It's practically impossible to have lived through 2023 without absorbing some degree of knowledge about Scandoval, the infidelity scandal that rocked Vanderpump Rules in March. The controversy catapulted the long-running show back into the cultural conversation after a fallow period, turning what had become a relatively stagnant reality series into must-see TV. Scandoval's impact was so great that many Bravo viewers checked out VPR for the first time, with a whopping 4.6 million people tuning in to Part 1 of the Season 10 reunion, which became the show's most-watched episode of all time.
But as those new fans discovered during the Season 11 premiere, to fully appreciate Scandoval's effect on this friend group, one must first bone up on a decade's worth of failed romances, feuds, and shifting alliances. Watching over 200 episodes of Vanderpump Rules (an activity that would take nearly six full days) just to better understand why these people are so mad at each other? In this economy?
For viewers who consider Vanderpump Rules' barrier to entry too high, streaming offers another source of restaurant-adjacent drama: Serving the Hamptons, which premiered its second season on Max on Friday, February 2.
First released on Discovery+ in 2022 before making the jump to Max, Serving the Hamptons (itself a spin-off of Selling the Hamptons) follows the personal and professional lives of the young, sexy, and mostly single employees of 75 Main, a popular restaurant in Southampton, New York. Unlike Lisa Vanderpump's SUR and Pump, which attract customers year-round (and thus maintain a regular staff of waiters and bartenders looking for their big break in Hollywood), 75 Main operates on a more seasonal schedule, with owner Zach Erdem hiring employees for the summer season and then releasing them into the wild after Labor Day. Given the restaurant's high-profile clientele and shortened service window, Zach expects the best from his staff, and he puts each of them through their paces as he determines who deserves to return the following year.
Meeting Zach's exacting standards is only half the battle; the 75 Main staff must also navigate around the ego of a man who considers himself the king of the Hamptons restaurant scene. In Season 1, manager Victoria Hilton was excoriated for upstaging Zach by wearing drag to his birthday party — "I was supposed to be the one getting all the attention," he whined the next day — while waiters Jack Tavcar and Hailey Druek nearly lost out on a night's worth of tips because they were too afraid to tell Zach that his friends stiffed them. When Jack and Hailey finally let him know, Zach insisted their request to be fairly compensated was "really weird" and "uncomfortable," and he responded by tossing dollar bills at them from across the bar.
Zach's sense of self is so inflated that he believes he has a right to dictate what his employees can and cannot do outside the restaurant. Each summer, the 75 Main owner rents a house for his staff and gives them a laundry list of rules to abide by, from work-related policies like "No Tardiness" to the dreaded "No Hooking Up" edict. While the rules are somewhat relaxed in the show's sophomore outing (likely at producers' urging), they hang over the staff like a dark cloud throughout Season 1 as the cast members debate whether to give into their hedonistic impulses or face Zach's wrath.
But for many of these attractive, frivolous people, the threat of losing their jobs isn't enough to deter them from a night of passion. As VPR has made abundantly clear, a reality show, even one that revolves around workplace drama, is only as good as the flirtationships that develop off the clock, and on that front, Serving the Hamptons delivers. Season 1 was driven by the romantic whims of lascivious DJ Ethan Thompson, who attempted to get with every woman in his immediate vicinity before settling on hostess Samantha Crichton. Ethan's horndog behavior caused problems elsewhere in the house, particularly with Sam's closest friend (and fellow Ethan admirer) Jillian Gough — Lindsay Lohan's cousin, as she mentioned whenever possible — and the other guys, who felt Ethan was putting everyone at risk by violating Zach's rules.
Ethan and Sam's relationship carries over into Season 2 (which consists of just six episodes, up one from Season 1), establishing a sense of continuity between installments despite the transition from Discovery+ to Max. Most of the original cast has also returned, though a few new faces — including head chef Mike Catuosco and bartender Noelle Villella, one of Sam's longtime friends — join the team and quickly shake things up, leading to unexpected love triangles and ill-advised screaming matches at the restaurant.
While Serving the Hamptons will likely never grab the public's attention to the extent Vanderpump Rules did last year, its "work hard, play hard" framing makes it a solid alternative to the Bravo staple. The cast is just as outrageous, the fights just as gripping — the only difference is that unpacking the drama between this group of restaurant employees doesn't require 10 years of investment.
Serving the Hamptons is streaming on Max.
Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.