‘High Society’ on the CW

Television Critic

“My name is Tinsley Mortimer” says Tinsley Mortimer at the start of her new series, “High Society,” premiering Wednesday on the CW. “People call me a socialite.”

There are no Gloria Vanderbilts or Peggy Guggenheims among this cast of aging children of unearned privilege, but Tinsley herself does not seem a bad sort, especially when set against some of her costars, and the narrative, of which (as narrator) she clearly approves, portrays her as a heroic, even innocent young woman, getting out of a long and respectable but no longer satisfactory marriage, against the endlessly restated wishes of her mother, who literally recoils from the walls of her daughter’s new, merely Midtown Manhattan apartment.

But reality TV runs on train wrecks, and to that end the producers have enlisted frenemies Jules Kirby and Paul Johnson Calderon, respectively, described here as a “Trust Fund Partier” and “Page Six Scandal Boy.” Clearly they were brought in to be colorful and controversial; neither seems to play a significant part in Mortimer’s life. Calderon, who was in the papers for stealing a waitress’ purse, calls Kirby “the queen of the dregs of society,” and she calls him a “disgusting, vile human being” who should “die in a fire.” Each stands a good chance of being first up against the wall when the revolution comes.

Kirby, particularly, is a woman who can hang herself with an inch of rope: “My friends,” she says to the camera and the world, “do not tend to be homosexuals, fat or Jewish people and black guys, and I only like white guys.” She also admits to using “the N word sometimes,” claiming in nearly the same breath that her dream is “to work for the United Nations.” And she likes to “go downtown and toy with the poor boys.” The white ones.


Calderon is not much better but seems somewhat more poignantly confused. “I’ve been to rehab twice now,” he says, with a touch of pride. “I’m still drinking. . . . I want to have a family. I want to have a book published. Like, I just desperately want to be loved.” I will do them the favor of not believing them to be quite as bad as they appear, but even so it takes work to see them as anything but totally pathetic gasbags.

Perhaps this is the modern equivalent of Scott and Zelda gamboling in the Plaza Hotel fountain then picking up the morning papers to read about themselves, but I am still surprised that people who regard themselves as far above the crowd would want to set their expensively shod tootsies in the cultural tracks of Snooki and the Situation, the Real Housewives of Here and There, and Spencer Pratt.

And yet, fame is fame, and the psychic bloodletting of reality television has even gained a kind of intellectual currency as intelligent people with public platforms rationalize their taste for it.

Well, I may just be a cranky old dude, but I am not charmed by this stuff; Spencer Pratt is just a prat to me, and though I wish you well, Tinsley, in your new life, I will be happy to think no more about your friends, starting now.