Despite years of rumors and speculation, Las Vegas never got its own screaming, slapping, Champagne-flinging “Housewives” spinoff.
Instead, we’re getting the screamier, slappier, Champagne-flingier “Hotwives” spinoff.
Trust me when I say we got the better end of the deal.
The scripted comedy “The Hotwives of Las Vegas,” debuting Tuesday on Hulu, has the seemingly Sisyphean task of trying to be even more outrageous than its somewhat less-scripted source material.
“It’s already sort of so crazy,” co-creator and co-star Dannah Phirman says of the “Real Housewives” franchise. “We’re not making fun. We’re just sort of lovingly petting them. Like Lennie in ‘Of Mice and Men.’ Petting them until they die.”
Phirman enjoyed “Housewives” before she began writing “Hotwives,” but Danielle Schneider, her co-creator and fellow Upright Citizens Brigade alum, was the sort of fan for whom restraining orders were invented.
“I didn’t really watch much of ‘Miami,’ but I appreciate ‘Miami.’ Does that make sense?” Schneider says of her least favorite “Housewives” series. “Like, I didn’t DVR it. But, like, I wasn’t going to turn it off. I’m aware of it, and I can name all the characters, but I didn’t DVR that one. I just would, like, watch it when it was on.”
“And then they all have spinoffs,” Schneider continues, “so then you have to watch those because you have to know what’s happening to those people in their off time. It’s a drug, and I’m addicted. And I should seek help, but I won’t.”
Phirman’s Leona, the show’s self-described matriarch who sees herself as a peacemaker while instigating many of the fights, is clearly modeled on “The Real Housewives of New Jersey’s” Caroline Manzo. But most of the “Hotwives” characters borrow traits from multiple Housewives before spiraling out into new directions. And Phirman and Schneider have gone out of their way to make many of the Hotwives feel true to Las Vegas — or at least their vision of Las Vegas.
“The show is about women, and women who are about money and glamour and appearances. And Vegas is all that,” Schneider says. “The women there, it’s, like, ‘beautiful but enhanced,’ let’s say. So we wanted to go also where the women are sort of bigger and badder and more glamorous and (have) sort of a soap opera level of life. And that is Vegas to us.”
As a result, Phirman’s Leona owns a strip club. Retired model Ivanka (Andrea Savage) is married to a bubble artist (Paul Scheer) whose show is among the hottest on the Strip. First Lady (“The Office’s” Angela Kinsey) demands to be treated like royalty because her late husband was the honorary mayor of the Strip. And Schneider’s needy, recently divorced Denise boasts of her previous career, “I was known as the most clothed showgirl in Vegas.”
Denise also is in the early stages of a relationship with a once-famous impressionist. “He’s known as The Man with 873 Voices. His show was the most attended in Vegas — in the ’90s. Until Danny Gans came along with, like, a thousand voices and just took it all away from him.”
In addition to the typical characteristics, “Hotwives” plays up many of the more recognizable “Housewives” themes.
“You know, the friendships come and go, best friends and then enemies. So we knew we wanted to do stuff with that,” Phirman notes. “And the fighting over little things was a big theme. There’s just always charity events. There’s always other products they’re hawking. Their marriages usually fall apart.”
Along those lines, trashy Jenfer (“Happy Endings’ ” Casey Wilson) is about to marry the fame-hungry Ace (“Key & Peele’s” Keegan-Michael Key), who had been engaged to Jenfer’s former best friend, First Lady. And Jenfer is having a children’s book ghostwritten about her disability — being born “without the tippy-top of my pointer finger” — and all the struggles that entails. Not to be outdone, First Lady has her own products to sell: the AnorexiYeah! food line, with its aspartame sandwiches, water-itas and “popped air.”
From its introductions to its interviews to its flashbacks to the fictional previous season (and its very real first season, when it was “The Hotwives of Orlando”), “Hotwives” has the “Housewives” look down cold.
“Everyone really is so talented and did their homework,” Schneider says of the behind-the-scenes talent, “so it looks exactly like that.”
That level of authenticity was aided by what Phirman calls a “fast and furious” day and a half of filming in Las Vegas. “We shot on the Strip on a Friday evening. That was crazy,” she says. “We’re in the middle of a scene, and someone just runs up to Angela Kinsey and takes a selfie with her.”
While shooting at the Westgate Las Vegas, Phirman and Schneider enlisted Jackie Siegel, the “Queen of Versailles” star and wife of Westgate owner David Siegel, for a cameo.
“We knew it was important to get there” to Las Vegas to film, Phirman says, “and we really wanted to do the city a little justice and really feel that these women were there.”
It’s at least as much justice as can be done to a city the duo spends nearly as much time “lovingly petting” as they do the franchise that inspired them.
As Jenfer says in the opening moments of Tuesday’s premiere, “They say Vegas is a town where people get their dreams — and also drug-resistant herpes. And now both are true for me. I’m so lucky!”
Contact Christopher Lawrence at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @life_onthecouch