'Party Mamas' Is the Worst Reality Show on Hulu (and I Love It)
There are more than 900 Criterion films streaming on Hulu Plus. There are also 13 episodes of a show called Party Mamas, which you've never heard of because you've presumably been educated above a second-grade level. Hulu describes Party Mamas as a "jam-packed, nerve-filled, triple-latte-paced ride through the lives of outrageous and energetic mothers who pull out all the stops to throw 'the best party ever for their little darlings.'" I describe it as "y'know, like My Super Sweet 16, but Canadian, and therefore shittier."
Alone in a studio apartment I cannot afford, feet propped in front of a borrowed space heater, I, Thrillist's senior Hulu correspondent, binge-watched the first season of Party Mamas (let the record show four seasons exist, because devolution is real, but only the first is currently available), forsaking all other entertainment. I'd say I lost my mind in the process, but it's impossible to lose something you never had in the first place. I have summarized my findings below.
Episode 1 -- Sion
"Glamorous Sion [sic] plans an extraordinary party for her daughter Seanna's [sic] third birthday by building an amusement park on the grounds of her ocean-side mansion, including a carousel, pony rides and fireworks."
Seanna informs her mother that she will require bungee jumping at her 3rd birthday party. "You want a bungee, you're gonna have a bungee," Sion tells her infant daughter, who was previously shown receiving a pedicure from an adult human. Her husband, Robert, emphatically disagrees — according to him, there will be "no bungee." The drama, of which I crave, has already begun. The opening credits follow.
"It's a big party!" shrieks the theme song, which plays over animation similar to but much lower budget than that of the early '90s sitcom The Nanny. "Sky is the limit! Big expectations! Party…Mama$!"
Sion's home is your typical new money, McMansioned Floridian nightmare, riddled with gold leaf. She is a big-titted former member of the Israeli army who loves to be on her yacht and travel to "exotic places." Her husband probably has hair plugs. Her daughter "likes to take care of herself. She likes to take massage."
McMansions still are en vogue, as evidenced by the décor of any Bravo show. But according to the Internet, which is infallible, this season of Party Mamas was shot in 2008. The only indication that this is the case is the presence of flip phones. Sion, for example, has a silver Motorola Razr, which she uses to point for emphasis in the faces of people who have temporarily inconvenienced her by not immediately kowtowing to her will.
The pain in the eyes of Sion's long-suffering assistant, Barbara, is palpable. I wonder if Barbara went to college. What did she want to be when she grew up? Does she have children of her own? And, more importantly, will she be able to procure bungee?
Doctors tell Sion's sister, who is near-death with pneumonia, she shouldn't fly, but she just couldn't miss the party — she arrives via Robert's private jet. There is, mercifully, bungee.
Episode 2 -- Marsha
"Marsha and Nick are throwing their son a party at a castle with trumpeters, a money machine with real money, and an ice sculpture martini luge."
I notice, at this point, that the program's audio is mixed incredibly high — blaringly so. Is this by design? A passive aggressive statement from the sound mixer about the overwhelming annoyance of the show? Or mere coincidence? I, alas, cannot answer this question.
Marsha is yet another well-endowed woman from overseas with a schlubby, "What can I say? I love her!" husband who, if both were, say, impoverished, probably would not be consciously coupled. Like Sion, she enjoys shopping, sparkles, and "wearing makeup all day." I'm sensing a trend. What have I gotten myself into? If I have to watch 13 episodes of essentially the same big titted woman making demands from caterers in broken English, I will turn the gun on myself.
Marsha's goal is humble, and easily achievable — she just wants to throw the "best party anyone's ever thrown for their child." Her son, Josh, wants a "hip hop and $100 bills" theme. Her husband wants disco. Marsha, however, insists that it must resemble a wedding.
A series of mindnumbing shambolic events unfold — they need to rent a bigger ballroom, because they invited too many people. Marsha hired too many hairdressers. And too many lighting guys. And Josh doesn't want to wear his suit. And Nick's suit has gone missing. Marsha's reaction to all this is, naturally, maudlin tears.
Don't worry — everything ultimately goes off without a hitch. Josh, wearing an enormous, diamond-encrusted medallion with his own name on it, is escorted into the party by two teen girls who pantomime being sexually attracted to him. He is 10 years old.
