As the Los Angeles real estate market continues its evolution from absurd to downright comical, it's hard to not resent the buyers and sellers featured on the various reality shows that exist to showcase a sort of out-of-touch extravagance. For two seasons running, the real estate fetishization genre — which includes everything from Million Dollar Listing to the arguably less offensive House Hunters — has gotten the skewering it deserves from the semi-scripted parody Bajillion Dollar Propertie$.
Back for its third season on Seeso on June 1, the show pokes fun at reality TV shows that are aimed at turning real estate agents into megastars. Executive produced by Kulap Vilaysack (Comedy Bang! Bang!, Who Charted?), the show manages to stretch the absurdity of the high-end real estate market to stranger-than-fiction believability.
The scrappy, small-budget show sees Paul F. Tompkins reprise his role as Dean Rosedragon, the head honcho at the fictional Platinum Real Estate agency, who is obsessed with his legacy and how he’ll be perceived. As in the first two seasons, the show hilariously calls out shows like Million Dollar Listing and Property Brothers, which offer inspiration for Bajillion.
“Our show is only a slight exaggeration of how absurd those shows are,” Tompkins says. “With the way that they have to tell their stories on those shows, with everything having to be so dramatic, it's way more over-the-top than anything that happens in real life. It’s just insane. I can’t watch them [reality shows] for too long because once you start to see the formula, it all falls apart.”
Admittedly, Tompkins hadn’t watched shows like Million Dollar Listing before taking on Bajillion Dollar Propertie$. He has, however, recently bought a house and lived through the anxiety of dealing with real estate agents.
“It’s weird to learn about this kind of stuff [real estate] from doing this kind of show, because I have a house that I’ve lived in for three years and was a huge, anxiety-ridden process of getting it,” he explains. “The kinds of crazy real estate dealings that people talk about, it’s like a fairyland. It’s so far beyond real life that it may as well be a TV show.”
With a cast full of comedians, the scenes are loosely structured and most of the dialogue is improvised, which has produced most of the show's memorable moments. What makes it so great are the wild scenes between buyers and sellers, with Tompkins' Dean leading the way. The other characters, including Andrew Wright (Ryan Gaul) and Amir Yaghoob (Dan Ahdoot), are such caricatures and land themselves in situations that are so unbelievable, they're basically believable.
The scrappiness of working on a small-budget show has allowed for the cast and crew to become a tight-knit unit. Tompkins says that environment has made this his favorite project yet.
“This is absolutely the most fun on a show that I’ve ever had,” he beams. “I’ve enjoyed it the most, I’ve loved the cast, and to play with these people one-on-one or in group scenes. The difference with this is when you really care about what you’re doing, it really comes across like it does here. Kulap has created an amazing environment where everyone cares about what they do and pitches in and enjoys each other.”
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While it's easy to poke fun at these easy targets, the show is actually steeped in some sense of reality. Vilaysack and some of the other writers have consulted with real estate agents for the show.
Like seasons past, this one will feature a slew of special guests: Sarah Silverman, Steven Yeun, Jason Mantzoukas (reprising his role as Uncle Jerry) and Lauren Lapkus join an already impressive roster of comedians who have popped up on the show.
Bajillion Dollar Propertie$ won’t have a problem finding storylines for its fourth season, already in the works. With the real estate market pricing out many in the city, the show serves as a small way to get a laugh at people who take their jobs slinging seven-figure homes too seriously. It also keeps the cast and crew grounded.
“You never take anything for granted,” Tompkins says of the show’s early plaudits. “But we’re certainly thrilled that we’ve gotten to do as many as we’ve done. I just hope people will give this a shot because it’s a really funny show and I’m really proud of what we’ve done so far.”