Reality Check: Those Crazy Angelenos on 'Dr. 90210,' 'High Maintenance'

I’ve heard it said that if you turned the country on its side and shook it, all the loose pieces would fall to Los Angeles.

Judging from several of the reality shows on E!, I’d have to say that truer words have never been spoken.

Just take the would-be employers of sweet little Brian Armstrong on “High Maintenance.” All the guy wants in life is to be a butler, and while this is admittedly odd — he studied to be a butler in the Netherlands where he was, um, one-sixth of his graduating class — I couldn’t help but want Brian’s dream of a world full of precision and decorum to come true.

What he gets instead is an interview with the openly gay “real estate mogul” Stan Smith, who likes to hire straight guys to populate his naked bacchanalian adventures (house rule: no swimsuits allowed!) and is interested in sending young Brian to massage school so he can iron out his master’s aches and pains.

But Stan is actually shockingly normal compared to psychic Dawn Christie, Brian’s next would-be boss, who rivals Jocelyn Wilderstein in terms of the amount of facial reconstructive surgery she’s indulged in and clasps his hand with one of her overly tan, seemingly taloned claws when she gives him a psychic reading he neither asked for nor looks interested in hearing.

By the time Brian lands at music producer Norwood Young’s manse and gets a load of the many statues of David lining the front lawn (full disclosure: I’ve often driven by this house and wondered what sort of lunacy went on inside), as well as the portraits of the homeowner nearly everywhere (including at the bottom of the pool), Brian must have surely been convinced that he’d somehow wandered into an alternate universe.

Dealing with Young’s dogs — both dyed fluorescent colors — and hearing that he’d have to dress up in costume for occasional “ghetto” parties must have seemed, at that point, comparatively normal, and when he picks Norman after receiving job offers from all three lunatics, it really does seem like the lesser of several (or at least three) evils.

Over on “Dr. 90210,” we have the usual spate of people who don’t need plastic surgery attempting to go under the knife.

And while I’ve never been much of a fan of Dr. Robert Rey — I’ve tended to consider this entire show simply “Nip/Tuck” without the sex, murders, homoeroticism and other wacky story lines — I have to say the guy really grew on me in the most recent episode.

Not only does he wrestle with whether or not to go visit his abusive dad on his deathbed, he also confides in a former gang member about this decision while he’s lasering the guy’s tattoo off.

I know, I know, it’s essentially shoved down our throats what a good guy Dr. Rey is — “he does pro bono work and really cares” might as well be the tagline of that particular story — but he also does a good job of talking a woman with a perfect body and irregular heart beat out of butt surgery and handles his wife’s irrational threat that she’ll leave him if he goes to visit his dad with aplomb.

In other words, although everyone on the West Coast seems to be going slowly — or quickly — insane, perhaps Dr. Rey can save us. Or at least make us look a little better as we lose it.

Anna David has written for The L.A. Times, Vanity Fair, Premiere, Parenting, Cosmo, People, Us Weekly, Redbook, Self, Details, Stuff, TV Guide, Women’s Health, Ocean Drive, Teen Vogue, Variety, The New York Post, LA Confidential and Maxim, among others. She answers sex and relationship questions on G4's Attack of the Show and speaks about pop culture on FOX, CNN, NBC, MTV, VH1 and E! Her first novel, "Party Girl," is coming out in June 2007 from HarperCollins.