"My son Joshua became a man tonight," says Marsha. It made my heart happy." A 10-year-old, however, is not a man. You're not a man until you can impregnate someone.
Episode 3 -- Eva
"Eva is a single, working mother who always leaves things until the 11th hour. And her son Aidan's Bar Mitzvah party is no exception."
Aidan, a type-A personality if I've ever seen one, has his Bar Mitzvah guest list all sorted out: "27 adults and 40 kids," he tells the party planner. "I made the list." He gesticulates toward his mother, adding, "She's done nothing."
He is later shown ruining the sanctity of their spa day by asking his mother, mid-facial, how the Bar Mitzvah planning is going.
Eva needs a new dress for the party. Conveniently she is able to get one custom made by a designer I have never heard of, who Aidan assures us dresses "celebrities like Nelly Furtado and Anne Hathaway." Holding one up for his approval, Aidan snaps, "That's young but you aren't." Yow! This kitten's got claws!
When the contortionist cancels, he storms out of a jewelry store, proclaiming, "This is ridiculous." Eva racks her brain — what the fuck is she gonna do for entertainment on such short notice? Until it dawns on her…A FASHION SHOW!!! She approaches the "hot designer" who created her gown for help — he obliges, presumably because Nelly Furtado didn't have a red carpet event that week.
At one point, Eva refers to herself as a "party mama." More like "party META," am I right?!?
I contemplate, at this point, taking a break to read a book. I resist the urge.
Episode 4 -- Brian
"Spencer's demands for his Bar Mitzvah party keep growing, and Party Dad Brian, along with event planner Cicely, are doing their best to keep up."
"Spencer is a handful," says Brian. "He's a little kid who thinks big, and dreams big, and wants a lot of big things, and I try to deliver every time I can."
Spencer appears to be your typical shaggy haired, gum-chewing, skateboard riding, future burnout. "I like action movies, and video games, and all that big stuff," he tells the party planner. "And I wanted my Bar Mitzvah to be an action movie come to life."
Ah, but how can it be an action movie come to life? Spencer has some ideas: "Maybe doves can come out instead of confetti," he posits. And, "like, skydivers coming in with something in their parachute that says 'Mazel Tov.'" Perhaps a baseball team can make an appearance. ("Major league baseball players?" the party planner incredulously asks. "Yes, " Spencer replies.) "Y'know how football players come into the area through fog and mist?" he asks. "That's how I want to come in." His sister, Sophie, wants to arrive on an elephant.
"We did 50 for the mayor, the Pope got 500, so where's your party at?" asks the dove wrangler. "100," Brian replies. The family is incredulous, however, when told their dreams cannot come true — doves cannot be released indoors. "It's not even legal, I think," says the wrangler.
Spencer does, ultimately, end up emerging from a fog wall with his own face projected on it. Thank Christ. The party "was perfect," Brian states at the end. "It was action, it was death, it was destruction, it was loud, it was scary."
Episode 5 -- Cheryle
"Cheryle [sic] throws an end-of-school-year bash for her daughter Rainley [sic], and decides on a South Seas theme for her party."
Cheryle is the mother; Rainley, her 11-year-old daughter. Their names are not names. Neither is Torston, which is what their party planner calls himself. He has a receding hairline with frosted tips and gives off a Paul Lynde vibe.
Cheryle says she "likes to unwind by drinking a glass of wine in my hot tub." Something about her personality makes me think she usually drinks more than one.
Rainley is "really into rock right now" and tunelessly, constantly, strums away on an electric guitar, much to the dismay of her mother.
Rainley's favorite band, apparently, is a rock outfit I have never heard of called "Off the Wall." Conveniently enough, they could find time in their no-doubt busy schedule to perform at her party.
There is, as always, pre-party drama — the "tropical pedicures" Cheryle booked for Rainley and her friends are cancelled. But, she says, "I'm not gonna let these girls down. I promised that they'd get topical scenes painted on their toes and that's exactly what I want." And that is exactly what she gets.
Episode 6 -- Diana
"Diana wants daughter Vanessa to embrace her heritage, so she's throwing a memorable Jamaican-themed birthday party in her honor."
Vanessa is a textaholic! The only thing her and her mother agree on is — you guessed it — SHOPPING!
