Bravo’s Summer House Is the Perfect Dead-of-Winter Watch

At a watch party for the season premiere, we’re trying to feel the warmth of the sun through Lizzie’s TV.

Stills from Bravo's "Summer House"
Eugene Gologursky / Bravo; The Atlantic

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Lizzie: Have I ever been to the Hamptons? No, I don’t think so, although I do have a tendency to forget these things. For example, I have been to Staten Island, although I don’t remember driving over a bridge to get there, but it turns out I must have. It’s not that Kait and I haven’t considered going to the Hamptons; it’s just that we’ve never managed to figure out our plans before every place we could possibly stay at had already been rented by Bravo-show cast members.

I’m talking specifically about the cast of Summer House—the reality show that follows a group of friends who spend their weekdays in NYC and their weekends in Montauk every summer. It premiered on Bravo back in 2017, and since then, the rented mansion has gotten bigger, most of the castmates have quit their non-Bravo jobs, and everyone involved (the cast, me, Kaitlyn) has gotten five years older. Summer House always airs right in the part of the winter when you start to think summer is never coming back, and it's a good reminder that it is.

Kaitlyn: I’m pretty surprised to learn that Lizzie has been on the Verrazzano Bridge without noticing, as the toll is $19. Guess she just throws Jacksons around willy-nilly!

This is related to the main reason we’ve never been to the Hamptons, which is that it’s so expensive. Instead, Lizzie and I have traveled together to these American cities: Ithaca, New York; Canandaigua, New York; Unionville, New York; Kingston, New York; East Setauket, New York, which is on Long Island. Actually, I don’t know that I have any specific interest in going to the Hamptons except as a joke because we love Bravo’s Summer House so much.

We love it so, so much. Though it’s hard to say what there is to love about it. This show features a bunch of New Yorkers who describe themselves as working hard and playing hard, which is annoying, and it stars our two boys, Kyle Cooke and Carl Radke, who originally bonded over their problematic drinking and their boat shoes, but now have a meaningful friendship defined by Kyle’s support of Carl’s (thank God) newfound sobriety and by Carl’s support of Kyle’s whole thing (complaining, being blond, caring too much about summer as a concept, going to bed with his shoes on). Summarized, it doesn’t sound appealing to me at all, but I can literally make myself tear up thinking about the gift of this show … the comfort of familiar screaming voices, the laughably low stakes of everything they’re screaming about, the warmth of the sun. In the dead of winter, Lizzie invited a tight group of equally devoted Summer House fans over for a watch party of the season premiere.

Lizzie: This party involved the kind of prep where you just have to buy things and vacuum if you want. I bought a bunch of snacks: pickle chips, Oreos, Starburst, Cheez-Its, a bland bagged popcorn mixed with Twix—a product of SNAX-Sational LLC (“The Hottest Snacks in America!”), whose use of the Twix logo prompted questions about trademark law. Matt made fried-chicken sliders and deviled eggs. I made sure I could figure out a system for streaming Bravo live. And I had to go out and find Loverboy.

About Loverboy. A natural successor in a long lineage of Bravo-related alcoholic products, like Bethenny’s Skinnygirl margarita, Sonja’s ill-fated Tipsy Girl prosecco, Ramona’s pinot, and Lisa Vanderpump’s rosé, it’s a sparkling hard tea from the brains of Summer House protagonists and now-married couple Kyle and Amanda. It’s pretty good, and almost everyone who tries one takes a sip and then says, “This is pretty good?” in the same surprised voice. It’s pretty good, but it does have a little bit of that fake-sugar flavor. You take the pretty good with the bad when it comes to Bravolebrity alcohols.

Kaitlyn: Lizzie got the White Tea Peach and the classic Lemon Iced Tea, which are both pretty good, so I had one of each. Confusingly, Loverboy also makes canned espresso martinis, which are so disgusting it’s hard to believe they came from the same planet, much less the same creative minds. (We tried them once while playing Summer House Monopoly, a game I created as a craft project due to pandemic brain.) They taste like Splenda soaked in old coffee grounds and acetone. One of the listed ingredients is orange wine? I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent wondering whether Kyle and Amanda know that the canned martinis are horrible. I also wonder this about Lisa Vanderpump and the Vanderpump wine, which is foul, and she’s a very rich woman, so you would assume she’d had some decent wine at some point. Of course, we’ll keep buying all this stuff as another joke.

