Expectations for the bright and beautiful monstrosity that is Lifetime’s “Little Women: LA” were understandably low. Entering its eighth year on the air, it has become all too clear that this show takes pride in its awfulness. The way these reality stars converse and interact is still awkward and forced; the only thing keeping this alive is the drama. Needless to say, I was excited to hate it. But, somehow, my presupposed hatred was undermined.
Much of the season premiere was dominated by Terra Jole and her struggles with the complications of her daughter’s surgery. When her daughter, Penelope, was born, she had to have a shunt put in her head to drain excess fluids from her brain to a stomach cavity. But, over the course of the past couple of seasons, this shunt has proved to be a problem. Penelope has difficulty both walking and communicating. The stress and fear for her daughter’s life has caused tremendous amounts of strain on Terra, affecting all aspects of her life — from her marriage to her friendships to her career. This stress seems to have carried over into this season, looming over the girls and their lives. While the episode begins with Elena, Jasmine, Tonya and Christy going for a jog, the sheer absence of Terra quickly takes over the conversation as the girls realize how distant she’s been. Jasmine decides to treat Terra to a spa excursion, inviting all the girls. This includes Mika, one of Terra’s friends and a problematic human whose greatest hits include fat-shaming Christy and shoving a cupcake into her face.
In any typical episode, this is where the drama would ensue. But it doesn’t. It quickly becomes apparent that Terra is not in the mood to peddle to the camera’s wants, and so any drama that attempts to be initiated falls flat, which is strangely refreshing. “Little Women: LA” is not a good show by any stretch of the imagination. But, in my quest to hate it, I was swiftly knocked down. While the form is stale, uninspired and awkward, the premiere’s story managed to spark some genuine emotion.
Terra clearly cares about her daughter. What’s more, the stress of Penelope’s complications is taking a toll, evident in her beleaguered expressions and her attempts to communicate during the interview segments of the show. She isn’t faking anything here. There are moments in the episode when there appears to be a clear push by producers to arouse some kind of mischief in the women’s lives. Tonya attempts to confront Terra about the distance she’s put between the two of them. Mika confronts Jasmine about some of the “possibly” racist things she has said behind her back. Both times, though, these attempts fall short. There’s no fighting or harsh words. The only thing that could even cue viewers into the possibility of drama is the unusually thrilling music that plays in the background while the girls have pretty standard conversations.
Reflecting on the season eight premiere, I feel more confused than anything. “Little Women: L.A.” is a horrendous show. Yet, the premiere wasn’t bad. It’s bad, but it is difficult to make that claim knowing the unjustified misery one of the stars is experiencing in real life. So, I resign my callous opinions. I hope the premiere isn’t just a fluke and hope there’s more support than drama. Instead, I wish Terra all the best. I hope her daughter is okay.