The cleverness of “Selling Sunset,” the zeitgeist-hit Netflix reality series that might technically be termed a real-estate show, is in its application of the barest amount of genuinely informative content to a formula that resists any sort of higher purpose. Atop a show with the pulp content of “Vanderpump Rules” or “The Hills” lies information about the real estate market, a world so opaque to at least some viewers that decoding it becomes some small part of the action of the show. That the agents of “Selling Sunset,” for all their personal fecklessness, are so much more adept in this universe than we might ever be adds a level of juicy irony.
Netflix goes for a similar trick with “Million Dollar Beach House,” a new unscripted program that borrows elements of the “Selling Sunset” playbook but moves the action from Los Angeles to Long Island. Call it, perhaps, “Selling Sag Harbor.” We, here, learn a fair bit about what makes a home in the Hamptons a hot commodity — what the brokers of the Nest Seekers realty office call “amenities,” mainly. But for a community that, like Los Angeles, is segmented into various geographical and social subcultures, “Million Dollar Beach House” doesn’t have a sharp enough eye for division. That all the Hamptons may indeed just be a neighborhood of shoreline-devouring megamansions may indeed be true, but it makes for a show that, even over a scant six half-hour episodes, tends to run together.
The cast here, too, is something short of what makes reality sing: These folks seem to have gotten the memo that conflict is king but not the brief on what to disagree about. What results is a series in which real-estate agents disagree over little more than matters of the real estate market — who has the rights to what listing, who was rude to whose potential client. This, too, might have been compelling social anthropology, but for the fact that this series isn’t aiming for documentary realism. The fights are produced with an unsuited “Hills”ian pop and verve, underscoring that what we’re actually watching is a grinding battle for turf that never really ends.
There’s really no excuse for this show to be as flat as it is. Real estate is inherently interesting — combining as it does the human need for shelter with matters of aesthetics, wealth, and personal vanity. Done right, this subject has it all! Perhaps it’s that the homes of “Million Dollar Beach House” are quite so blown-out, so massively more than any person could want, that they foreclose any personality the show could develop on its own. On “Selling Sunset,” the homes accent the drama; here, they necessarily must become the drama, foreclosing any conversation that’s not about the rudiments of buying and selling homes. And while a giant home is interesting enough to look at, with enough time, one finds that there tends to be a human factor lacking.