On Bravo, Pickleball Is the New Espresso Martini

There's money to be made, somehow

Pickleball Time Out with Ball and Paddle on Court
erika jayne's day in court

A little over two years ago, my sister Julia noticed an intriguing pattern across the Bravo reality show ecosystem — everyone and their mother was ordering espresso martinis. Since then, she has been doing the absolutely thankless job of recording every mention of the newly trendy cocktail, logging dozens of scenes across shows like Vanderpump Rules and Below Deck.

So when the the stars of Summer House, some of the network’s biggest espresso martini advocates, came out with their own canned espresso martini brand, we thought we smelled a rat — and it was not just the clogged garbage disposal at the summer house. Our theory goes that someone up top at NBC Universal pushed the espresso martini agenda for months in the hopes of eventually profiting off of its popularity among Bravo fans. It’s not the craziest theory: since the insane success of Bethenny Frankel’s $100 million dollar Skinnygirl sale, Bravo allegedly has a “Bethenny Clause” that ensures the network receives a cut of the profits every time a Bravoleb shills one of their brands on air.

And now, something new is happening on Bravo. Everyone is playing pickleball. What the hell is that, you might be wondering. To my understanding, it is like a small game of tennis with a plastic whiffle. More to the point, pickleballing is an ideal activity for Housewives during a pandemic when they can’t, for example, go to Thailand like they used to. In a recent episode of Vanderpump Rules where Scheana’s boyfriend shirked his fathering duties to practice for a casual pickleball tourney among friends in Palm Springs, it was also a major story engine.

In the past, we’ve seen Bravo shows cycle through the same lame activities like goat yoga, Coolsculpting, axe throwing, and murder mystery nights, often as an excuse to show viewers a close-up of a logo of a brand, local business, or celebrity dermatologist. But this seems different. They’re just advertising the concept of pickleball. Sort of like how Bravo, for at least 98 weeks, advertised the concept of espresso martinis, only to (allegedly) profit from a canned version of the drink.

Don’t believe me? Explain this: Lala Kent and Randall Emmett invited the editors of this pickleball blog called The Dink to play at their home court in April. This was after the Palm Springs pickleball episode, when the then-couple had paddles branded with their (now defunct?) podcast logo. Meanwhile, Kyle Richards has a pickleball court at home now too, which you can tour on BravoTV.com. Teddi Mellencamp broke her foot playing pickleball, which is the most interesting thing that’s ever happened to her.

Bravo wouldn’t push something this hard unless there was cash to be made. So which Bravolebrity is going to open a bespoke pickleball court, a la Real Househusband Jim Bellino’s Orange County trampoline park empire? There is something wildly sinister afoot here, and I am just asking questions.