"Who needs more white wine?!" the Bravo PR staffer shouted, bottle in hand, traipsing through the tiny, un-airconditioned boutique in which the cast members of a new Bravo reality show called Gallery Girls were watching the series' third episode together. It was time for a commercial break, a chance for the cast to tweet passive aggressive comments to one another, and exchange sour glances.
Reporters were packed in tightly behind them to watch as this unfolded. It was Bravo-quality drama, IRL.
The show follows a group of women in their early 20s trying to establish careers in New York’s insider-y, hyper-competitive contemporary art industry. The show divides the cast into two rival groups: the privileged blonds with buff boyfriends who toil at unpaid internships before retreating to an Upper East Side enclave reminiscent of Gossip Girl, and hipsters are scraping by to open their own art gallery-slash-clothing store and live in Brooklyn. Though it seems silly that the women would comment on social media while they were sitting next to each other, Bravo wanted the event to generate Twitter buzz for the show and boost the social media presences of the cast members. It's no longer enough for these people to create drama on TV — now they're expected to have mini clashes on social media long before the cat fight-y reunion episode airs.
The event took place naturally, at the boutique/gallery, called End Of Century, that the Brooklyn contingent is struggling to keep afloat. If watching yourself on reality show in real-time, next to your nemesis, were not uncomfortable enough, the cramped conditions of the store and its lack of air conditioning on a crippingly hot summer night made the whole thing almost downright unbearable. Hence the need for the heavy pours of cold Pinot Grigio.
It was all very weird indeed, but things really got uncomfortable when the show ended and the small crowd started to filter out.
One cast member who fights with her father in the episode (but tweeted that their relationship has improved), relented as she walked out, "My Dad is going to kill me."
But the most awkward exchange occurred when two noticeably worked-up cast members stood up from where they were sitting, and approached a pair of cast members seated on the other side of the room. They appeared to want to clear up something they'd said in the episode, but the other girls weren't interested in engaging. "Talk to the hand" looks were exchanged. A Bravo staffer had to gently break up the near-brawl.
Poliakoff was one of the accosted girls. She later explained: "One of the girls came up screaming at the end of the show, and we said we're not mad, you need to take it down a notch."
The face-to-face drama was grade A entertainment, was fortunately broadcast to the whole world — on Twitter. For most of the screening, the castmembers were glued to their iPhones and Blackberries, writing tweets that were at times highly passive aggressive.
“It was very interesting to see some of the tweets that some of the people were writing. Some of the girls took a higher road, and some of did not,” said Poliakoff, who works as an intern for an uptown art consultant. “Some of the tweets that came out were humorous, but others were hurtful.”
Reardon (Team Brooklyn, and one of the boutique's owners), who tweeted mostly lighthearted comments throughout the episode, called the tweet-wars “fucking weird.” She opined: “The internet is this way to talk badly and not have any consequences. But if you have a real problem, you need to sit down and talk about it.”
Screening an episode of a reality show to castmembers who are sitting in the same room is a new experiment for Bravo. They host premiere parties for some shows, but the episodes aren’t screened. With countless tabloid rumors swirling about members of Real Housewives shows who can’t be in the same room, it’s not hard to understand why.
Typically, Bravolebrities are left to watch the shows however they like (the don't get to see them in advance of airing on TV). Some Real Housewives have been known to host viewing parties, but they’re not sponsored by Bravo.
Reardon said she has the luxury of watching the show with her two co-stars who are also her friends and co-owners of the store. “I actually kind of feel bad for [the other women] because they don't have the friend support that we do, where we can laugh about it. We don't take it seriously,” she said. “I’m able to think of it as this funny surreal joke that happened a year ago.”
As for next week, Reardon says she’ll probably watch the episode at her sister’s apartment. “She’ll tell me it’s a reality show, not the Syrian war.”