Has anyone ever actually talked about “squashing” an argument outside the world of reality TV?
After spending way too many hours mainlining Netflix’s Selling Sunset and then watching its would-be sibling series Million Dollar Beach House—both rife with dramatic people “squashing” all sorts of befuddling conflicts—I’ve found myself struggling to remember whether actual human beings say such things. But I can say this: Despite its clear aspirations, Million Dollar Beach House is no Selling Sunset.
The premise behind Million Dollar Beach House is pretty self-explanatory: the series follows realtors from Nest Seekers International across all the hamlets of the Hamptons. But the life force of all these shows are the characters—and unfortunately for Million Dollar Beach House, all of its archetypes are a dime a dozen and also pretty dull.
Jimmy Giugliano, a Hamptons native with a boyish face, is the top salesperson at his Nest Seekers International office and rarely around for the inter-office drama. (He is also, therefore, the only person on this team who I believe actually gets any work done.) Michael Fulfree is a onetime model with a gooberish smile whose favorite catchphrase appears to be, “I’ve got a baby on the way!” At one point he reluctantly vows to buy his wife a Cartier bracelet as a “push present.” Joseph “J.B.” Andreassi’s whole deal, meanwhile, appears to be that he’s convinced he deserves a promotion after a year and change of working in the Hamptons—despite, at one point, making over a perfectly nice dining room with what the owner rightfully derided as “office furniture.” Noel Roberts is a cool, formal guy—as in, he doesn’t like office gossip and he hired a cellist for his birthday. And then there’s Peggy, the only prominently featured woman from the team. She claims to be all about selling houses and making money but also can’t seem to resist a chance to gossip or even create a public scene out of thin air.
Reality TV works best when it amplifies the surreality of its subject matter with all the tools available. Do the realtors of the Oppenheim Group always forge and destroy their allegiances at immaculate dinner parties and under carefully lit cabanas? Does their skin always glow as though it were lit from within, conveniently hiding all their wrinkles and blemishes? Are most L.A. realtors like these people? Probably not! But Selling Sunset would never show us that because it would destroy the fun. (Although I will say, despite all the doubts about whether or not Oppenheim Group’s modelesque realtors are actually realtors, they seem to know their stuff better than some of Nest Seeker’s finest—one of whom can’t even keep track of how many fridges the house he’s showing has.)
But too much of Million Dollar Beach House simply reflects reality. These are not over-the-top characters in 6-inch Louboutins and extensions; there are just realtors doing realtor stuff and occasionally yelling at one another. And the work environment, mostly male, feels like what would happen if you gave any handful of born-from-money bros from New England an office.
Jimmy is often nowhere to be found (presumably because he’s actually working) and J.B. avoids most of the inter-personal drama. Peggy is practically the one-woman source for all of the drama—although at one point she’s also goaded by Mike.
And in an awkward turn, Noel, seemingly the only Black person in the office, is largely defined by some co-workers’ shared distaste for him early in the season—despite being objectively the most interesting member of the crew. (He’s a twin who once played ping pong in the Junior Olympics for God’s sake!) Most of Noel’s coworkers think he’s cagey and scoff at his formality. As Mike puts it when Noel is first introduced, “He’s very polished, right? He’s a polished gentleman.” Thankfully Noel does get a chance to shine toward the end of the season, setting him up for (hopefully) a better Season 2, should one come along.
But my harshest condemnation of this boring bro-fest is this: If you’re gonna release an ultra-luxe mansion house-hunting show while most of us are trapped in our tiny apartments, the least you could do is not phone in the production.
Despite all the massive houses and purported luxury the Hamptons have to offer, Million Dollar Beach House just cannot capture the glimmer and distinct L.A. polish Selling Sunset brings to the table. It’s not that the houses are unimpressive, but that they’re drably shot. Maybe California’s mountainous houses-on-hills vistas are simply impossible to match, or maybe it’s a lower production budget. But whatever the reason: As Mike, Peggy, and Noel argued with a coworker in a literal parking lot, all I could think was, “Selling Sunset would never allow me to watch something this ugly.”