‘Toned Up,’ best of girlfriends, really
But are they more than that, we must wonder? They do tease so.
December 17, 2013
Sometimes things aren’t about what they’re supposed to be about. Bravo’s new reality show “Toned Up” is supposedly about two attractive, fit young women who are best friends and run a fitness company. But what it’s really about is “When are they going to start making out?”
Especially in the premiere episode, which airs on Thursday, Jan. 2, at 10:30 p.m., the two women, Katrina Dawn and Karena Hodgson, are shot and edited to highlight what seems to be, at least, an obsessively close friendship. We also get plenty of shots of their trim physiques, usually seen in bikinis or tight two-piece fitness outfits, often on the beach.
Surprisingly, even after we realize (spoiler alert!) that we’re probably not going to be seeing any girl-girl action soon, “Toned Up” is moderately diverting and occasionally amusing.
Sitting side by side on a couch, Kat and Karena tell the story of how they met, became friends and started their business. They often finish each other’s sentences and sometimes talk in unison.
After observing that “it’s really hard to meet good girlfriends,” Katrina says, “I was at the gym, and I see this beautiful girl with beautiful sculpted arms.” She says she walked up to Karena and said, “My, you’re flexible.”
“I know that’s totally a pickup line,” Katrina adds, laughing.
In many shots, we see one of the women holding the other as they demonstrate yoga-style moves. When Kat mentions that her right breast is larger than her left, Karena says, “I’ve never noticed. I’ll check it out later.”
The two started their business by shooting YouTube exercise videos on the beach. “It was us and Mr. Tripod,” says Katrina. In this context, everything sounds dirty.
They’ve leveraged their YouTube fans into what they say is a multimillion-dollar women’s health-and-fitness brand. Their staff includes Kat’s older brother Stephen, who has replaced Mr. Tripod, and her fiancé, Brian, who shares an apartment with the two women.
Their living arrangements are played for laughs, not titillation. Brian complains about the heavily female décor, and he objects to the purchase of a staircase that lets their pets climb onto the beds.
One night, right after he kicks Karena out of his and Kat’s bed, she texts Kat immediately afterward from her bedroom.
The first episode’s plotline is thin: The partners are planning a mass exercise class on the beach, but, in one of those reality-TV-style crises, they’ve posted the wrong address.
The women have a convincing “Ditz and Ditzier” act, with Karena usually playing the latter. When they discuss a move called the dolphin, Karena says a dolphin is a fish.
In the second episode provided for review, the company is planning a party to promote its protein powder. Brian has to help the women focus.
In another plotline that feels created for TV, an “etiquette coach” named Jules visits the apartment to give Kat and Karena lessons in how to behave with potential buyers. The women react like Beavis and Butt-Head when Jules tells them that “a gentleman should pull out” a woman’s chair.
Asked to role-play an introduction to buyers, Karena says, “You guys want to do a shot?”
After getting dressed for the party, the women face each other and hold hands.
“I love you,” says Karena.
“I love you,” says Kat
“Most of all, . . .” says Karena.
“. . .we have each other,” says Kat.
Some viewers will be disappointed that all this tender moment leads to is a hug.
But by this point, it’s pretty clear that at least on air, Kat and Karena are just close friends. Fortunately, their goofiness doesn’t grow old as quickly as one might think.
The interstitial bikini shots of their well-formed hips and thighs help, as does the fact that they have the sort of accessible beauty that allows female viewers to fantasize that with the right combination of beach yoga and protein powder, they could look like Kat or Karena.
Male viewers will have to put their own fantasies on hold.
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