Texans on TV
Move over, Real Housewives. A new, very affluent family has become a surprise hit on the reality-show scene — and they hail from right here in Texas.
House of Ho, now streaming on HBO Max, stars the very rich Ho family of Houston. There’s powerful patriarch Binh Ho and his hard-to-please wife, Hue; party-boy son Washington and his long-suffering wife, Lesley; recently divorced daughter Judy, cousin Sammy, and the always unfiltered Aunt Tina.
Given that this is a reality show that gives a wealthy, Vietnamese clan a chance to shine, we thought we’d ask Texas Vietnamese writer and journalist Nguyen Le his thoughts on the Hos.
CultureMap: So, you’ve watched all seven episodes of the first season. What are your thoughts?
Nguyen Le: It is unexpectedly compelling. Normally, I would avoid shows that focus on dysfunctional families because the drama can be shamelessly manufactured, but this one seems to avoid that — or that it manages to do it without me noticing. And although the blueprint for exactly this is there, eventually it’s a deeper look into the generational differences and the culture.
CM: Have you heard about the Hos before the show?
NL: No, I haven’t! And I feel strange considering the family’s name receives a lot of emphasis.
CM: Are there any moments that stand out from the episodes you’ve seen?
NL: Lesley telling Judy, Hue, and Tina of Wash’s alcoholism at the horse race track [in episode five]. It’s particularly brave for Lesley to do that, on top of steeling herself enough to fend off the excuses for Wash.
Aunt Tina not approving Nate because he’s not of the Brad Pitt, Chris Hemsworth, or Chris Pine type [in episode seven]. The love for Westerners and Caucasians is a real and strong thing in older generations of Vietnamese.
CM: Do you feel this show give a positive or negative representation of Vietnamese culture?
NL: Leaning positive. At the very least, the show will prove that not all Vietnamese are frugal or have small aims. Some of us do get to a point where we live in River Oaks and are driven in Bentleys.
CM: One review said it was bleak and disheartening watching Lesley and Judy bend over backwards for the disapproving parents. Do you agree or disagree?
NL: Strongly agree. At some point, protection becomes controlling, and that is exactly what Lesley and Judy feel in the household. It is especially tough being a woman in a hyper-patriarchal culture like Vietnam, and there are many exhibits here that show that.
I’m a Vietnamese guy and sometimes Vietnamese guys, no matter their age but especially the older generations, bore and unnerve me with their thoughts on women.
CM: Were there things you saw in the show that reminded you of your family or your upbringing?
NL: The Lunar New Year celebration sequence [in episode six]. Obviously my family can’t host one that lavish, but the atmosphere of it all is something that will never get old.
CM: Aunt Tina: yay or nay?
NL: Somewhat yay. I was quite surprised that for someone as outspoken and tight with Judy and Lesley as her would still make excuses for Washington’s alcoholism. Then again, I’ve encountered people like her in my family before — the one who works all the sides so that she can get the whole picture, ready to report afterward. Tricky!
CM: Do you hope House of Ho will get a Season 2?
NL: I won’t mind if there’s another. That new dynamic between new Judy (now with Nate) and the parents is something I’d like to see. But if there’s another, maybe the production should have a bilingual member on hand so that Hue and Binh get to be more involved — there are sections in season one where it’s apparent that the language barrier hinders the content/argument.