Analyzing Netflix’s “Selling Sunset”

A review of wealth and real estate


Selling Sunset / Mara Hankins

Botox and bling. Big hair and even bigger drama. With its extravagant parties and celebrity guests, no expense is spared on Netflix’s show “Selling Sunset.” On the surface, the highly bingeable show owes its entertainment quality to the powerhouse women battling it out for real estate dominance in Los Angeles.  Beyond that, “Selling Sunset” manages to check off all the boxes that define reality television.

“Selling Sunset” combines the appeal of the home improvement and real estate genre with the affluent hijinx of the “Real Housewives” franchise. Add in the company’s toxic family dynamic, reminiscent of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” and a show built from some of the most prosperous T.V. programs is born. 

Netflix acknowledges the show as a “docusoap,” a form of reality television that edits and stages some aspects of the show while still retaining the truth behind unscripted and off-camera events. It’s petty. It’s shallow. It pits successful women against one another. But, according to Parrot Analytics, “Selling Sunset” does better than 88.6% of the other T.V. shows in its genre.

A large part of “Selling Sunset” is its glamorous cast of realtors. Led by its founders, twin brothers Jason and Brett Oppenheim, the show would be nothing without the antics their clashing personalities stir up. While no argument has come to blows (yet), the inspired insults dealt on “Selling Sunset” hit hard, whether they are dealt face-to-face or said behind someone’s back.

“I don’t like Heather as a person and I get annoyed by Heather all the time,” Christine Quinn said in the show’s pilot as she gave her platinum blond hair a toss. Referring to her co-star,  Heather Rae, Quinn delivered this line in a talking head, the lipstick shade of her smirk matching her hot pink satin dress. “It’s just because of the way she looks, because of the way she dresses, because of the way she speaks. It’s because of the lack of wheels turning up there.”

The central conflicts of every season only heighten as episodes go on. Petty comments brew grudges. Grudges escalate to poolside shouting matches in designer bathing suits, with a million-dollar panoramic view of the city as the backdrop. The cast hustles constantly and doesn’t always celebrate another’s success. As clients are poached and sales are stolen, “Selling Sunset” uses a polarizing work environment to the show’s advantage.

“How do you feel about the ring being moissanite, or not a real diamond per se?” Davina Potratz was quick to ask after co-star Mary Fitzgerald got engaged. She was met with startled cries from the other realtors and proclamations that it’s the love, not the ring, that matters. Team Mary or Team Davina? It might seem like a no-brainer, but Fitzgerald proceeded to invite everyone from the office except Potratz to her wedding. Audiences can engage with the show better if they’re having to pick sides between the heroes and the villains.

Despite any doubts about the authenticity of “Selling Sunset,” its quality holds true. The cast and their clients are dripping with wealth and yet the problems they deal with despite their privilege are fascinating. Where else will you find a love triangle between a two-faced real estate titaness, a Vegan empanada entrepreneur and their mutual ex-boyfriend? What other show centers around breathtaking homes while filming shouting matches at their open houses?

“Selling Sunset” may be classified as a reality show, but it’s more of an escape from reality than a showcase of it. Let this glimpse into a superficial world, if only for an episode, provide the distraction you need. Love to hate the villains and root for your favorite house to become a home while experiencing Los Angeles and getting an inside scoop on hot property. In the words of Christine Quinn, “never start drama… just finish it.”