The Real Housewives of Atlanta
Thursdays beginning July 30

Oh, how we Time Warner cable subscribers in the Raleigh-Durham area bitched and moaned for years because we didn’t have the Bravo network.

We finally caught a break at the very end of last year, when the channel was added to our cable lineup, just in time for the much-loved Project Runway to move to Lifetime channel, which we had all along.

But hey, that doesn’t mean Bravo is useless. It still offers Top Chef, along with the newer title, The Fashion Show, which was my guilty pleasure of the summer. I voted for Anna to win, and she did.

And then there’s this little franchise called The Real Housewives.

This four-pronged “reality” series started with The Real Housewives of Orange County in 2006, a play on the Desperate Housewives premise that was supposed to demonstrate that, “wow, if you thought those Wisteria Lane ladies were wild, just check out these real-life materialistas!” Before long, we were treated to The Real Housewives of New York, The Real Housewives of Atlanta and most notorious of all, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, which premiered earlier this year and gave many of us in the Triangle our first gawk at the “real” Garden State. Now, there was some drama. Vicious gossip and screaming fights ensued among the gals when it was revealed that cast member Danielle Staub (aka “the coke whore”) had a criminal past that included kidnapping and prostitution. Her main vice these days is overindulgence in plastic surgeryshe makes Joan Rivers look like Miley Cyrus.

Compared to that TV fun house, the other three versions can’t help being kind of lame. And so it is with The Real Housewives of Atlanta, which begins its second season this week.

The showBravo’s top-rated to date when it appeared last yearfollows the lives of five women in the suburbs just outside of Atlanta, and it’s the one show in the franchise that focuses on black women.

“Atlanta is a mecca for wealthy African-Americans,” says the show’s audience favorite, NeNe Leakes. She was the center of the action last year when she feuded with two cast members. One rift started when her pal Sheree Whitfield, the ex-wife of an NFL player, left NeNe off the guest list of her party. That led to a screaming bout, followed by a gossip circle that caused yet another rift with NeNe’s friend Kim Zolciak.

As Season 2 begins, Kim and NeNe are still on the outs while Sheree plans a lavish “independence party” to celebrate her impending seven-figure divorce settlement. Lisa Wu-Hartwell, the other returning cast member from last year, wants to have a second child with her second husband, Ed. And a new cast member is introduced: Kandi Burruss, a Grammy-winning songwriter and member of the ’90s R&B group Xscape (whose music xscaped me at the time).

Kandi doesn’t get to do much in the first episode besides introduce herself and have an obviously scripted conversation with her young daughter about mom’s upcoming wedding. At one point in the episode, Kandi does pull off the episode’s funniest line when she talks about performing in an African-American version of The Vagina Monologues: “You don’t want to be the goody-two-shoes vagina.”

Nobody does anything noteworthy until the climactic showdown between Sheree and an arrogant party planner who isn’t following orders. They scream at each other, the words “bitch” and “trash” are hurled back and forth, and they have to be physically separated.

That’s supposed to be the “good stuff” on a show like this, the stuff that gets highlighted weekly on comedian Joel McHale’s The Soup on the E! channel. But even the fighting seems boring and contrived on this show. Where’s The Bad Girls Club when you really need it?