When they're not trying to sell us on the idea of becoming interested in the boring lives of a bunch of generic, twentysomething newcomers, the recent episodes of Vanderpump Rules have focused almost entirely on the wedding of Jax Taylor and Brittany Cartwright.
An entire season centered around one event might sound lame (spoiler: it is), but the strategy allows producers to distract viewers from the fact that they're watching a show about a bunch of 40-year-old ex-bartender suburbanites who recently reached a level of financial comfort that's enabled them to enter a sort of sad early retirement.
There was a time when a Jax Taylor wedding might have been interesting.
At the peak of the show's popularity, Jax went beyond the "resident villain" role and veered into "troubled sociopath" territory.
These days, however, he's entering the long, anxious hangover of middle-age, and he spends most of his time seeking validation from the people he's hurt and explicitly requesting assurance that he's not such a bad guy.
Jax is a changed man, to be sure, but he might not be changed enough to make a marriage work.
Yes, on Vanderpump, Taylor and Cartwright are preparing to enter the honeymoon phase, but in real life, it seems they've already entered their first rough patch.
In fact, there are signs that the couple has already called it quits.
Jax has been spotted without his wedding ring several times in the months since he and Brittany tied the knot.
In the past, he's been quick with excuses, the most common being that he removes his ring each time he goes to the gym.
This is not a common practice, but at least it sort of made sense.
This week, however, Jax was spotted leaving a Los Angeles dry cleaner's without his ring, and according to a report from Radar Online, he remained ringless as he ran errands throughout the day.
An insider tells the outlet that Taylor and Cartwright are “unhappy” and “cannot get along.”
“Brittany wanted to have this magical and over-the-top wedding so that she could have a dream wedding that would play out on TV,” a source claims.
“And although it was everything that she ever wanted and more, the magic didn’t last long at all.”
Prior to the wedding Jax was caught cheating on Brittany, and it seems she still has a hard time trusting her new husband.
“Brittany is already accusing Jax of having a wandering eye and she doesn’t know how she is ever really going to trust him,” says the insider.
“She thought that getting married would make all of her suspicions go away, but it hasn’t," the source adds.
"All it has really done was give her a ring and more reason to worry that something may happen.”
For his part, Jax is reportedly concerned about Brittany's spending habits.
“Jax is freaking out about money," the insider tells Radar.
"Now that they are married, all of his money is hers and all of her money is his and it has been causing some major issues because she loves to spend.”
A rep for Taylor denies the separation rumors, saying, “Jax goes to the gym several times a week and does not wear his wedding ring, like most men. Jax and Brittany are enjoying their new home and are better than ever.”
Yeah, two things stand out here:
1. Again, removing your wedding ring every time you go to the gym is not something that's commonly done -- and Jax was at the dry cleaner's, not the gym.
2. Having your rep issue a denial instead of doing it yourself? Never a good sign.
Obviously, running errands without your wedding ring on isn't a sure sign that the marriage is over.
No, the surest sign that the relationship is in trouble is the fact that one of the participants is Jax freakin' Taylor.
Jax's efforts to leave his bad boy image in the past and develop into a decent human being have been central to the past two seasons of Vanderpump.
Everyone loves a good redemption narrative, and many fans have been rooting for Jax throughout his attempted transition.
His situation has drawn comparisons to The Situation -- Mike Sorrentino of Jersey Shore fame who also went to great pains to reform himself after years of wildly douchey behavior.
But unlike The Sitch -- who was imprisoned for tax fraud and got sober after battling addiction for more than a decade -- Jax never hit rock bottom in any signficant way.
In fact, Jax has gotten away with just about everything over the years.
He slept with Tom Sandoval's girlfriend and mistreated Stassi Schroeder throughout their relationship, yet both have remained loyal to Taylor.
He behaved in horribly inappropriate fashion at work, and yet he's still employed by Lisa Vanderpump at SUR.
And it's worth noting that Jax is 40, not 25.p0
Change is possible at any age, but later in life, it requires more effort and, in many cases, a precipitous event to kickstart the progress.
Jax likes to think his scandalous past is well behind him.
But the fact is that it was just last year when he was sleeping around on his fiance, getting into drunken screaming matches with his friends, and generally behaving like James Kennedy.
And it was just a few months ago that fans called for Taylor to be fired after he launched a homophobic tirade against a random Twitter user.
At the moment, it's not entirely clear what's happening with Taylor's marriage.
But we have a good sense of who to blame if and when things go south.