Forget your housewives, your shahs and your SUR servers. There is one clear group of inebriated, over-the-top, sh-- stirring group of friends that rules them all. I'm talking, of course, about the cast of Southern Charm. This little reality series may not have as much cultural cache as the Real Housewives franchise or the ridiculous brawls of Vanderpump Rules, but Southern Charm is secretly the best show on Bravo, and here's why:
The cast is insane in the best way possible. You could not script a more ridiculous core group of characters. There's Thomas Ravenel, aka T-Rav, a former state treasurer who was forced to resign after receiving a federal indictment on cocaine charges. Despite serving 10 months in prison, Thomas refused to believe his political career was over and Season 2 followed his senate campaign where he tried to unseat incumbent Lindsey Graham. (Spoiler alert: He failed.)
Then there's Kathryn Dennis, T-Rav's on-again, off-again girlfriend who is many decades his junior and up there with Jax Taylor and Spencer Pratt in the reality TV antagonist hall of fame. Despite being the descendant of Vice President John C. Calhoun, Kathryn bears none of the markings of the typically reserved bourgeoisie. When even slightly provoked - which she is quite often - Kathryn lashes out both verbally and physically, delivering incredibly one-liners and some of the greatest reaction faces in reality TV history.
Real World: San Diego alum Cameran Eubanks is the show's voice of reason. Generally friends with everyone, Cameran is the perfect audience surrogate, often vocalizing exactly what fans are thinking and calling everyone out on their sh--. Cameran's storyline is also the most relatable, with her figuring out whether or not motherhood is something she wants in her life and marriage.
There are also the show's dueling peter pans, Shep Rose and Craig Conover, the latter of whom has neither the money nor the charm to pull off Shep's leisure-filled lifestyle. Whereas Shep comes from enough money that he doesn't have to worry about silly things like work or commitment, middle class Craig longs to be like Shep, constantly emulating his party-hard lifestyle in ways that often get in the way of his career - not that Craig needs any help in that department. Going into the fourth season this spring, law school alum Craig has yet to take his bar exam, an issue which has become a recurring gag - and point of contention -- on the reality show.
Shep, on the other hand, can do no wrong - at least in my eyes. He's a womanizing, commitment-phobe, sure, but Shep is so upfront and self-aware about his flaws that they become more like lovable quirks rather than red flags. He's the heart and soul of Southern Charm, and more than often the much-needed comic relief.
And how could I forget Landon Clements? When Landon arrives in Charleston, she's fresh off a divorce her family wishes she hadn't gotten and is trying to start over, to varied degrees of failure. Constantly searching for her purpose and partner in life, the former step-mother to Stacey Dash's daughter at one point attempts to launch a website without knowing how to build a website. The head of Vox then verbally reams her for being a terrible businesswoman. It's actually kind of sad at points.
Finally, there is the mother-son duo of Patricia Altschul, the epitome of lavish wealth and Southern class, and Whitney Sudler-Smith, Patricia's 48-year-old son who still lives at home when the series begins.
Patricia has the type of old school glamour typically associated with Hollywood movies stars the likes of Liz Taylor. She's the type of woman who has a vet make daily housecalls to give dialysis to her ailing cat, who hires a White House decorator to permanently install her dog's urn above her bed and who has her butler bring her her "medicine" - aka a martini - at 5 p.m. sharp every single day. In short, she is my hero.
Her son, on the other hand, has clearly grown up surrounding by wealth and privilege but fancies himself a rock 'n roll auteur - something we've seen no evidence he's anything close to being. Case in point, Whitney once released a documentary about fashion designer Roy Halston that was universally panned, and later attempted to direct one of T-Rav's campaign ads which wound up being unusable. Whitney does get credit, however, for creating Southern Charm, so clearly he has some good taste. But really, we just love him for giving Patricia a reason to appear.
Unlike many reality shows, Southern Charm is shockingly real. We know every reality show is produced to the dickens, but what makes Southern Charm so addicting is that the authenticity of some of the show's most outrageous storylines is undeniable. When Kathryn first came on the scene in Season 1, she wasn't even a cast member. She really was just a random, early twentysomething woman who caught the eyes of Craig, hooked up with Shep, shacked up with Whitney and eventually entered into a relationship with and got pregnant by Thomas - twice! (Although the first time, there was some suspicion that Shep might have been the father. Talk about awkward!)
Thomas and Kathryn's relationship has since become the driving force of the series, with their tumultuous relationship providing endless drama. And the fact that Kathryn and Thomas share two children means that - unlike many reality show relationships - they aren't just together for the cameras. These two are stuck together, in some form or another, for life, which isn't exactly a good thing.
Since getting together, the issues in their relationship have evolved from your expected gold digger accusations to the unexpected: Kathryn's stylist alleging Thomas abused her to, more recently, Thomas accusing Kathryn of being a drug addict and stopping her from seeing their two young children. The pair's issues have played out in the courts, social media and the press, reminding viewers that this isn't drama crafted for TV. These are very real problems with a lot at stake for both T-Rav and Kathryn.
Southern Charm plays with narrative form. Unlike many reality shows, Southern Charm likes to play with narrative structures more commonly seen on scripted programming. Recent seasons have begun by showing an excerpt from a dramatic scene from the end of the season before flashing back in time and showing exactly how we got from relative peace in the beginning of the season to Thomas giving a dinner party toast in which he just reads each of his friends to filth before chasing them outside to a golf cart.
The show also isn't afraid to end a season on a major cliffhanger, which is rarely seen on reality since any resolution is then never caught on camera. Given that gap in footage, Southern Charm reunions then become must-see TV since they often reveal critical information that the season finale left up in the air.
It gave us one of the most uncomfortable moments in TV history. Throughout the series, it was always clear that Landon had feelings for Shep, who never gave Landon any sign that he felt the same. But that didn't stop Landon from declaring her love to Shep over a casual glass of wine, resulting in one of the greatest reality show moments the world will ever be gifted with.
Seriously, if this doesn't make you laugh, I do not know what's wrong with you.
It's getting a spin-off. Any Bravo fan knows that the sign of a great show is when the network decides to franchise it. And after four years of relative obscurity, Southern Charm has finally gotten its own spin-off, Southern Charm: Savannah. Following a whole new crew of Southern elites, Savannah aims to capitalize off Southern Charm's slowly growing popularity (and hopefully drive a few new eyes to the addicting series in the process!).
Even my boyfriend likes it. I watch a lot of reality TV. A LOT. Housewives, Vanderpump, Kardashians, Ladies of London - you name it, I watch it. But there is only one reality show that my boyfriend shows even the slightest excitement about when new episodes arrive, and that's Southern Charm. That's how powerful Shep's charm and Kathryn's... Kathryn-ness is. And honestly, it's the biggest stamp of approval a reality show can get.
Southern Charm premieres Monday, April 3 at 9/8c on Bravo.