They talk to the DJ, who we are told is a hard booking on account of being so "in demand." He is a middle-aged man with a skin condition. Drama ensues when Diana insists on reggae music — Vanessa, however, wants hip-hop. If the Snoop Lion album had been released in 2008, there would be no conflict. Yet here we are.
Vanessa wants to bring an awkward, charmless, popped collar and product-ed hair dipshit white mouth breather to the party as her date. Is Diana into the idea? What do you think? WHAT DO YOU THINK? (If you're thinking "no," you are correct.) "You're gonna make my party suck so bad," Vanessa laments. "You ruin everything. Like, actually."
The Sattalites, a reggae band headed by a white Garrison Keilor clone, ends up performing at the party, pleasing Diana. "StokeS," who the show's narrator tells us is one of the country's "top rappers," also performs, pleasing Vanessa. I look him up; he has 272 "likes" on Facebook.
Sure, the party mama$ micromanage everything to the shithouse, and tensions are always high, and the children are, up until that magic moment when a D-list rapper delights their friends, upset, but it's kind of sweet, what these mothers do for their children. Hell, my mother never threw me a sweet 16 party. She never even gave me money for my college education. She just paid a doctor to cut me out of her womb and let me figure the rest out. Is the fact that I hold these mamas in such contempt a byproduct of my own jealousy? Or have I just lost my mind? Perhaps both? Every 21-minute episode feels like two hours. I'll never be able to afford a home. I have no retirement fund to speak of.
Episode 7 -- Mary
"Mary wants to create a party that everyone will enjoy — she's having a custom trailer where moms can relax with manicures and pedicures, has hired circus performers and bought massive loot bags for the kids."
It's Pierce's 6th birthday. He is large for his size, and aesthetically resembles a youthful 45-year-old. Perhaps his father? I'm gonna have to watch to find out.
UPDATE: I've watched enough, two minutes in, to find out. The answer is yes.
Mary describes herself as "a bit of a shopaholic." Her hubby gets nervous when she walks in a store and the sales staff knows her by name. "I prefer to buy shoes and bags," she says, "because it doesn't matter if you're chubby or thin — shoes and bags look good on everyone." Christ, I think, what a depressing statement, especially in light of the fact it's being given by a Greek woman whose smile is so large, it threatens to crack her cheekbones.
She is clearly a hoarder. Rooms upon rooms of her home are filled with shambolic piles of toys, clothes, and Christ knows what else. She says they're "remodeling," but I find her justification for such slovenliness suspect.
Mary decimates an entire toy store, purchasing essentially every board game and stuffed animal on the shelves, for the party's gift bags. The bitch means business. My Grecian grandfather always told me Greeks are "like Jews, but with no money." So where did all these Greeks get their money from, then? Robbing Jews?
The bitch invited too many guests. They have to change venues. And dates. The party planner, Sandra, is shown in a montage, near tears, voice gone, calling hundreds of attendees. "I'm losing everything. My mind, my voice. I'm losing my voice," she croaks. As she relates this depressing truth, cartoon gold pieces descend down the screen, indicating a scene change.
Episode 8 -- Anna Maria
"Anna Maria is planning a sizzlin' Mexican fiesta for her stepdaughter Kahla's [sic] 19th birthday."
Kahla talks about how "intense" Anna Maria can be while footage of her running Terminator-style on a treadmill, blue eyes bulging out of their sockets in a manner that can only be described as unsettling, plays. "At the end of the day," Anna Maria says, "it's mamacita's way."
Kahla has only been living with the family in "the big city" for four months. She wishes her friends were here so they could "support her." It quickly becomes evident that here is far more to this story than 21 minutes can tell.
Anna Maria is throwing the party to show her kids the importance of their Mexican heritage. Kahla is African-American. The episode quickly resembles Modern Family fan fiction. "I'm not Mexican," says Kahla. She wants, "Like, urban, hip hop." "Yeah," replies Anna Maria. "But Mexican!"
Anna Maria says Kahla needs to learn to speak Spanish. Before the party. Which is, presumably, less than four years of High School away. But don't worry, it's not all work — her tutor is an OMG HOTTIE!!! His choice of facial hair is questionable.
When her event planner bails, Anna Maria pulls a full on "Do you know who I am?", albeit en Español. ¡Que lastima! Don't worry, she hires two skeletal WASPs, who we are told are the "best in the business," in his place. The only problem? They can't possibly create a party this epic in two weeks. They're gonna have to move it another week forward. Drama, naturally, ensues. I'm so tired of the drama. I'm tired, period.
