Has Flipping Out's Jeff Lewis Suddenly Gone Sane?
Like millions of my fellow Americans obsessed with Bravo's Flipping Out, basic cable's searching portrait of how a man afflicted with the crippling one-two punch of Obsessive-Compulsive and Narcissistic Personality Disorders can parlay said handicaps into a lucrative career in short-term real estate and interior design, I had been breathlessly awaiting the premiere of the new season. Indeed, Jeff Lewis -- its star, its all-consuming center, its creator and destroyer of harmonious living environments -- haunted my dreams to such a degree that I often awoke in the middle of the night, tape measure in hand, to make sure I hadn't accidentally nudged the coffee table an inch too far away from the couch; failure to do so meant another night of Lewis's voice passive-aggressively hissing, "Well, if you want the entire room to be totally out of whack, I'm not gonna stop you. But I wouldn't be able to live like that. Like an animal, really," through a fresh nightmare.
And so I'd carefully planned my Flipping Out premiere party in a way that would've made Lewis himself proud: I'd watch the show, surrounded by paid friends (hired off Craigslist for the evening) whom I'd occasionally upbraid for their maddening inattention to detail, as well as a phalanx of day laborers (hired from the tent in the Home Depot parking lot) to move furniture to and fro as I sneered contradictory instructions. The stage would be set to marinate in Lewis's utterly addictive brand of crazy, as Jeff, humbled by a collapsed housing market that sapped his home-flipping powers, finally strangled a difficult client to death, hiding the meticulously portioned remains in a series of Z-Gallerie-purchased urns he'd place in the homes of other clients. I was ready for magic.
But then it happened:
The show came, the show went.
And no crazy. No. Crazy. Not a single 7-11 fountain drink order (with a three-tiered contingency plan based upon soda availability) for 50 percent Sprite, 20 percent Original Mountain Dew, 20 percent Orange Fanta, 5 percent Mountain Dew Code Red, and 5 percent Diet Cherry Vanilla Coke. Nothing.
The closest thing we got to a Lewisian Flip-Out™ was a moment, some 49 minutes in (and yes, I was constantly checking the DVR time-stamp to mark the flip-out-free minutes that were flying by), when he dressed down long-suffering assistant/co-dependent Jenni for forgetting a phone number and then -- recklessly, unforgivably -- calling a contractor back at the house to retrieve it, potentially giving said contractor access to Jeff's entire financial portfolio that he would then use to ruin his credit rating, ending Jeff's business and, in turn, his life. (So incensed was Lewis that he even brought up his firing of Jenni's now-ex husband for going through his shit, because the going-through of his shit is tantamount to mindrape.) But then, just as he'd extracted a mea culpa of questionable sincerity from his harried assistant, Lewis backed off and apologized, allowing that the mix-up might even have been his fault. It was as if a pit bull, its jaws locked around the neck of a junkyard trespasser and poised to crush a delicious windpipe, suddenly dissolved into a flurry of doves.
Jeff Lewis, it seems, has gone batshit sane.
It should go without saying that a calm, well-adjusted, non-psychotic Lewis means nothing less than death for the series; minus the lovably explosive neuroses that drive his on-camera persona, Flipping Out becomes nothing more than an HGTV redesign-on-a-budget show. Continuing in this fashion would be like Two and a Half Men with a castrated Charlie Sheen, Grey's Anatomy with a content Katherine Heigl, Entourage with a discernible plot. The only reason to tune in is to watch Lewis, his fragile world momentarily rocked by a botched lunch order or an almost undetectable smudge on a newly installed kitchen counter, lash out at all in his vicinity until balance is restored. Bravo no doubt knows this, and is just using this temporarily centered Jeff to set us up for future episodes in which a minor housekeeping oversight by Zoila is treated as if Satan himself materialized in the middle of an open house and took a steaming, infernal dump at the feet of a couple of incredibly qualified, motivated buyers. That's the show we want. The show we need.
For the love of all that is good and holy, Bravo, kidnap Lewis's therapist and lock him a poorly decorated basement in Orange County. We fans need our old Jeff back, right now.
You have until 10 p.m. next Tuesday night to comply. Or we're all coming over and totally nudging your fucking coffee table out of position. ♦