'Million Dollar Listing': Selling California Luxury

Day to Day television critic Andrew Wallenstein reviews the new Bravo reality show about flamboyant real estate agents who help their clients buy and sell luxury homes in California.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Housing prices may be cooling, but real-estate talk is always hot, or at least the Bravo cable channel hopes that it is. Its new series features agents that broker houses that sell for a million and more. The series is called Million Dollar Listing. Here's TV critic Andrew Wallenstein.

ANDREW WALLENSTEIN reporting:

First thing you should know about Million Dollar Listing is its title is somewhat misleading. The show is set in Southern California, where $1 million will buy you a nice ramshackle hut, garage not included. No, this Bravo show has its eye on the multi-million-dollar pleasure palaces that come with essential features like indoor pools and stripper poles. That said, Million Dollar Listing can be enjoyed purely as house pornography. Beyond that, its appeal depends on how interested you are in the process of buying extravagant houses.

The stars here are the real estate agents, who invariably are smarmy go-getters that will do just about anything to facilitate a sale. This is not a business for the meek or mild. Just listen in on a conversation between fellow agents Scotty Brown and Madison Hildebrand, who discuss a client's health with sensitive diplomacy.

(Soundbite of TV show, Million Dollar Listing)

Unidentified Man #1: (In television clip) He did have a heart attack.

Unidentified Man #2: (In television clip) He did have a heart attack.

Unidentified Man #1: (In television clip) How bad was it?

Unidentified Man #2: (In television clip) It was a smaller vein.

Unidentified Man #1: (In television clip) Really?

Unidentified Man #2: (In television clip) It wasn't one of the main ones, but he's pretty much out of commission for two weeks.

Unidentified Man #1: (In television clip) He is?

Unidentified Man #3: (In television clip) Howard had a heart attack for a reason, Madison.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #3: (In television clip) Don't mess with Scotty Brown.

Unidentified Man #2: (In television clip) Bad. That's bad.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WALLENSTEIN: I don't think Million Dollar Listing is meant to inspire confidence in the good men and women of the real estate industry. The hardworking house-hunters of Los Angeles are flakey, flighty and sometimes downright moronic. The show finds itself a terrific comic set piece with Shannon McLeod, a self-described blonde bombshell who doesn't quite see the conflict of interest in a client she describes here.

(Soundbite of TV show, Million Dollar Listing)

Ms. SHANNON MCLEOD (Real Estate Agent): (In television clip) My listing appointment today is with Jeff, my ex-fiancé.

He told me he wanted to sell his house, but I, you know, wasn't really sure what his situation was because we have stopped seeing each other. But I told him that if he did list it, I really wanted the opportunity to list it.

Jeff's house is in one of the most desirable neighborhoods in all of Los Angeles.

WALLENSTEIN: In a strange, probably unintentional way, I came away from Million Dollar Listing convinced that when I'm ready to buy a house, I might as well represent myself. The show is actually quite instructive when it comes to understanding the jargon necessary to complete any transaction. Now I'm still a ways from speaking fluent real estate-ese, but I know the difference between say, selling a home as is or offering a credit.

So if you have a healthy seven-figure sum lying around, Million Dollar Listing is a good guide to putting that money to use. For the rest of us, it's just a passable diversion.

CHADWICK: Andrew Wallenstein is an editor at the Hollywood Reporter and co-host of Square Off on the TV Guide Channel. The show Million Dollar Listing debuts tonight on the cable channel Bravo.

(Soundbite of music)

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

We'd like to hear from you. If you have comments about our program, send us an e-mail. Just go to our Web site npr.org and click on the contact us link. That's at the top of every page.]

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contributions from Slate.com. I'm Madeleine Brand.

CHADWICK: And I'm Alex Chadwick.

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