'Shahs of Sunset': Same Old Stuff from a Different Place

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Last night Bravo introduced us to another horde of shallow, materialistic ghouls roaming around California. So what's different about these ones, what merits them their own show? Well, they're all the children of or are themselves Persian immigrants, thus the Shahs of Sunset. Yes, remember when they mentioned the "Persian Mafia" in Clueless? A bunch of expensively dressed kids on cellphones who drive fancy cars? These are those people about a decade and a half later. They're social strivers who basically either sell real estate or moooch off of their parents. Sigh.

The Persians-in-Beverly Hills angle is, on paper at least, an interesting one. L.A. does have the largest Persian community in the world outside of Iran, so they're absolutely a cultural bloc, one that's insular while also expanding into the larger economic and social world. Plus there's the interesting mix of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faiths, a kind of hidden diversity existing under the larger Persian umbrella. So potentially this could actually be a Bravo show about something beyond tacky-but-expensive clothes and bragging-by-party. But, alas, it's not. It might as well be called Real Persians of Beverly Hills.

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There's Reza, a gay guy who brags about all his fine living and refined tastes, but, with his ridiculous mustache and shiny suits and gaudy gold jewelry, looks more like a Eugene Levy character than the Persian Jay Gatsby. I suppose the gay/Iranian taboo divide could develop into something worth watching, but right now Reza seems as ridiculous and useless as any other Bravo token gay. Equally stock character-esque is tiny spitfire GG, a loudly self-professed daddy's girl who flirts with the show's resident hunk, Mike, but claims coyly to not actually like him like him. This, of course, doesn't stop her from talking trash about his provocatively dressed date at a pool party, whom GG immediately starts belittling to her friends all while claiming to Mike that she's in no way "talking shit." We've seen this character on Bravo a million times — the supposedly prim and proper spoiled brat who's really just a mean, jealous old snake. It's not hard to guess where her storyline with Mike will go, all a series of half-starts and imagined slights and lots of fingers angrily pointed in faces. Yawn.

One potentially different character is Asa, a free-spirited artist type who makes videos and paintings and songs about being a displaced Persian immigrant, someone who feels culturally homeless and whatnot. That's sort of a change from the usual bling-bragging, I suppose. Only, in truth, Asa is just as materialistic as the rest of them. Though she makes the claim early on in the episode that she's nowhere near as shallow and things-obsessed as her fellow LA Persians, she says so after pulling up to a recording studio in a gleaming Mercedes convertible and then later talks snidely about H&M clothes, implying that they're cheap and déclassé. So, she's just like everyone else on the show, basically, but she wears artsier clothes. It could be kind of fun to watch her make a hypocrite of herself over and over again, but probably only for an episode or two. The producers presented GG and Asa as enemies last night, so that tension will likely continue to flare up. At this point, this late in the Bravo game, it's hard to believe that this conflict isn't at least a little planned and staged, which is annoying. Really everyone on the show seems to be going through all the required motions of the Bravo reality game: Assert a fabulous life that you're convinced everyone is jealous of so we don't feel bad making fun of it, put a fight in place that's based on nothing concrete but will continue throughout the season because the show needs a fight, and set up a will they/won't they sort of thing between the "good looking" ones. It's all been done before! (To see it done better, simply turn to often mourned NYC Prep, which is now on Netflix Instant! Eee!)

The centerpiece of awfulness on Shahs of Sunset, yes there's more and worse, has to be MJ. She's a determinedly single gal about town, claims to not be interested in getting married -- which is fine, nothing wrong with that -- but who carries her two chihuahuas around in a stroller and puts them in a dog hotel while she's at work functions and claims that they go to yoga and that one of them "voted" in the last election. Yeeeesh. Can we just be done with the whole tiny dog as child/prop thing? If you want a tiny dog, fine, great, there are many cute and wonderful tiny dogs. But the tiny dog as accessory thing, that that is still happening, is actually kind of insane. How long ago was Paris Hilton, for god's sake? She's got to be in her mid-50s by now, right? It's time to let that trend sink into the ground and disappear forever. Please. C'mon, MJ.

The tiny dog thing, though, is not what makes MJ appalling. What sinks her is that she's trying to act all defiantly single and tough and everything but in truth she's really an insecure mess with a mean and overbearing mother. Which is sad and would make us feel bad for her if only she didn't manifest that insecurity in a really horrible way last night. She's a friend's bridesmaid and so had to go to a dress fitting, and, because she didn't feel comfortable in the dress they'd selected for her, she chose to deflect from her self-consciousness by giving a terrible little lecture about the futility of coupling, saying that something her mother always says "relationship means breakup, wedding means divorce." I don't really believe that her mother says that, but whatever. The point is that MJ was saying all this to her friend who was standing there in her wedding gown. Yes, MJ was so unable to swallow her own pride and insecurity and whatever else was going on inside that she simply couldn't stop herself from cynically shitting on the whole institution of marriage in front of her friend, who'd chosen her to be a bridesmaid and who, y'know, was standing there all excited in her wedding dress. Terrifically done, MJ! Tactful as can be. Ugh. Who wants to deal with this jerk's neuroses and issues for a whole season of television? Can you imagine? Ick.

That said, we'll probably watch the entire season, because why the heck not. We have to see what happens with Mike and GG now! And will MJ ever find love? Will Reza please god shave that horrible mustache? These are things we need to know. But dammit we wish we didn't.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.