‘Rodeo Girls,’ way low in the saddle
You might expect a reality show so titled to be about riding
December 11, 2013
Ever since the premiere of “The Real Housewives of Orange County” back in 2006, we’ve been deluged with shows about groups of female friends, neighbors or colleagues. Whether the women are linked by geography, their jobs or their husbands’ jobs, they’re nearly always shown to be gossipy, envious and prone to violent arguments.
One might expect the self-described “cowgirls” who are the subjects of A&E’s new reality series “Rodeo Girls” would defy what is now a reality-TV stereotype, but they don’t. Fans of estrogen-fueled bickering will get what they want.
But the show also features some actual sporting activity. That will be seen as a negative to viewers who like their catfights uncut but may provide some entertainment for rodeo fans. More likely, however, both groups will be unsatisfied.
Premiering tonight at 11, the show focuses on five “barrel riders.” Although barrel riding is never adequately described in the premiere episode, it evidently involves riding a horse around a tight, curvy track marked by barrels. It seems to be the only women’s event in rodeo.
The veteran in the cast is Barb West, who is returning from a two-year hiatus during which she and her husband concentrated on training horses. She is driven either by the need to prove herself again or by the need to be on TV.
Two rookie riders, Megan Etcheberry and Jessica Holmberg, provide eye candy. At the end of the premiere episode, it’s suggested they will become romantic rivals.
Marvel Murphy falls somewhere in the middle. Her cousin, Ty, helps her out and provides condescending advice to the other women.
Every such show needs an outcast, and this show has a stellar example. Darcy La Pier, a former bikini model, is already famous for having married the founder of Hawaiian Tropic, whom she divorced. She then married the actor Jean-Claude Van Damme, whom she divorced. She then married the founder of Herbalife, who died a year and a half later.
Although Darcy’s presence on the show seems fishy, the show’s press materials say that she has won prizes in real competitions. The other riders resent her for her wealth. Whereas they’ve all driven to the season’s first competition, in Scottsdale, Az., in their own trucks, hauling their own horse trailers, she has flown in and had her driver pick her up at the airport.
After saying she’s been skiing with the Kennedys, Darcy shows off her new horse, which cost her $200,000. “Real cowgirls train their own horses,” Barb tells the camera.
Darcy says that she wants to beat Barb most of all. “I think she’s been stuck at home too long,” she says.
A different rivalry springs up when a trick roper named Anthony Lucia shows up and starts flirting with the women. He asks Darcy out on a date.
“Rodeo is notorious for mattress hopping,” says Marvel to the camera. “And it looks like Darcy might have found husband number…what are we on now? Five?”
But Darcy’s date goes bad when she starts to talk about her former husbands and her three children. The camera cuts to Anthony looking dismayed, but he seems too polite for that. The shot could easily have been taken out of context.
On the other hand, the next evening, he makes a big play for Jessica, who is getting over a breakup with a cheating boyfriend. She expresses no guilt about cutting in on Darcy, saying, “I’m half her age and twice as hot.”
When we finally see the women compete, we can tell that the show’s heart isn’t in it, even though the visuals, often in slo-mo, are appealing. The women are on their horses for less than 20 seconds. They have to finish the course in under 18 seconds to qualify for a cash prize.
“Rodeo Girls” wouldn’t be a group-of-women reality show if it didn’t end with an argument in a bar or at a party. Sure enough, after the competition, the women go to a local bar, where the other four start bad-mouthing Darcy for failing to win despite her expensive mount.
Wouldn’t you know it? Darcy happens to walk up at that very moment, and a few sparks fly. “I’ve got a heart the size of a small planet,” she says, “and you’ve got the balls to talk about me behind my back?”
During the competition, Ty asks rhetorically, “Who doesn’t want to watch a pretty cowgirl on a fast horse?” But the show’s creators seem to have decided that people prefer watching yet another show with pretty women trying to knock each other off their high horses.
But they must have figured that calling this show “The Real Cowgirls” would have been too obvious.
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