MTV’s reality show, The Real Friends of WeHo, received harsh criticism from both viewers and online critics. Despite being aired between the popular shows RuPaul’s Drag Race and Untucked, it failed to generate a strong viewership. The negative reception was particularly vocal from the LGBTQ+ community, which was unexpected given the success of similar shows such as Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills or Vanderpump Rules, which are also filmed in West Hollywood.
The online backlash against WeHo highlighted its similarities to other poorly produced reality shows featuring wealthy individuals, placed together in forced friendships, engaging in excessive drinking, and calling each other names. Therefore, why was the show, which featured a group of gay men, so loudly rejected by the LGBTQ+ community? Was the content standard different for non-competition queer shows when it came to queer viewership?
Zack Peter, host of the Housewives-themed podcast No Filter with Zack Peter, explains that the problem with WeHo was not the sexual orientation of the cast, but the inauthentic connections between the stars. Successful reality shows feature family dynamics or pre-existing friendships, but WeHo cast individuals who were not genuinely connected, leading to a lack of chemistry between them. Peter also noted that the setting didn’t help the show’s popularity, as West Hollywood is often associated with a superficiality that is exclusionary.
Peter believes that a show featuring a true cross-section of the queer community, including doctors, teachers, parents, and monogamous couples, and based on pre-existing connections, would appeal to the gay audience better. He suggests that a show centered on young, attractive gay men in the entertainment and fashion industries, located in an area filled with gay bars and restaurants, was too predictable.
Furthermore, Peter adds that the inherent insecurity within the LGBTQ+ community makes it challenging to support each other. Although he admits that not all of the criticisms against WeHo were legitimate, he hopes that another network will try to create a show that breaks the mold of gay men’s traditional stereotypes.
In summary, WeHo’s negative reception was due to its inauthenticity and predictable setting. To appeal to a gay audience, Peter suggests featuring a diverse group of queer individuals based on pre-existing connections and who do not perpetuate the traditional stereotype of gay men.