Million Dollar Listing keeps up Josh, Chad’s contrived conflict, awkward set-ups as Madison comes out

Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing ended its third season last night, and for me it went from guilty pleasure (I loved to hate them) to guilty displeasure. Josh Flagg and Chad Rogers are such terrible actors that they can barely handle the non-stop set-up scenes, which may be real at their core but come off as so inauthentic that they’re almost unbearable. But I can’t stop watching it: I’m captivated, and not just by the way Chad’s hair seems to have extraterrestrial origins.

I don’t know why I enjoy it so much. The homes and L.A. look stunning in HD, and the subject matter is interesting, particularly considering the impact the recession has had on home buying, but otherwise the show is a mess.

Madison seems to be generally immune to letting the producers set up things for him to do (probably because he’s the one holdover from the first season), or else he’s just a great actor, but his storyline was not a story at all. In two episodes, Madison went from using that horrible phrase “gay lifestyle” to coming out as gay (from “polyamorous,” a word he seriously needs to look up in the dictionary, because it does not mean what he thinks it means) to making out with a nameless guy who’s he dating (or seeing for the duration of the scene that was super-staged because there were two different camera angles of the guy throwing him into the pool, but the other camera wasn’t visible in either shot, so they clearly did that multiple times).

Forgetting for a moment that Madison’s coming out as a gay man was the least shocking development ever–although it’s great he’s finally comfortable with who he is–a few scenes in two episodes doesn’t do anything to illustrate his growth, nor does it constitute a narrative arc. It’s a sentence masquerading as a story.

And don’t even get me started on Josh, whose physical awkwardness in all of his scenes is almost as uncomfortable as watching Michael Scott tell a group of high school students that he lied about paying for their college education. Meanwhile, Chad’s little dog and love for himself can’t warm up his stilted delivery and absurd behavior. The other non-story from the last two episodes was a conflict between the two (how convenient that the three of them just run into each other randomly!), and it was like watching a fight between two puppets operated by elementary school children.

Boys, if you want to know how to fight to get some drama in a finale, let me introduce you to Teresa Giudice’s actual flip-out. Usually this kind of fakeness turns me off entirely, and it’s approaching a threshold where there’s nothing to keep me hooked.

If there’s a season four, I suggest Bravo and production company World of Wonder take the show in a new direction away from the set-up nonsense, and have Josh’s grandmother take the three guys to Europe and teach them about the world, even as they spend their money. Who knows: That might actually give us some genuine reactions and a better reason to watch than just staring in fascinated horror.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.