Stream It Or Skip It?
Buying Beverly Hills is a reality series that shows the houses being sold by The Agency, whose CEO and co-founder is Mauricio Umansky. Yes, that name sounds familiar: He is the husband of Kyle Richards, longtime cast member of The Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills. Mauricio and the Umansky family have been on RHOBH for the entire run of the series, and among the many agents working for The Agency are two of his daughters: Farrah and Alexia.
Opening Shot: Generic Beverly Hills shots, like one of its famous “BEVERLY HILLS” signs and expensive cars. Then we switch to people walking around an insanely expensive house.
The Gist: The Agency has been one of the most successful real estate agencies since it was founded in 2011, dealing in super high-end properties, including the Playboy Mansion. We’re talking properties that sell in the seven to mid-eight figures or more, bringing in massive commissions to The Agency.
In the first episode, we see the agents tour one house that’s going on the market for a cool $65 million. But they also deal in smaller properties, like the house owned by chef and model Shayna Taylor. One of the senior agents, Allie Lutz, about to leave to have her third child, entrusts young Alexia with showing Shayna’s house to prospective buyers, but she botches the first showing, making mistakes about basic information Allie briefed her on before the showing.
Another smaller house is the Umansky’s old home, where the girls grew up. He and Farrah invite Alexia to pitch them on why she should take the listing; despite missing a neighborhood comp in her presentation, Mauricio thinks she can handle it. Her sister, though, is less convinced. Both of Mauricio’s daughters, whether it’s a beginner like Alexia or a veteran agent like Farrah, are both conflicted about doing their own thing and making their mark in spite of being the boss’ kids.
Meanwhile, there’s a rivalry brewing between a young agent, Joey Ben-Zvi, and one of the agency’s top sellers, Ben Belack. Ben doesn’t think he gets nearly the respect from Joey as he deserves, and he feels Joey talks but doesn’t listen and learn. Joey thinks Ben’s “cheesy”, including the YouTube videos he makes to keep his name as the self proclaimed “Beverly Hills super agent” out there.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Buying Beverly Hills certainly has a Selling Sunset vibe, where the personal lives of the featured agents comes into play as much as the real estate does.
Our Take: While it sometimes seems that these real estate reality shows that Netflix has been cranking out run together — how many cantilevered decks with infinity pools can one see in a lifetime? — what separates Buying Beverly Hills from the crowd is that reality veterans are at its center. You have to remember that Mauricio has been a significant player on RHOBH since its premiere 12 years ago, and we’ve seen Alexia since she was a teenager and Farrah as a college student. They know their way around a camera and they know what makes audiences sit up and notice during a reality show.
So, while there are interesting stories among the agents that will be featured on the series — Brandon Graves came from a working class background, and Sonika Vaid was an American Idol finalist, for instance — where things will be most interesting will be the dynamic between Mauricio and his daughters.
Like we mentioned above, both Farrah and Alexia have to contend with making their way at The Agency while still being thought of as the “boss’ daughters.” But for Farrah, she also has to contend with Mauricio overruling her on things like giving Alexia a listing, as well as communication issues where he ends up selling listings out from under her. Farrah has her own issues, basically trying to figure out whether she even wants to be a Realtor or not.
The rivalry between Joey and Ben is funny but seems a bit reality-contrived. Still, seeing them go at each other for an entire season will challenge the collaborative, family vibe that Mauricio has tried to foster with The Agency, which is always a plus in a reality show. The rest of the cast is still a work in progress; we’re not sure if they have been working for The Agency all along or were cast for the series and just got their Realtor license. But the dynamic among Mauricio, Farrah and Alexia should be more than enough to keep things humming along.
Sex and Skin: Besides real estate porn, there’s nothing.
Parting Shot: After overruling Farrah on giving Alexia the listing, Mauricio says, “It’s not easy to deal with family sometimes, huh?”
Sleeper Star: We hope that Sonika Vaid randomly breaks out in song in every single episode. She’s got quite a voice.
Most Pilot-y Line: It’s tough to listen to Alexia’s voice without hearing her mother, Kyle Richards. Their voices are that similar to each other. Also, we’re happy that the show acknowledges RHOBH exists and at least shows Kyle in photos, but it’s pretty obvious we’ll never see her on camera.
Our Call: STREAM IT. The familiarity the reality audience has with Mauricio Umansky and his daughters helps make Buying Beverly Hills more than just a generic real estate reality series.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.