If it were 2010, and you were Rosie Pope, the owner of a maternity clothing store and “maternity concierge service” in New York City, and someone approached you about turning your life into a reality series, would you say yes? It’s easy to see why Pope, a self-professed “pretty private person” and the star of Pregnant in Heels, which recently began its second season on Bravo, took the bait. But when we met Pope, a blonde, leggy Brit with a peculiar Anglo-American accent, last spring, it quickly became clear that this show wasn’t just an attempt at a facsimile of The Rachel Zoe Project, or any of the Bettheny Frankel shows. It feels too real, too documented. And yet it’s rarely boring.
Pope doesn’t generate the kinds of laughs that either Zoe or Frankel do (intentionally or not). She has a sidekick, an employee by the name of LT, but for some reason LT doesn’t get much screen time in season two. In season one, this bouncy, petite black gay man can be seen, for one, choreographing and then performing a dance routine at a client’s baby shower. In season two, he does little more than menial tasks, such as drive a truck full of a spoiled Staten Island girl’s toys away (the toys having been confiscated at part of Pope’s plan to prepare the girl for the birth of her sibling).
The show is full of that tiddlewinky Bravo interlude music that is supposed to indicate an awkwardly funny moment, or just an awkward moment, but what the show is really trying to do is create a very steep arc out of relatively flat situation. This isn’t hard, as it turns out. The moms-to-be are amped up on hormones (on top of their already considerable sense of entitlement), and their partners often seem to be too, resulting in what I can only assume feels like one endless and greatly intensified bout of PMS, which gives the show’s producers some pretty great material: this woman is completely in denial she is having twins; that woman is determined to unleash the “tiger mother” parenting style on her child even though her husband is in complete disagreement.
But there are no surprises. Basically we have a conflict/resolution or reformational setup, the closest reality-TV cousin of which I can think of is The Dog Whisperer. We start with a stubborn or ignorant woman, man, or both, and we watch as they magically become people who are fit to raise children. At the end of each episode, Pope goes to visit the new babies of that episode’s featured parents. The parents are suddenly calm, and of course elated, as new parents are. And we have to wonder if they would be just as calm had Pope not been paid thousands to help them.
When the humor does come, it’s through LT, or through the sometimes completely embarrassing behavior of the diva moms-to-be. One woman in a recent episode is determined to have her home “greenified” before the birth of her daughter. She claims to be very green already, and becomes defensive and petulant when some experts show up to purge her (not terribly green) apartment of toxins. This woman doesn’t even appear to want Pope’s help, much less be televised receiving it, and so we’re made to feel that we’re watching some public altercation that does not involve us — not television (not even reality television).
The best moment of this show so far (either season) has to be Pope’s visit to a Staten Island client’s home, which happened a few weeks ago. The parents themselves seem like reasonable people, but their home is full of severe marble, there are mirrors everywhere, and their preferred lighting scheme is blacklight. Everything is round. The upstairs hallway is lit only with blacklight, resembling the corridor leading to the bathroom in some resort nightclub. This is the family with the spoiled daughter who gets her toys shuttled away. The girl plays with her toys in a very white, very barren (except for the toys) garage the size of two modest Manhattan apartments
As for the other homes, it is comforting that despite the fact that every parent on Pregnant in Heels seems to be an advertising executive, every domestic setting on the show feels impossibly cramped (no wonder the parents are at each other’s throats). There are few palatial estates (unless you count the Staten Island 1990s Ibiza time capsule), few episodes of the kind of devastating display of wealth that happens on Keeping Up With The Kardashians. In other words, the show is relatively anodyne.
Perhaps we have the babies to thank for that. There really aren’t enough of them, but that’s because the show centers mostly on new parents (occasionally Pope’s own children will make a cameo, which will melt most viewers into the floor). The women who like this show (moms, first-time moms, expectant moms, aspiring moms) wait for the little glimpse of baby right at the end of every episode. Those who are slightly put off by the babies, but entertained by the show, have enough to go on thanks to the maelstrom that the parent-subjects create for themselves, and then exaggerate (or maybe not!) at the producers’ request. Pregnant in Heels could perhaps use more palatial estates, more inter-employee drama, more clusterfucks on which the fate of the universe can be made, for 45 minutes, to seem to ride. But then it would be just like every other slice of reality out there.