Sometimes awful telly can make good telly. Other times awful telly just makes…well…awful telly. Welcome to the Abbey is awful telly in the latter sense. In hindsight, I should have suspected that such calamitous programming was only natural from a channel like E! that endorses a certain big-bottomed Armenian clan, but I’m willing to give anything a try. Unfortunately, my give-it-a-go philosophy lasted for only the first ten minutes before I vowed never again to voluntarily sit through anything as meaningless as Welcome to the Abbey.
Welcome to the Abbey chronicles the futile, shallow lives of whiney American bartenders at the “infamous” West Hollywood gay bar ‘The Abbey’. It is as staged as a reality series can get without reaching scripted status. The Abbey does not look like an abbey, nor do the cast look like they are friends. In fact, some of the staff don’t even seem to know each other. A raucous house party provides the central premise for the first episode, it is here that Kyle and Marissa meet for the first time. Kyle looks like John Partridge but gayer. And yet he is one of the few characters of the show that isn’t gay. Kyle compares the women he meets at The Abbey to pizza: “It’s pizza,” he explains, “it’s not going to be the greatest thing you’ve ever eaten but, if you want it, you could probably have it at your house in about thirty minutes or less.” To adopt another food analogy, I’d like to present a vision of Kyle as an Aubergine – disgusting and phallic.
At the same party, we are introduced to the unconventional coupling of Cory and Murray. It’s not the fact that they look like twins that makes them unconventional, it’s the fact that Murray gets dangerously close to snogging another Ken doll in front of Cory. But it’s hard to tell whether Cory’s even that bothered; he admits, after all, that he is dating “WeHo’s most popular glory hole”.
Later, we meet Billy – a soulless, meaty husk of a man. He has the mirrored, plastic hair of a Lego character and the unnatural body of a Russian doping scandal offender. Billy is the kind of guy to utter vacuous slogans like “I pride myself on my appearance” which, in all fairness, is true (if you consider appearance to be 50% supplements and 50% steroids). When Brandi Glanville, the Real Housewives’ resident blonde wig on a toothpick, shows up at The Abbey to grope Billy’s hulk-like torso and ask him to “take his pants off”, he is clearly overjoyed. Unfortunately, he lacks the brain capacity to convey that message to his face.
I could talk about these strange, detached characters all day but this review is going to lack one element. In my TV reviews, I’d usually take a paragraph around now to discuss the plot. But there isn’t a plot in What Happens at the Abbey. Marissa, a particularly erratic barmaid, can’t handle ‘bottle service’ which essentially involves pouring drinks for ‘famous people’ I’ve never heard of. A bartender who looks and acts like Richmond Avenal from The IT Crowd is surprised when he can’t find a woman drunk enough to fancy him. A straight woman and a gay woman fight over who will get to “make a baby” with a gay man. And that’s about it. It’s so bloody random.
So what is this meant to be about? The callous, vanity-stricken way of life LA aspirationals lead? We already know about that. The Bling Ring, Spring Breakers and Gossip Girl all succeeded in showing us the weird, disconnected youth that inhabit America’s wealthy plains. What Happens at the Abbey resorted to desperate levels of egotism to do the same. It is a cheap rip-off of Vanderpump Rules, although it’s more scripted and there are far more gays screaming that they are “beyond done”. If you find What Happens at the Abbey entertaining, I would suggest visiting a real abbey or some other religious building – because divine intervention is needed.
What Happens at the Abbey continues next Friday (02/06/17) at 10pm.