Is ‘The Real Housewives of Orange County’ dealing with alcoholism storyline responsibly?

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Is “The Real Housewives of Orange County” still fun for you?

Superficially, sure. On some level, let those of us pure enough not to laugh at privileged people acting like spoiled toddlers throw the first skinny margarita in someone’s face.

Shannon Storms Beador decides to ruin her housewarming party over some small slight and we laugh. Kelly Dodd says this week’s jaw-droppingly naughty thing and we roll our eyes.

Braunwyn Windham-Burke hurls a drink to the floor as she storms off, and here we go again.

Except that last example — the waste of a perfectly good non-alcoholic grapefruit and soda — illustrates an uneasy problem with the show three episodes into its 15th season.

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Braunwyn said she was an alcoholic on the season premiere — a brave and admirable choice to make on national TV, you might say — but the show seems to be milking that point for all the drama it can generate.

And that feels kinda icky, as if we, the viewers, are complicit in exploiting her situation for entertainment.

Let’s run down what happened Wednesday, and you can decide for yourself.

Things begin slowly. It’s really starting to feel like the producers are dragging out the pre-coronavirus shutdown footage as long as they can before it’s all housewives ‘n iPhones.

Kelly and Gina go out to dinner with new housewife Elizabeth Lyn Vargas, and Gina is frustrated that Elizabeth won’t dish on her soon-to-be ex-husband.

“I’m on a strict gag order,” Elizabeth says at the restaurant where they’ve met. “So I’m not allowed to talk much about him.”

Kelly is confused by that.

“It’s kind of like an oxymoron,” she says to the camera. “I mean, somebody that says they can’t talk about the divorce, damn, she sure talks a lot about it.” (Kelly is to “oxymoron” as Alanis Morissette was to “ironic.”)

They finish dinner with a toast to 2020, with Gina, who knows not what’s on the horizon, declaring, “2020’s definitely better than 2019 for me.”

Back at Braunwyn’s house, we learn that she’s 28 days sober and it’s not been easy. Not only is she struggling not to jump out of her skin, she’s also remorseful about how she’d cared for her seven kids in the past.

“The one truth that I’ve always been able to hold onto is that I’m a good mom,” she says. “And I’m not a good mom. They’ve had a front-row seat to my demise a few times now.”

We see Kelly moving into her new rental, and she’s not entirely on board with the suburban flavor of her environs.

“It’s a Beaver Cleaver kind of neighborhood,” she says of the Port Streets subdivision where she and Braunwyn now live. “Shannon is a Stepford Wife. I’m scared I’m going to turn into that.” (Then she makes such a rude joke about Ward Cleaver and the Beaver that you know she will never go Stepford.)

Everyone comes together at Shannon’s for a housewarming party, which quickly goes off the rails because Shannon can’t let go of the fact that Braunwyn said Shannon called Gina’s new condo “sad and depressing” which Shannon is adamant she did not.

Already nervous about going sober to a boozy housewives shindig, Braunwyn arrives and is met with offers of tequila. She then heads straight into a bathroom where the show lets us eavesdrop as she tells herself, “You are OK.”

There’s no escaping Shannon, though, who makes a beeline to confront Braunwyn and insist that she never trashed Gina’s new pad. As they start to talk, Emily spots a whitehead on Gina’s face and squeezes it for her, and if that’s not foreshadowing of how gross this whole episode is about to get I don’t know what is.

Braunwyn insists that she was sober and Shannon was not when the “sad and depressing” comment was made. She says her husband Sean heard it, too. Shannon gets madder and madder.

“Don’t you dare accuse me of something I did!” she shouts at one point — and you can make of that slip what you want.

“This is my party, how dare you!” she continues.

“I didn’t bring it up, Shannon,” Braunwyn replies, and she’s got a point.

By now, their raised voices have attracted the attention of the other housewives like flies on things flies like. Braunwyn decides to go to Gina to clear the air — a very bad idea her husband endorses — and almost all of them are in each others’ faces.

“Oh my god, Shannon’s (ticked off),” Elizabeth says with the kind of anticipation that on social media is accompanied by that GIF of Michael Jackson eating popcorn.

“I think somebody’s going to end up in the pool,” her boyfriend Jimmy adds.

Gina — who does not know that Braunwyn is working on her sobriety — accuses Braunwyn of looking down on her because Gina isn’t as wealthy. Braunwyn says it’s not about money; it’s about character.

You know those movies where the guy has to cut the red wire or the blue wire, and if you pick the wrong wire everything goes kablooey? Braunwyn just snipped the wrong wire holding Gina’s temper and tongue in check.

“You’re going to talk to me about character?” she hollers. “Wake up! You’re a sloppy chihuahua, you’re wasted all the time! So go get wasted again, Braunwyn!”

“I’m 30 days sober, (witch)!” Braunwyn replies.

“Are you? You’re acting like it!” Gina digs in.

The drink is thrown, Braunwyn is gone, this questionable storyline to continue next week.

This content was originally published here.

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