When TVNZ first announced they were dipping their toes into the dark arts of "influencing" with a reality show starring Iyia Liu and Edna Swart, more than a few eyebrows were raised – and not just because of its set-your-teeth-on-edge title, BossBabes.
Shot and edited in the mould of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, the OnDemand-only series promised to follow the day-to-day lives of Liu, 25, and Swart, 29, as they pushed their respective businesses – some of which have had their fair share of negative headlines.
While Liu first came to widespread attention after convincing reality TV superstar Kylie Jenner - and consequently many, many more people - to wear what is essentially a corset as part of her Waist Trainer business, she weathered a storm of bad press over another one of her ventures, Celebration Box.
While several local influencers sang their (paid) praises about the gift boxing service, a spate of customer complaints – and accusations of negative reviews being deleted on social media – saw the business come to the attention of the Commerce Commission.
That particular controversy does get a brief mention in the first episode of BossBabes that landed this week, but the show merely pays it lip service as it gets down to the real reason for its existence – watching the young and the beautiful of Auckland's social scene making spectacles of themselves.
We get to see some 250 of these people – who the show assures us are very influential – at a housewarming party Liu is throwing at her swish new country pad in the opening scenes of the series.
Liu and Swart have asked guests to turn up in white (a party theme that needs to be cancelled), while Liu casually admits to dropping the same amount of money on the soiree that many people spend on their wedding. It all looks Instagram-picture-perfect and includes the bonus of one Max Key bumping into his ex, Amelia Finlayson, which would have been much juicier had it not been so clearly stage-managed.
But just about everything on BossBabes feels heavily set up. And it's undeniably fun.
The house party sees Liu's friends using beach balls to find her a husband, for example.
The winning bachelor, Jordan, uses his best pickup lines ("Did I just break your bonnet?") and repeated basketball analogies ("I'm LeBron James with the ball") to inexplicably broker an actual date with Liu, which we'll get to see later in the series.
Given Liu has just announced she and Jordan are expecting (via an Instagram post that tagged both her baby daddy and the salon where she gets her eyelash extensions done), I'm going to presume the date's going to go quite well.
BossBabes' second episode, which also launched this week, is all about a girls trip to Sydney, where Liu, Swart and their friend Rosie are planning a lot of shopping, a Bondi photoshoot for Swart's swimwear line and the small matter of Liu's Brazilian butt lift, courtesy of a surgeon whose scrub cap says "Buttman".
It's television gold, no?
They might confuse their lefts and rights and they may not be completely certain as to how the sun and planets work, but Liu and Swart are savvy enough to know BossBabes is an entertainment show through and through and they do their best to deliver on that.
The duo play along with the various scenarios they find themselves in and share near-perfect banter during their combined "confessional" interviews.
But while Liu might be the more widely known of this Instagram entrepreneur double-act, Swart shines as the show's real star, especially when it comes to bringing the comedy. For example, we learn she's preparing for her upcoming trip to Italy by practising an Italian accent rather than learning any Italian phrases. And – brace yourselves – she doesn't even pretend to enjoy those green smoothies.
Despite my usual suspicions about the mysterious beast known as the "influencer", I found myself liking these BossBabes. Or, at least, I liked the version of themselves that they've put forward for this show.
Because in their line of business, image is everything, and TVNZ has certainly gifted these women – Liu in particular – the biggest of opportunities to present or rebrand their preferred image. Whether viewers accept those as anything close to genuine remains to be seen.
New episodes of BossBabes are available Tuesdays on TVNZ OnDemand.