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Dead Tree Alert: Bravo Strikes Gold

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Illustration by Francisco Caceres

Illustration by Francisco Caceres

Speaking of February ratings, here’s who else had a good February: Bravo, which just reported its highest ratings yet on the month, including all time ratings highs for Top Chef and multiple Real Housewives series. In my column in the print TIME this week, I look at how Bravo is riding high in the middle of the recession—by making entertainment of upscale consumerism and people with more money than brains: 

… There’s plenty of consumption porn on Bravo–Rolexes, cars, vacation homes. But at the heart of it is a specific 21st century definition of luxury: middle-class people buy stuff; rich people buy services. When talismans of indulgence become widespread–lattes, iPhones, etc.–what distinguishes the truly well-to-do is their ability to pay others to do things.

So Bravo chronicled the high maintenance and the people who highly maintain them. No area of pampering was too obscure: luxe hotels (Welcome to the Parker), fashion (The Rachel Zoe Project), hairdressing (Blow Out), real estate (Million Dollar Listing), upscale gyms (Work Out), home décor (Top Design), even exclusive-travel-booking (First Class All the Way). Whether you snark at the housewives or cheer for Top Chef’s hopeful restaurateurs, there’s always a window-shopping appeal: the aspirational lure of those spa treatments and seared foie gras. … 

Read the whole thing here. You can afford it; it’s free.