Netflix UK TV review: Selling Sunset: Season 5
Charlotte Harrison | On 24, Apr 2022
Sometimes a show will become a victim of its own success. At first, it appears with its own voice – or, in Selling Sunset’s case, the voices of five glamazon estate agents and their twin male bosses) – creating a surprise hit that came out of nowhere and made for must-see watching. But then, when the creators recognise the success of their formula – getting to explore incredibly decadent homes alongside petty rivalries and disagreements – they start to tweak it in response, extenuating the discussion points and giving us more of what they think we love and want. Sometimes this fan service can work and sometimes it makes the show an unrecognisable parody of what we once loved. Based on this fifth season, Selling Sunset looks ready to fall into the later category.
This time around, it all feels like a lot of hard work. After watching this season, it’s hard to remember what about the show made for such soothing and entertaining watching. These 10 episodes feel bloated to the extreme, packed full of scarcely concealed set-ups and orchestrated drama alongside rehashed dramas we’ve seen told too often.
For one thing, we have too many characters with poor balancing of their various story arcs. Season 4 bought us Vanessa (an attempt at an ally for the show’s villain, Christine) and Emma (a blast from Christine’s past, armed with a grudge). Season 5 brings us Chelsea, an expat with a transatlantic accent, brought on to side with Christine and stir as much drama as possible with her “say it as it is” attitude.
Christine and Chelsea’s scenes are fascinating to watch, not because they’re good – not in the slightest. These apparent kindred spirits (how organic and authentic this bond is questionable) wear outfits that need to be seen to be believed. Describing them here will not do them justice – “Barbie on acid” might be the easiest shorthand. Their exchanges are 1/6 houses to 5/6’s discussion of the awful behaviour of the other agents, gleefully discussing how the other women are supposedly behaving badly, condemning their opponents for bullying with all manner of unflattering assassination of characters. Christine-versus-the-world as a driving narrative had started to get tedious by the end of Season 4. By the end of Season 5, it just gets really weird. If truth is stranger than fiction, how does it compare to this concept of restaged and choregraphed reality?
This doesn’t help with the lack of success of the show’s other main plot points this season. Thanks to their announcements on social media back in December, we know the Chrishell and Jason romance is doomed from the outset of its unveiling in Episode 1. It feels painful to watch their intimacies knowing what is to come, knowing their respective hopefulness at possibilities is all in vein.
And, speaking of painful to watch, the meeting and burgeoning romance between Emma and entrepreneur Micah is some of the cringiest ever seen in reality TV, their “flirting” forced and laboured as they cross the boundary of realtor/client into something more. It’s hard to watch and hard to care about.
Which is a bit like the series all-in-all. This season feels too contrived to find any comfort in the familiar beats, too bloated with characters, too developed yet simultaneously undeveloped. Selling Sunset has always been the televisual version of junk food, but now it’s starting to leave a sour taste. With a sixth and seventh season already commissioned, this franchise could be on course for burning out and becoing a victim of its own early success.