Sebastian, her Spanish tutor, surprises Kahla by showing up — and wearing his best puka shell necklace to the occasion! Oh, fuck—then DADDY SHOWS UP!!! (Oh, did I forget to mention he initially couldn't come? Perhaps I didn't because I'm too tired to care.) He sings a trite song he's written for Kahla and Anna Maria. Tears ensue.
Episode 9 -- Shelley
"Texan gal Shelley is throwing a summer party for her daughter Mikayla [sic] that must be memorable!"
The episode opens with Shelley, horrifically made up and wearing a parrot-esque feather boa, riding into the party on a horse. She's Tammy Fae Bakker as Lady Godiva.
She has changed the theme of the party at the 11th hour: it is now a "disco ho down."
30 seconds into the intro, I'm already as engaged as I am horrified. This is true garbage television. Christ, I think, it only took them nine fucking episodes.
Dave, Shelley's husband, is distantly supportive of his wife's whims. "He's fishing a lot these days," Shelley vaguely states, "But he has a soft spot for all of us." He resembles a more Cro-Magnon Jay Leno.
Mikayla is 12. She has two sisters, who Shelley speaks of highly. "We have a fourth adopted daughter," Dave says, "Tanya. I don't want to call her a babysitter, because she's more than that." Tanya is not seen nor spoken of again in the episode.
Mikayla is not amused by the disco ho-down theme. "This is just one in many disappointments in your life," Shelley comforts her.
"I've decided for my grand entrance, I'd like to come in on a horse," Shelley says, wide eyed, while wearing a Vegas showgirl headdress. Her behavior implies that she's on day two of a manic bender, just getting started.
DRAMA ALERT: Dave abandons the family to go fishing, right in the middle of party planning. I get the impression he does this a lot.
A scene wherein Dave and Shelley argue over her removal of a play structure from their backyard is the most forced I've seen in the series yet, which is certainly saying something. He, in a literal sense, yells, "Shelley!" to the heavens like a goddamned sitcom character. She diffuses the situation by promising him "a little somethin' somethin" in exchange. Shudder.
Episode 10 -- Beulah
"Beulah spares no expense as she throws an elegant engagement party for her son Hosea and fiancé Amalia."
I sigh and press play. Staring into the middle distance while the same BMW ad I've watched over and over airs for the millionth time, I feel nothing.
I find it very telling that only the titular "mama" in the opening sequence is animated. Small waisted and big titted, she beams and throws coins while her children and husband, expressionless, stand in silence. It is a fitting parable for the show itself.
I wonder if my neighbors can hear what I'm watching. If so, are they judging me? Their judgment cannot hurt me. My neighbor has three cats. In a studio apartment. Nevertheless, I feel judged. And rightfully so.
Beulah puts on an opulent engagement party for her son and his fiancé, both of whom are wholly apathetic. Their family flies out from Barbados.
The chime that announces the price of something opulent is about to be named plays, but the price never pops up — an editing gaffe that only I, a true fan, would recognize. In related news, this piece can also be used as my suicide note.
Episode over, I lay down and pray for sleep that will not come. The Party Mama$ theme plays on a loop in my mind. "It's a big party / sky is the limit / big expectations / Party Mama$." Nothing rhymes. The word "big" is used twice in four verses, if you even want to call them that. They could have easily said "great expectations" instead of "big expectations;" it's the same number of syllables. Christ, why even write lyrics? Why make a show? Why get up in the morning?
Episode 11 -- Mala
"Mala is planning an extravagant Bollywood party for her daughter Sarita's Sweet 16."
The commercial that plays before this episode is for Ram Trucks, who salute the "heroes of the Hunger Games." It is a commercial wherein a non-sentient truck salutes the non-existence of movie characters.
"To be big," says Mala, a woman who sort of resembles Jerri Blank, especially when she contorts her face into a disappointed grimace, "you have to think big." This cuts to her informing Sarita that "the tiger will be on a leash with a diamond collar, and you'll be walking up and down the hallway holding the tiger as people come in." Why the fuck do rich people always find animal abuse glamorous?
Mala is insistent that the tiger return for this party, even though her husband reminds her they had a "problem" the last time they utilized the services of said tiger. "People had to run to their car," he says. Her response is that he "worries too much." "I'm sorry I don't want to get attacked at my party," counters Sarita.
