talk about T-Rav pursuing politics and his advisor warning him to stay clean and get married. Later T-Rav has coffee with the young lady that his advisor said was a "good catch," the "Senate Barbie." Because that label is not at all offensive.
Please note that the coffee they share is in T-Rav's bed, not at Starbucks.
Whitney brings Jenna to a polo match that T-Rav is hosting, and playing in, at his plantation, and the fellas meet her for the first time. Shep and Craig follow the rules of the bro-code, so Shep "gets a swing" at Jenna first. He continues to strike out at the dinner party that follows. Bless his little heart for trying.
In a more skin-crawling turn, the cast discusses "Gone with the Wind" over dinner and they debate who is better between Scarlett and Melanie and Rhett and Ashley. Take a guess which one T-Rav picked.
BEST QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: "When I got out of prison, I was listless and I found polo." - T-Rav
WORST QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: "It's not that I had a problem with cocaine, I just liked the smell of it." - T-Rav
BEST QUOTE ABOUT THE ELITISM OF POLO: "You get all decked out to go walk around in horse****." - Cameran
BEST QUOTE FOR PUTTING YOUR FAITH BACK INTO TODAY'S YOUTH: "I get bored easily and will stay in Charleston until I get bored again. I guess." - Jenna
WORST PICK-UP LINE OF THE NIGHT WHILE PLAYING BOCCE BALL: "The first time I played bocce ball was in prison." - T-Rav
PREDICTIONS FOR EPISODE 2:
More heavy drinking and a possible game-changing bro-code failure between Shep and Craig, and T-Rav makes advances at a woman who questions his past (and who seems to have the same name as Shep's ex-girlfriend).
A previous version of this story incorrectly described the location of the home Whitney Sudler-Smith shares with his mother.
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