I have a serious problem. Pardon me if I seem a little embarrassed talking about it, as this is a new development and one that, frankly, puzzles and surprises me.
Here goes: I am addicted to Bravo's new docusoap Flipping Out. There, I said it. The first step to dealing with problem is to admit it exists and I've now put my issue directly on the table.
I first came across Flipping Out a few weeks ago when I scored a screener episode with the first two installments. I will admit that I was skeptical about the program and started to watch it fully expecting to be rolling my eyes within the first few minutes. And then something strange happened: I was sucked in and couldn't stop watching. I sat through the first two episodes in one sitting, hungry for more.
Let's backtrack for one second. For those of you not up to speed, Flipping Out is Bravo's latest addition to its docusoap ouevre, which includes programs like Work Out, Real Housewives of Orange County, Blow Out, and Million Dollar Listing. In other words, series that don't usually hold my interest longer than it takes to reach for the TiVo remote.
Flipping Out deals with the brilliant and eccentric (the perfect reality TV combo, it would seem) real estate investor Jeff Lewis; his job in layman's terms is to flip houses but he does so with a style and panache--not to mention extreme budgets--that is unrivaled in the field. His life is helped along and hindered by his incredibly TV-ready staff: executive assistant Jenni, a Julia Louis-Dreyfus clone with aspirations of acting and, er, rapping; second assistant Stephen, a hilariously sarcastic slacker who has only now realized what he's gotten himself in for; live-in maid Zoila, who becomes exhausted after a scant ten minutes of work; and Chris, a.k.a. Trash Guy, a struggling actor and doofus who happens to be married to Jenni.
From that description, it doesn't sound all that promising, but the dramatic success of the series depends on the conflicting personalities of its leads. Jeff is an OCD-prone perfectionist who lords it up over his employees. Hell, he even arranges a feudal sit-down lunch with the staff, with himself at the head of the table. And he's got a fiery temper, which probably comes in handy as he's frequently firing his troublesome staff. Don't worry though. Even favorite assistant, Jenni, who keeps his life on track and whom Jeff refers to as his conscience, has been fired and rehired about two or three times. Jenni's husband, the hapless Chris (who is incapable of manning the door during an open house without impersonating Hugo Weaving in The Matrix), has been fired and rehired no less than SIX times. In this week's episode, Chris loses Jeff's beloved cat Monkey (he gets stuck in a drawer behind the bottled water which MUST be lined up with labels facing outwards) and leaves for an acting job rather than stay to find the errant kitty; Jeff freaks out and screams at Chris. In an aside, Jeff admits that he always thought Chris was an idiot but now believes that he's some sort of evil sociopathic genius. Um, riiiiight.
Along the way, there are constant conflicts with the staff and hapless business partner/ex-boyfriend Ryan, troubles with building inspectors and escrow, and tenants that just won't move out of their old homes. And, oh, psychics, spiritual healers, exorcisms, and house blessings. (I nearly forgot about all that.) Throughout it all, Jeff insists that his staff are his family and wants to keep them close.
Personally, I think they're all crazy but that's the fun of the series in a nutshell. It's not a home improvement show at all, though the results of Jeff's work are impressive to behold; instead, it's a docusoap about the behind-the-scenes drama of house flipping and the diva-like personality of what it takes to be at the very top of this dramatic profession.
In the end, Flipping Out has got compelling, quirky characters that put most scripted dramas to shame and an underlying humor that hooks you and keeps you coming back for more. Trust me on this. Your house might not look anything like one of Jeff's creations, but there's no way you're not going to want to stay in on Tuesday nights to see what new drama he and his team are cooking up next.
Flipping Out airs Tuesday nights at 10 pm on Bravo.
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Jace is an LA-based television development and acquisitions exec who watches way too much television for his own good and would love a TiVo for every room in the house. (He’s halfway there.) His blog, Televisionary, can be found at televisionaryblog.com.