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If You Loved Me You’d Vacuum: The Real Housewives of the French Riviera

The past five months have seen Kelsey and Camille Grammer engaging in a particularly juicy cross-pollinating, media hijinks.

Grammer recently wound up a Tony-nominated turn in Broadway’s “La Cage Aux Folles.” Swathed in sequins and silk, the “Frasier” star crooned mid-Atlantic through this tale of French Family Values.

Mrs. Grammer, meanwhile, was shooting the deliciously catty “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” the most fabulous iteration of Bravo’s endlessly fascinating “Real Housewives” empire. By turns “delusional” and “vindictive” (to quote her many “fans”), Camille gave this show its Botoxed, diamond-bedazzled heart.

Camille’s relationship to her star husband was always at the center of “Housewives:” “It’s time for me to break out of my husband’s shadow and shiiiine” went her weekly opener. But as revelations about the Grammers’ dying marriage elbowed their way into the “storyline,” this reality show took on a whole new dimension.

Because of the lag time between shooting and airing, one watches the show knowing the end result: Kelsey dumps Camille for some young airline stewardess. But watching that drama slowly unfold onscreen is like watching a (very expensive) car crash. It’s riveting.

Take, for example, the episode “Turn, Turn, Turn.” (The cheeky titles like “My Mansion is Bigger Than Your Mansion” and “It’s My Party and I’ll Spend if I Want to” suggest how fully Bravo TV is in on the joke.) Kelsey’s been nominated for a Tony, and invites Camille to be his red carpet date. She’s conflicted — his unfaithful aeronautics have already surfaced by this point — but, hey, who’s going to turn down a red carpet?!

We see the couple clumsily interact at as Kelsey enters Camille’s palatial rental (“kind of small”) and tries his hand and awkward couple-banter. Camille, a wiggling, nervous mess, giggles and smiles her way through. Both are desperately aware of the “Housewives” camera crew and do their damndest to make things seem ok.

Of course, they aren’t. Before making the limo-trek to Radio City, red-carpet-ready Camille meets up with a group of Kelsey’s friends. As they hold up glasses of bubbly, Camille drops her H-Bomb of a toast: “Here’s to thirteen years of marriage!”

Swig.

Gulp.

The fire spreads when Camille tells Kelsey, “I love you.” He returns her affection with a truly Romeo-inspired … (wait for it) … “Thank you.”

Watching “Housewives,” then, becomes a sort of bulimic exercise — you gulp down the decadently overwrought proceedings, then you hate yourself for loving something so truly painful: Binge, purge, binge, purge.

In this context, “La Cage” — Kelsey’s Broadway show — becomes a kind of “Ripley’s Believe it or Not”: Watching the play, one can’t help but think, “There he is! It’s the homewrecker!! It’s Kelsey!!!” (“Housewives” cultivates a comfy first name association with all celebrities — “Kelsey,” “Paris,” et al.)

Having watched “Housewives” gives you a bizarre sense of ownership over “La Cage:” “I know the real Kelsey,” one thinks, “and he’s not getting any standing Os! Shame on you! SHAME ON YOU!” You leave the theater self-satisfied and patronizing of Kelsey’s all too real talent. It’s an odd, dare I say exhilarating emotion.

Clearly, we’ve played into Camille’s hands. But we fans are in for a letdown: Camille tells the tabloids she’s unsure about a second season of “Housewives.” Say it ain’t so! Stay, Camille! Stay! Spread your bitter cable TV goodness!

Perhaps a patched Grammer marriage could bring Camille back into the bitchy, “Reality” fold. A line from “La Cage” — spoken by Mr. Grammer himself — might even hold the key to her wayward husband’s heart:

“If you loved me, you’d vacuum.”

Listen good, Camille! Drop the house manager and pick up the vacuum! The world’s Thursday evenings depend on it!

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