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Does Daytime Divas Dish Soapy Summer Fun?

Walking the line between 'bonkers' and 'dumb' is harder than it looks.

What Is This Thing?

Live TV viewers of RuPaul's Drag Race have asked that question many a time, as the commercial for Daytime Divas -- which features star Vanessa Williams strutting across a set while singing a modified version of R&B classic "Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!)" -- has been in heavy rotation during VH1's broadcast of the reality/competition show.

Sadly, though, this isn't a show about Vanessa Williams spending some philanderer's money. Instead, it's a fictional take on female-centric roundtables like The Talk, The View or The Real. Surely, the hosts' behind-the-scenes dynamic is volatile, right? After all, everyone knows that women can't possibly get along!

So here we have The Lunch Hour, which is headed up by superstar media icon Maxine Robinson (Williams) and populated by a bunch of far lesser luminaries, all of whom are scrambling for position on the show. Catfights, needless to say, ensue.

When Is It On?

Mondays at 10 PM (so, yes, there is minor swearing) on VH1, starting June 5.

Why Was It Made Now?

There's a current void in the female ensemble dramedy slot: it's been almost five years to the day since Desperate Housewives packed their Pottery Barn and left town. Add to that the resurgence of improbably soapy dramas like Empire, Scandal, and How To Get Away With Murder -- all of which are presently on summer break -- and Daytime Divas makes sense on paper, at least.

What's Its Pedigree?

The show is based on the 2011 potboiler Satan's Sisters: A Novel Work of Fiction, by Star Jones, infamous co-host of The View; presumably the novel is so elaborately named because it's about a roundtable just like The View and Jones doesn't want to get sued. VH1 picked up the book in February of 2016, with Jones as Executive Producer. The rest of the production suite is pretty unremarkable until we get to sister writing/production team Amy and Wendy Engelberg, whose names are likely on at least one show you turn on while doing the dishes/folding laundry/napping fitfully during a bout with the flu.

That's not a diss! Sometimes you need a show you can turn on and space out to, especially in These Troubled Times. An intellectually secure person can embrace a silly show that doesn't require one's full attention just as well as she can embrace The Wire, should she choose to. Especially when it's summertime and all you want to do is listen to "Mic Jack" and eat popsicles. And by "you" I mean me. The question is, is this one of those shows?

...And?

If you could see the cringey shrug I'm making in answer to that question, we could both save ourselves a lot of time. It's like, I see what you guys are going for here, you're so close, but you're missing the shot. Every effort at edginess -- say, when co-host Mo (who we are repeatedly told is "the funny one" despite no visible evidence) gets fucked from behind in an SUV by a production assistant, I know they're going for shock value. But, hi, The Last Seduction came out in 1994, which suggests that meaningless parking lot sex is old enough to vote, drink, and start thinking seriously about an anti-aging skincare routine.

It's like someone watched unREAL and thought, "How would the late ABC Family have done this show? Let's give that a shot!" Every potentially hard edge feels blunted, to the show's detriment. For example, we're told that co-host and former teen star Kibby Ainsley faces struggles with her grasping mother, and with drug and alcohol addiction, but we never actually see Kibby demonstrate pain, despite a solid effort by actress Chloe Bridges. Every possibly dark element gets a cutesy nightlight, in a way that left me frustrated by what could have been.

...But?

Vanessa Williams is a goddamn American treasure, and I will fight anyone who claims otherwise. She's gorgeous, charismatic, and funny, and she wrings every bit of drama and humor she can from each line. Every scene with Williams in it crackles, despite the clear limitations of the writing and plotting.

There are also some pleasantly unexpected surprises, especially when it comes to female sexual agency. Every character is the master of her sexual ship, even when things seem superficially otherwise. Given how many female-centric shows are dominated by women mooning over distant men, this is a change I applaud.

Finally, there's a subplot regarding a transgender child that's, again, a nice surprise especially given the character context. I guess I shouldn't be raising my brows given VH1's growing support for the community, but in a world that includes Texas I want to thumbs up "mainstream" acceptance for sexual and gender fluidity whenever possible.

...So?

Based on the two episodes I have seen so far, this is definitely not appointment viewing...hell, it's not even "invite your friends over to yell at the TV while you get wasted" viewing. But I'm giving Daytime Divas a chance for now. That's partially because summertime means my DVR is basically just Lemonade (about which I have threatened divorce to any possible deleter) and a bunch of episodes of Tiny House Nation (shut up, your tiny house is still bigger than my first five apartments).

It's also because I was mildly surprised at least once every episode, and I feel like, if DD grew a pair, they could successfully drop all our jaws. Come on, Daytime Divas, go dark or go home! Unsheathe the knives! Hit the gas and head for bonkersville, or get off the road.

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