If you like Bravo’s “Vanderpump Rules” then you’ll probably love “What Happens at the Abbey,” the new “docudrama” premiering Sunday evening on E!.
The series, set at the West Hollywood restaurant and nightclub complex just up the street from Lisa Vanderpump’s Sur, takes viewers behind the scenes at the iconic bar and, like its Bravo competition, what you’ll see may be buff and tight and beautiful, but often not pretty.
Now, if you’ve ever been to West Hollywood, you know that practically everyone on the street is seeking their big break into show business. Any excursion to Santa Monica Boulevard is treated like an audition. The boys are always perfectly pumped and impeccably dressed. The sidewalks become a runway as hopeful actors walk their dogs with a sashay and shante.
In the first episode, viewers learn that the employees at the popular bar are no different. The Abbey is popular with celebrities, producers and directors. (Ross “the intern” Mathews was having a bite to eat there with his agent when I last visited in February.)
Sequentially, we are introduced to the “cast” and, before you get too enamored, be warned most are straight:
Billy has already made waves as Ellen DeGeneres’ ripped gardener, “Nick.” He’s gorgeous and knows it. He’s also quite the player. Within minutes, a co-worker proclaims, “His personality is similar to that of a beanbag chair.” Ouch!
Muscle-bound bartender Kyle came to Hollywood with two ambitions – to make the cover of “Muscle & Fitness” magazine and land a role as an action hero in a movie. One down, at least, although he’s now got a reality show credit on IMDb.
With a long silky mane, Daniel belongs on the cover of “Playgirl” magazine, but alas it’s gone. His funniest moments come when he demonstrates his various—and not so subtle--modeling expressions. This is the guy who plans to make the fanny pack popular again, just like his man bun. He is also quick to question the starry-eyed bromance between Billy and Kyle.
Every reality show has that “red hot mess” cast member and this show’s “Kristin” is “Kim,” the self-proclaimed Instagram stalker who was warned by her psychic not to date anyone seriously for at least six months. That’s because she tends to “gravitate toward douche bags.” Really.
Perky and incredibly naïve Marissa has just arrived in Los Angeles from Long Island. She begs to do bottle service. She did play a waitress once on “One Life to Live,” which she says counts for a lot, but struggles to open a bottle of bubbly for fellow E! celebrity Tori Spelling. “Have you never been to brunch?” asks her bitchy gay supervisor.
Kyle has other plans for her. “Marissa is really new to the Abbey, which means she hasn’t been passed around from guy to guy, so this is the time to move in….” If that isn’t a spoiler for episode two, what is? And isn’t this supposed to be a GAY bar?
By now, you’re probably wondering if any gay people actually work at the most famous gay bar in Los Angeles. The answer is yes.
Brandi is a lesbian and “when it comes down to it, I have the biggest dick at the Abbey,” she announces. We’re not going to challenge her on that claim. The aspiring hair and makeup artist also yearns to have a child.
Lawrence, her donor, spends an unbelievable amount of time and energy trying to persuade Brandi they should try the natural approach first. Very suspicious until his gay creds are confidently bolstered with some of the best sassy quips of the episode. And, even though “literally thousands of hot guys come in every night,” he’s looking to settle down. Yeah, the Abbey is where you’re going to meet Mr. Right, buddy.
Then there are Murray and Cory, the look-alike on-again, off-again boyfriends. Can you say “narcissistic?” They met on an underwear photoshoot, but it wasn’t until Murray “got to know his personality, that’s when I fell in love.” I’m sure pecs and six-pack abs were never part of the equation, too.
The “Abbey” cast is sexy and shallow and that’s what makes the show such a guilty pleasure. We’re already looking forward to the next episode and hoping “What Happens at the Abbey” is a summer substitute for our equally sexy and shallow Vandertramps.
“What Happens at the Abbey” premieres on Sunday, May 14 on E!. Check local listings for channels and times.