Anyway, my own preparation for the party was making a bunch of Jell-O cups in summer hues. When I arrived at Lizzie’s, I put my Jell-O cups in her backyard because there was no room in the fridge. She told me to come up with a rhyme so I would remember to go get them before the episode started, so I settled on “When Claire gets here, the time for Jell-O is near.” I did repeat this a few times but then got distracted by talking to Susannah about our attraction to the problematic Real Housewives of New Jersey husband Joe Gorga, who has huge muscles and an “old-school” Italian American mindset, and how if he paid attention to us we would find it interesting, and it might help us work through some of our issues with men. When Claire arrived, it was time for the show!!! (Nobody ate the Jell-O.)

Lizzie: This was a classic episode, I thought. A study in how to kick off a reality show six seasons deep after you “part ways” with your house comedian so she can spend more time guesting on Call Her Daddy. Three new people showed up in her place (Mya, Alex, and Andrea, who is technically new but who had a head start on relationship-building during last year’s Vermont-based sister show, Winter House).

Despite the fact that only three of the 11 current cast members were part of the original Season 1 friend group, Summer House still wants us to believe that all of these people are real friends outside the show. So every season, the new people have to pretend they were invited to the house by someone, and often it feels like no one told them to prep a convincing anecdote ahead of time. When Carl asks new girl Mya how she knows Paige, Mya says something like, “You know, New York…” and then pleads with her eyes for Carl to stop asking questions.

Also on Summer House, the plotlines are kind of recycled from season to season. This episode it was Kyle staying out at Southampton Social Club far past the time when everyone else had gone home, Paige lying in bed gossiping about the others, Carl waking up at 7 a.m. to go for a jog, and Lindsay running through 15 distinct emotions over the course of four scenes.

Kaitlyn: It’s true; the show is a bit repetitive, which is part of its charm. I actively resent change. I hated when new guy Andrea was helping Lindsay unpack her suitcase and said “the bra is my favorite part.” Like, an empty bra? “I’m a boob guy,” he said. Congratulations.

We were treated—as we are every season, thank you—to a montage of Carl through the ages and all his little speeches about how much he’s evolving. (In this one, he referred to himself as “Carl 6.0 Pro Max.”) This year we believe it, though, because he is sober and looking so good. Every person in the house was given an opportunity to say that he is looking so good, and they all took it. (Carl followed me on Instagram about a year ago. I added him to my Close Friends list, but he never watches my Stories. I’m not trying to get his attention … I just wonder what it would feel like if I did!)

When the new cast members were coming in and getting hugged, Claire remarked, “I would be so nervous to enter the summer house.” This made me realize that I would be also. I think I would spend a lot of time fretting over the grocery situation—whom to pay, when to pay them, which stuff in the fridge is for snacks and which stuff is specifically for a dinner someone is planning on cooking later, etc. I would also worry about not getting enough coffee in the morning.

Lizzie: I think I would worry about standing weirdly in front of the cameras, accidentally looking directly into the cameras while talking, and having cameras in my bedroom. Mostly camera-related and not cast-dynamic-related worries, I guess.

Just as Summer House encourages us to imagine ourselves in similar Hamptons house-share situations, it also stimulates the brain by raising questions few can answer. Like, why would Kyle order a hot toddy in July? Are these $100,000 cars they all drive leased, or do they actually own them? Why does Bravo force us to watch so many pharmaceutical commercials when we’re just trying to have a good time? Is that J. Lo and Owen Wilson movie trailer for real?

Kaitlyn: Bravo has also started airing Slack commercials that play the sound of a Slack notification, as if you’re getting a Slack notification while you’re watching TV—what the hell? Luckily, Matt interrupted every commercial break to supply us with more sliders.

Of course, we have been putting off asking the worst question of all, the one that had us gripping the furniture, slurping Loverboy after Loverboy. The episode ends with Kyle at the club, ignoring Amanda’s first 14 phone calls by accident and the subsequent 13 on purpose. Paige and Ciara jump in bed with Amanda after she has smashed his cologne and face creams on the bathroom floor. Then she reveals to them that she made Kyle sign a legal document stating that if his drinking problem causes her to call off their upcoming wedding, then he has to reimburse her parents for everything they’ve spent on it, a deal that is all the more shocking now that it is clear he feels so little reverence toward it. When Kyle finally returns, he steps on a shard of cologne glass and then storms around in his Calvins, screaming that his fiancée is “as fucking fun as a piece of fucking wood.”

So here’s the question that’s so hard to ask: Why does Kyle do this to us when we root for him, and have done so for all these years?

Lizzie: Amanda doesn’t deserve it, and neither do we. But we’re all locked in now, and it looks like we will be for the foreseeable future. Speaking of the future: In the next Famous People, Kaitlyn and I will be leaving our homes for a ticketed event involving strangers and the New York Harbor. Maybe some change will be good for everyone.