The party planner interrupts their Bollywood-themed family photo shoot with some bad news — the tiger has died. "We have to replace the tiger," Mala states. "We have to find another tiger. I mean, I'm sorry the tiger died, but that's part of the big wow factor of the party. You have to replace the tiger. Find another tiger. Call every zoo."
The planner excitedly calls up with good news (finally, some good news). She got something even better than a tiger for the party: an elephant. The elephant shows up in a semi truck and slowly backs her way into the venue's parking lot. A field, power lines and a Shell station can be seen in the distance. They put a dress on her, and Sarita climbs to the top. There's a problem — her dress, covered in baubles, is "too slippery". It's touch and go for a bit, but don't worry — everything works out fine and her entrance is described as "incredible."
Three white women are paid $1,000 to do Bollywood-style dancing while wearing draconian candelabras with actual, lit, candlesticks on them. Their mouths smile, but the eyes show profound discomfort.
Episode 12 -- Dani
"Powerhouse single mom Dani is throwing a gold medal party to celebrate her daughter Krista's rugby championship."
Krista, who aesthetically resembles someone who would be a championship rugby player, says that, at her party, she wants "tattoos. Loud music. Mosh pits," as her mother, grandmother and party planner look on in horror.
Her mother, Dani, loves being "pampered" with manicures and pedicures. "I love them so much that I get them at home," she giggles as footage of her drinking a glass of white wine while getting her disgusting feet touched by another human being (heads up: if you have feet, they're disgusting) plays.
One of Krista's joys in life is playing rugby because, "If I don't like someone, I can just tackle them." The kid's got moxie. I like her. 12 episodes in, I've finally stumbled upon a likeable character.
"I don't think my friends would really be into a dressy, gown thing, y'know?" Krista says, delivering the understatement of the fucking century. After all, they're rugby players for a reason. "If my mom's gonna get me in a dress," Krista promises, "I'm definitely tacklin' someone."
"We're not on the same page," she yells at her mother. "You're not cool anymore!" In a fit of faux rage, she slams her bedroom door in Dani's face. A staged scene, wherein Dani takes the door off its hinges, leaving Krista devoid of privacy, unfolds. They are not convincing actors in the slightest. I tire of their forced shtick.
In consolation for their EPIC blowout, Dani decides to book the "hard rock" band that just so happened to unexpectedly be practicing at the rock venue they checked out as a potential party location. It takes some deep Googling to find any information about them — ultimately I stumble upon a page on metal-archives.com, where I learn their lyrical themes are "Life, Death, Existence," and the "End of the World."
Episode 13 -- Maya
"Stage mother Maya is throwing a decadent chocolate birthday party for her dancing daughter Deeya [sic]."
This is the end. I've reached the peak. Thirteen episodes. 286 minutes. I feel, naturally, nothing.
"I'm 100% determined to make sure she does become a star," Maya says of her soon-to-be 7-year-old daughter Deeya. Projecting much?
She micromanages every aspect of Deeya's life, insisting she does all the cliché shit like horseback riding, swimming, gymnastics, dancing and learning French.
The party will be chocolate themed — no one's leaving without diabetes. "Tons of chocolates," Maya says. "Lots of chocolates. Only chocolates." Beside herself, she rambles, "Chocolate cupcakes, chocolate cake, figurines, chocolate melon, chocolate fountains…" like the shrimp guy from Forrest Gump.
She has the grand idea of inviting a fucking agent to her kid's birthday party, in the hopes that they'll be able to "recognize her special qualities and skills" during the dance number and sign her. Deeya's "grand entrance" will consist of her emerging from a cake. Like, y'know, a stripper. She is 7.
Deeya is Jon Benet Ramsay-ed out for her big dance number; you can see the entirety of her pre-pubescent panties as she gyrates. The agent, a middle aged woman who recoiled in horror when first approached and asked, "Are you the agent?" by Maya, patronizingly tells her she loved her performance. I turn my television off and stare at my dead-eyed reflection in its black screen.
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Megan Koester is a writer and comedian (obviously) who lives in Los Angeles (somewhat less obviously). Her parents didn't even pay for her college education, let alone a Sweet 16 party. Is she bitter about it? What do you think? Follow her:@bornferal.