The reality reunion is something that should be a tremendous cap to every season. After all the drama that happens over the course of a dozen or so episodes and the cast having the chance to watch completed episodes, you’d think that a reunion would be the perfect chance for old scores to be settled, new ones to erupt, and some sense of clarity to come forth. But often, as in the case of Basketball Wives, the reunion tends to be extremely underwhelming and instead of going out with a bang, the particular season limps off into the great big rerun-land in the sky.
Rather than try to solve the crisis currently attacking the “(real house)wives” franchise, I’ve listed three major improvements that Basketball Wives can make for its next reunion special. One thing at a time, people.
1. Replace John Salley
I don’t wish anyone ill in their career, but it’s time that VH1 makes change in their approach to Basketball Wives reunion and the most obviously expendable part of things is the host. I had been eagerly anticipating the season four reunion, if only to see certain members of “the circle” have to become accountable for their actions, and I was extremely, extremely letdown to see certain issues brushed over and treated like a joke rather than the serious social virus that they are. I know that Basketball Wives is a stupid, trashy little reality show, but like it or not, it reaches a very wide audience and after 15 episodes of blisteringly negative fan feedback, you’d think that the reunion would address things head on. Instead, you had Salley making jokes about how Tami likes to fight and saving a lot of his tougher questions for Jennifer of all people, pressing her on the validity of her lawsuit and her choice to not engage Evelyn. A host can insert themselves into the action, but it has to be balanced or else it looks like a biased ambush, which is how the season four reunion of Basketball Wives came off. Salley let the biggest offenders this season off with pre-written PR-heavy statements
and hilariously fake tears and clique-y in-jokes while coming for the people that didn’t need came for.
Every (lifeless, unengaged) question he asks tends to be overly broad and never gets to the heart of the matter; a good reunion host gets answers and doesn’t allow for the ducking and dodging that went on last Monday night. Salley would have earned so many points from me for pressing the women of Basketball Wives on some of the outside-the-show issues that the cast has to deal with, from whether they view themselves as role models to the fan response they’ve dealt with, but instead, we get tired jokes and little else from a host that looks like he’d rather be anywhere but there. Plus, Salley’s been there too long to be able to be an unbiased moderator for these women. How can, say, Kenya or Kesha be expected to get equal time or fair treatment when they have no familiarity with the man, whereas the circle has been there from day one, minute one? They’ve obviously formed relationships with the man, but while that’s all well and good, those relationships have ruined any chance for any of these women to have to face up to the severity and abhorrence of what they did.
And that’s extremely sad to me, because VH1 had such a wonderful opportunity in the reunion. They could have made it very clear that behavior like season four would not be tolerated going further, that there actually would be a different focus in future seasons other than how outrageous these women could be. But they failed.
2. Make the reunion one two-hour episode or expand to three parts
Whereas the first issue is more personnel-related, the second issue is purely TV. Making the reunion two one-hour episodes over two weeks ruins any chance of any type of flow or conversation to develop. During any part of the reunion, it feels like precedence is given to “coming up on…” tags, clips from the season, and commercials, which makes the experience less than enjoyable. I know that commercials are a part of the TV game and cannot be helped, but did the reunion really need that many “catch-up” clips? They may help in terms of giving immediate context, but I don’t know about you guys – I watched the entire season. The tomfoolery this bunch of heathens got into has been pretty well seared into my brain, so re-watching every fight and every argument just comes off like major, major filler to me. And Basketball Wives, particularly this season, provided many discussion points, so it’s not like we had a boring run of episodes and have to stretch for content.
Which is why I think that the structure of the reunion needs an update. One option is to have the reunion air as a two-hour special, which would allow for a little more breathing room in the discussion and less need to edit the hell out of the conversation. The other option was implemented by Bravo’s Real Housewives of Atlanta – what about a three-part reunion? It’s not like VH1 would turn down the assuredly boffo ratings that another episode would produce and it’d be worth it to have people walking away from the reunion with more closure vs. feeling like things were left unsaid. With a three-part reunion, significant time could be spent talking about the season’s major storylines without things being rushed or glossed over, time that the current model doesn’t have to spare.
3. No gimmicks – live audience, lie detector tests, etc.
Another thing that drives conversation from actually important things to irrelevancy is the gimmick, often used to keep the energy and “unpredictability” of the reunion strong throughout. Personally, I’m not a fan of the live audience at all; I don’t need to see the people watching this. I have a mirror and if I want to watch somebody else watching the reunion, I’ll watch myself and my various stank faces. (Of which there are many.) And if I’m that curious about what people think about something stupid that Tami said or Evelyn’s latest hair-don’t, I have a Twitter account, so a cued-up group of people looking for their 3 seconds of fame aren’t on my list of things that make a Basketball Wives reunion great. Just last season, Evelyn got into an argument with a member of the audience and had them removed, something beyond ridiculous that gave me Jerry Springer realness. A live audience may provide instant reaction and egg on the ratchetness, but again, I just watched 15 episodes of hoodrat stuff. I don’t need anybody getting up courage from a roaring crowd to do something ignorant or continuing to play to them instead of being forthcoming; I’d rather know why they do the hoodrat stuff and if they regret it.
The lie detector test on the season four reunion is another laughable smoke screen to keep people focused on the ignorance vs. demanding answers. VH1 has been trying their best to put a positive PR spin on this whole debacle, but if you want to put the horror that was season four in the rearview mirror, invoking Maury Povich may not be the way to do it. It’s a needless spectacle that takes away any time to talk and places it on stuff that does not matter, particularly because this group of sociopaths can easily fool a lie detector. If we’re going to do something legal and “official” about all this foolishness, can we save it for, like, legal issues and not, say, if Jennifer and Nia are friends or whether Jennifer had sex without a condom? I mean, really.
The reunion specials for Basketball Wives have been fundamentally broken for some time, but the fourth season reunion might have taken the cake with how off-base damn near everything was. With an awful host, a limited format, and one gimmick-y distraction after another, it didn’t make anybody face up to anything bad they did. On the most controversial, talked about season of Basketball Wives, the reunion glossed over everything and didn’t allow for much in the way of discussion, which goes against the very purpose of having a reunion in the first place.
And at this point, I think that no reunion might be better than the two-part monstrosity that calls itself the Basketball Wives reunion.