From Keeping Up with the Kardashians to Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, the greater Los Angeles area has no shortage of rich people ready to ascend to reality TV stardom. But the cast of Netflix’s “docusoap” Bling Empire takes that old challenge to glittery new heights in their fun first season.
Inspired by the 2018 movie Crazy Rich Asians, the glossy unscripted series follows a group of hyper-affluent Asian and Asian-American Californians as they navigate their opulent, pre-pandemic lives. It’s a classic low-stakes, high-spectacle setup with the narrative drama driven by the series’ tremendously watchable personalities and their “more is more” approach to luxury.
Across eight episodes, we meet socialite Anna Shay; plastic surgeon Dr. Gabriel Chiu and his wife, entrepreneur Christine Chiu; real estate heir Kane Lim; denim heiress Cherie Chan; musician and DJ Kim Lee; Hollywood producer Kelly Mi Li; their less wealthy friend/casual himbo Kevin Kreider; and a smattering of influencers (including YouTuber-turned-musician Guy Tang) who run in their orbit.
They’re a surprisingly likable friend group, who slowly reveal the layers of their interpersonal turmoil through an evenly paced — if not, vaguely relaxing — carousel of Rodeo Drive shopping sprees, five-star dining experiences, surprise trips to Paris, poolside gossip sessions, and sweeping shots of the Los Angeles skyline. It’s nothing reality TV fans haven’t seen hundreds of hours of on E! and Bravo before — you know, breakups, feuds, thrown drinks, skinny dipping, babies, etc.
But even if the content is familiar, the feel of Bling Empire is infused with the freshness that comes from a cast largely underrepresented in the genre.
Discussions of identity and status offer flecks of sincerity from Bling Empire‘s stars, effectively elevating what could be a monotonous been-there-done-that into a valuable new perspective on supreme wealth in the City of Angels. We see the cast celebrate holidays like Chinese New Year and Singapore Day, navigate family expectations in the modern age, and otherwise explore cultural tradition within their very ample means.
Of course, there’s plenty of mess to go along with all of that more mature commentary. Anna and Christine fight for the completely meaningless title of Queen of Beverly Hills. Kelly struggles to deal with her moody boyfriend, who also happens to be a former Power Ranger. When Kevin’s not pulling his butt out, he’s stripping off his shirt (for no discernible reason) and otherwise wowing the cameras with his “witty” perspective on these crazy rich people.
Viewers who aren’t already fans of KUWTK-style reality TV aren’t likely to be swayed by Bling Empire; nothing outrageous enough happens to call it a must-watch. But if you are somebody who likes this sort of show, then you’ll want to add this to your queue — and maybe start begging Netflix for new episodes after that spectacular season finale.
Bling Empire is now streaming on Netflix.
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