Atlanta is home to more “Real Housewives”-style shows than any other city.
The first five were Bravo’s seminal “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” VH1’s breakout hit “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta,” TV One’s “R&B Divas,” TLC’s “The Sisterhood” and Style Network’s “Big Rich Atlanta.”
Bravo is now unveiling “Married to Medicine,” which features four doctor’s wives and two female doctors from metro Atlanta. It debuts Sunday at 9 p.m. after the fifth season finale of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”
The women may be different. They may run in different circles. But the idea is more or less the same: a study of female relationships. Arguments anchor the episodes, the pettier, the merrier. Jealousy, backbiting and lies dot the landscape. A physical altercation never hurts.
Jonesboro resident Mariah Huq, who is married to a Bangladeshi-born emergency room physician and has two children, pitched “Married to Medicine” to networks for more than three years until Bravo bit. She recruited the other five women, including the doctor who delivered her first baby.
Another is her best friend, who recently married a doctor and is being introduced into the medical world.
“For me, this is a dream come true,” Huq said in a recent interview. “This is what I was born to do. I knew I was going to be on TV.” She hopes to parlay the exposure into a brand empire. She already owns a kids’ bedding and pajama line. She hopes to emulate Bethenny Frankel, formerly of “The Real Housewives of New York,” who sold her Skinnygirl line of cocktails for a hefty eight-figure sum in 2011.
Huq, a former medical sales rep, on the first episode calls herself “the queen bee… the heart of the entire social circle.”
The obvious question is: how much more of these types of shows can viewers take? How much space is left in the DVR?
Mara Davis, a local media maven and long-time radio DJ obsessed with Bravo shows, is willing to give “Married to Medicine” a try. “I can’t wait,” she says. “I’m fired up. Everybody wants to see people that are crazier than you. We love to see the lives of the rich and famous even if they’re not necessarily rich and famous.”
Lisa Wu Hartwell, an actress who was a cast member of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” in 2009 and 2010, has seen the promos for “Married to Medicine” but knows nothing else. “There’s still a market for it,” she says. “But personally speaking, it’s oversaturated.”
TLC recently attempted to copy Bravo’s success with “The Sisterhood,” focused around five Atlanta area preacher’s wives. It bombed in the ratings - though in that case, it may have simply been on the wrong network.
In comparison, “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” in its fifth season, is garnering its best ratings to date. Viewers credit the antics of actress/producer Kenya Moore, who migrated from Los Angeles to generate mayhem. The show has averaged more than 3 million viewers a week, more than the other five “Real Housewives” shows, including the original version out of Orange County, Calif.
“Kenya makes fabulous TV,” Davis says. “It’s probably fake but it doesn’t matter to me!”
VH1, in the meantime, struck gold last summer with “Love and Hip Hop Atlanta,” bringing in more viewers than “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” thanks to the memorable, over-the-top love triangle with Stevie J, Joseline and Erica.
"People love to watch a trainwreck," wrote V-103 mid-day host and HGTV "Property Virgins" host Egypt Sherrod. "I watched it religiously last season. But all the while, I was shaking my head and literally asking, 'Why am I watching this?' The truth is I just couldn't turn away."
She is happy to see plenty of great scripted shows out there now such as ABC's "Scandal," Fox's "The Following" and FX's " The Americans" offering a "refreshing proposition to those who think that reality TV is become mundane."
A quick summary of each of the five new "Married to Medicine" cast members:
Mariah Huq: married to Aydin Huq, an E.R. doctor from Bangladesh. She created the show and considers herself the social director. The others say she likes to bring newbies into the medical world and try to "tame" them. She runs Jewel and Jem, a multicultural children's home decor and sleepwear company. They ahve two children.
Kari Wells, married to an orthopedic surgeon Duncan Wells. They've been married ten years and have two children. She is the token white person on the show but hopefully, she's classier than Kim Zolciak was on "The Real Housewives of Atlanta."
Jacqueline Walters, an OBY-GYN. A breast-cancer survivor, she has a husband and a step-daugther. She considers herself very fashion-oriented and keeps in shape.
Quad Webb-Lunceford, recently married to Gregory, a psychiatrist. The couple has no kids yet but two dogs. In medical sales, she's best friends with Mariah. The pair have a major storyline in the first episode that is quite sensitive, an issue that others don't mind bringing up. She notes that psychiatry isn't as well respected as other medical professions but notes that Gregory went to University of Chicago. She's new to the medical social circles and in the first episode, struggles to fit in. "The medical arena is very small," she noted in an interview. "It's only three degress of separation. Someone knows someone who knows someone's husband." To her, the world can not only resemble "General Hospital," but "High School Musical."
Simone Whitmore, an OB-GYN who used to work with Jacqueline and is married to Cecil. They have been married 16 years and have two sons. She's more social than Jacqueline. She also delivered Mariah's first baby."I knew that I didn't necessarily want to be on a show like 'Housewives,' " she said. "But the way Mariah pitched it, it sounded like a different concept. I'm totally excited!" She acknowledged that there is some built-in issues between doctors and doctors' wives: "They have it much easier than we do. I don’t know there’s necessarily tension. There’s definitely a lot of joking and poking fun at each side."
Toya Bush-Harris, a wife of an emergency room physician Eugene Harris. She says she came from the ghetto and has very little in common with Mariah, but they try to get along because their husbands work together and are friends.
"Married to Medicine," 9 p.m. Sundays, Bravo