The cable network Bravo announced earlier this month that the next installment of the reality show “Real Housewives” will take place in Salt Lake City. But what’s in it for Utah? And who, exactly, will be on the show? For answers, KUER’s Caroline Ballard turned to Meg Walter. She’s editor in chief of the Utah culture website “The Beehive,” and she’s a “Real Housewives” aficionado.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Caroline Ballard: What did you first think when you heard the news Real Housewives is coming to Salt Lake City?
Meg Walter: My first reaction was, “Oh, no.” My second reaction was, “I can’t wait.”
“Oh, no.” Because it’s always a little intense to have a microscope placed over your culture. We’ve lived through that before with the 2012 Romney presidential campaign, and a few of us have some scars from that experience.
But “I can’t wait,” because it’s going to be so fun to see Utah be part of this show that is nationally loved. I think that’s key; the fans love the housewives, and I’m excited for them to get to know some of the people who live here.
CB: To set some expectations, what will this show not be?
The show will not be reality. This show will not be about the average Utahn.
MW: The show will not be reality. This show will not be about the average Utahn. It’s going to be about a very special kind of Utahn. A Utahn with a lot of money. A Utahn who is willing to be on camera and perhaps portray themselves in a way that might not be true to reality all of the time.
CB: Why do you think Bravo chose Salt Lake City as their next place to film?
MW: Think about what’s happened in Salt Lake City in the last couple of decades. We have the Sundance Film Festival, where once a year we bring in the biggest stars from around the world, and we have elaborate parties.
We have this booming [tech] industry that’s brought in a lot of money. And we have a community forming around that industry that’s full of parties, wealthy people, fashion. And it’s a lot of fun. And that’s new and it’s exciting, and I’m glad that people are paying attention to that.
CB: Executive producer Andy Cohen specifically mentioned the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the announcement. Is there a possibility for Mormon culture and people to end up as the butt of the joke on cable TV?
MW: I think it’s inevitable. I think that we’re going to hear the tired polygamy jokes that we always hear.
I think that we’re going to hear the tired polygamy jokes that we always hear … But I think we’ll get those out of the way, and then America is going to get a chance to really find out who we are.
And to be clear, it’s not that those jokes are offensive, it’s that we’ve heard them so many times it’s impossible to find them funny anymore.
I know Jimmy Fallon in his monologue the other night talked about the announcement, and it was the joke we were all expecting: “Because it’s in Utah, they’ll all have the same husband.” And I’m excited to maybe get to the other side of that.
But I think we’ll get those out of the way, and then America is going to get a chance to really find out who we are. And that’s not to say that we’re perfect. There are issues in our culture that I think need to be addressed, and it’s going to be useful to have an outsider’s perspective. And if in that outsider’s perspective there are issues that are identified, issues that make outsiders feel unwelcome in Utah, then I think that it is useful for us to have discussions around those things.
CB: Do you think enough people are going to be watching here in Salt Lake to have those conversations, or will it be sort of a trickle back effect?
MW: I think we’re all going to be watching. Aren’t you going to be watching?
CB: I’ll have it on my calendar as soon as they put it out.
MW: I think we’re morbidly curious about this and excited. It’s going to be very entertaining.
CB: Do you know about anyone who has been cast yet?
MW: I do, and I’ve been sworn to secrecy. It’s not who you think it is.
CB: What can you say?
MW: The cast member whose name I know for sure has connections to the people who have worked with previous “Housewives,” and that’s how all of this came together. This person has a brand that they are building. They are a huge part of Sundance and that community, so they have connections to Hollywood. And so we’ll see some of the more decadent side of Utah culture.
CB: Will there be LDS people on the show, members of the Church?
MW: I’m going to assume yes, even if they aren’t the core cast members. These people live among LDS people. And again, I’m excited and anxious to see how that is handled.
I think we need to be aware that there may be narratives constructed for drama, but there may also be some truths in those narratives.
CB: What do these women get out of being on this show? What is the cost and return of that?
MW: They become a household name in certain households. I know that the one cast member has a product and people are going to be made aware of that product that she represents.
Now, the cost of that is that “Housewives” [is] not always a brand that’s taken seriously. So there may be that stigma attached, but I think that she has done a cost analysis and decided that this is worth it to become a well-known brand.
CB: What is Salt Lake City getting out of this deal? Anything good?
MW: I think we need to be aware that this will not be a show that takes place in Salt Lake City. It’s going to be the surrounding, more suburban areas of Utah. But I think we have a chance to show people who we are here and the wonderful things we have to offer. We have some of the most beautiful spots in the world here in Utah. We have snow covered mountains. We have southern Utah, which is unlike any place in the world. And I hope that that is showcased on this show and it brings more people here.