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Davina Portratz, Heather Rae Young and Chrishell Stause are among the cast of the Netflix reality series Selling Sunset.

Netflix/Netflix

When Selling Sunset (three seasons on Netflix) started streaming last year, nobody paid much attention. A reality show about real estate brokers in Los Angeles selling fabulous homes to the rich, the famous and the weird, it didn’t exactly sizzle. Then a few months ago it became a talked-about sensation. Why? Because of a pandemic.

Like Tiger King, the series became, for some viewers, the ideal escape as lockdown took hold. This makes sense in an odd way. Stuck at home, bored and anxious, people discovered the strange, numbing appeal of property porn. For that is what it is: multimillion-dollar homes in the Hollywood Hills or somewhere nearby, often elaborate constructions of glass and steel, inevitably with a swimming pool, are presented as the homes you, the viewer, will never have. Often, these homes seem distinctly sterile, which adds to the numbing quality of it all.

But then the antiseptic condition of this world we enter is undermined and twisted into perversely addictive drama via the antics of the real estate agents at the Oppenheim Group, who handle those home sales. Rarely – with the exception of the recent Republican National Convention – has such a gaggle of backstabbing narcissists been corralled for TV. That, too, is part of the appeal – these real estate agents look like something from Donald Trump’s fervid imagining of his kind of people. They’re shallow, glamorous in a chintzy way and use a very limited vocabulary.

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Binge-watching guide: The recent shows you need to catch up on, all available to stream

The third season – yes, they’ve churned out three in a year – started with some focus on Amanza Smith, who joined the firm in Season 2. Previously an interior designer and before that a cheerleader for the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, Amanza is divorced from a former NFL player named Ralph. Apparently Ralph was failing in his child-support duties and then went missing. Yes, missing. He dropped the kids off at school in August, 2019, and nobody has seen him since. As with many of her coworkers, Amanza’s life seems to be a peculiar blend of Instagram-ready razzle-dazzle and an entry-point into a true-crime story.

Selling Sunset follows a group of real estate agents who market some of the glitziest homes in Los Angeles.

Netflix/Netflix

Listen, we haven’t even mentioned Christine’s “burger and Botox blowout” or how agent Chrishell was totally blindsided when her husband, actor Justin Hartley, who appears on NBC’s This Is Us, filed for divorce. Nor have we mentioned the tarot readings.

Currently, ours is a bleak reality, full of social and personal uncertainty, and so we turn to perverse pleasures for escapism.

Selling Sunset is one of those. You don’t have to like it, you just have to look at it, as perhaps you looked at the Republican convention – appalled, gripped and uneasy.

Also airing this weekend

The 2020 MTV Video Music Awards (Sunday, CTV 2, E!, 8 p.m.) is intended to “Pay homage to the incredible resiliency of New York with several outdoor performances around the City with limited or no audience, adhering to all state and city guidelines.” What that means is that the stars slated to perform – including Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, The Weeknd, K-pop band BTS, Black Eyed Peas, DaBaby, Doja Cat and Maluma – will perform at outdoor venues with very few audience members attending. Hey, it just might work.

Influence (Sunday, documentary channel 9 p.m.) aired earlier this year on CBC and is a must-see if you missed it. One of the strongest and most illuminating docs of the year, it’s about one Timothy Bell. He initially became famous decades ago for advising Margaret Thatcher on everything from political advertising to her clothing, speeches and speaking style. That’s when he was in the advertising racket. Then he founded his own firm, Bell Pottinger, which specialized in polishing the image of such people as General Augusto Pinochet; the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko; Asma al-Assad, the wife of the Syrian dictator; the Sultan of Brunei; and the Sri Lankan government during its war with the Tamils. His firm also earned money trying to convince the people of Iraq that everything was fine after the U.S.-led coalition invaded. It’s a stunning story that ends, as it should, in ignominy.

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