I quit watching reality TV shows a long time ago. Especially the ones where manufactured conflict always seemed to be the order of the day. The way the shows get edited is another factor that forced me to quit. You know, the kind of editing where only a morsel of information gets divulged per episode. And by ‘divulged,’ I mean ‘teased and drip-fed.’
Soon enough, I eventually realised that if you play the first few introductory minutes of an episode, the part that starts with ‘previously on (insert show name),’ and then watch the last few minutes of the same episode, you won’t miss a single thing. But, what you’ll get back is at least twenty two minutes of your life. Fast forward to a few days ago when I decided to watch Netflix’s latest Reality TV show Bling Empire.
Undoubtedly inspired by the success of the 2018 movie, Crazy Rich Asians (2018); Bling Empire follows some pf LA’s wildly wealthy Asian and Asian American fun-seekers. We get to watch as they live their lives and attend fabulous parties while showing up in their finest jewels and attire. The reason I decided to watch Bling Empire include my love of Crazy Rich Asians, my desire to be back in LA without actually going back to LA, and just wanting to see a version of the LA-based rich life, but distinctly Asian, of course.
There are aspects of the show that borrow from the most well known and successful reality shows. For example, from the dramatic drink hurling to other scenes that seemed so contrived, that you could almost see the producer speaking to the cast via earpieces and telling them to do something outrageous and disrespectful for ratings.
The reason I kept watching even after all the annoyances is an emotional investment in the character stories. Mainly entrepreneur Kelly Mi Li, unmarried young mother Cherie Chan, and Christine Chiu a ‘socialite’ whose real story I couldn’t wait to figure out. If you stick with Bling Empire long enough (beyond episodes two and three), you may find that it’s quite engaging, however imperfect.
The good news for me is that as the show continued, it seemed to move away from applying the most recognisable reality TV tropes, and instead turned into stories of the lives of some of LA’s most privileged Asians. Stories that still weren’t the full reality. However, I was glad to see that overall, Bling Empire is not edited in the irksome fashion mentioned earlier.
Would I say that Bling Empire is a show ‘you don’t want to miss?’ The quick answer is no. What I will say is this, give it a chance if you’re curious enough. And especially if you’re a fan of the movie that inspired it and are open to learning more about a version of the Asian experience.
Happy Film Loving