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Ryan Serhant Is Back on Real Estate Reality TV With ‘Owning Manhattan’

Ryan Serhant Is Back on Real Estate Reality TV With ‘Owning Manhattan’

Ryan Serhant Is Back on Real Estate Reality TV With ‘Owning Manhattan’

To be lured back from his hiatus from the reality TV universe after 10 seasons on Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing: New York, NYC-based celebrity broker Ryan Serhant knew he wanted to do something different. “I didn’t want to make Million Dollar Listing: New York 2.0, or a spinoff of Selling Sunset, which has its own distinct style,” he says. “So, we’ve created a concept of elevated reality.”

The new concept, Owning Manhattan, launched Friday on Netflix. In many ways, it feels soothingly familiar to the slew of other popular real estate reality fare like Selling Sunset and Buying Beverly Hills: luxury listing porn, feuding peacocking agents, high-stakes sales. But with its soaring orchestra score, documentary-style filmmaking and Serhant’s outsized, time-tested personality, it offers a polished, insider’s look into Serhant’s new real estate agency, named, of course, SERHANT.

“Ryan gives good TV because he is good TV,” says World of Wonder’s Randy Barbato, who executive produces the show. “It’s authentic. It’s not an act. Before we started filming, he’s been building this empire, and he has decided that he wants to be the N. 1 brokerage firm in the world. And to see someone trying to achieve that is amazing. On top of that, he is someone who has heart, and is funny and is a great businessman — they’re the things you’d put on a wish list and then expect AI to generate. But Ryan actually delivers it. And then on top of it, he has perfect skin.”

Most of the action takes place in the SERHANT headquarters in Soho, home of the former Tommy Hilfiger landmark store, which becomes a kind of character in the show. “It’s like the Soho House of real estate,” says executive producer Fenton Bailey, of World of Wonder.

Barbato agrees. “It’s very chic. It’s very happening. It’s very buzzy.”

With Serhant stepping into the role of brave leader and mentor, the show focuses on a mix of agents both old and new, with made-for-TV appeal and flash for days. “It is a Baskin-Robbins,” Barbato says.  “There are many flavors of amazing cast members in this cast.”

Standouts include Tricia Lee, a sophisticated, steely powerbroker in Brooklyn who’s looking to make it just as big in Manhattan; Jonathan Nørmølle, a tatted up, expressive Danish upstart; and Savannah Gowarty, a peach-pie fresh newbie from North Carolina.

“I lately have been equating the real estate business with the drag queen business,” says Bailey, longtime producer of Drag Race along with Barbato. “To be a great agent is just not that dissimilar to being a great drag queen.”

No one personifies this more than the brash Chloe Tucker Caine, a former Broadway star in Mama Mia! before becoming a top-selling agent.

“You have to be a triple threat,” Bailey says. “You’ve got to know your stuff about property. You’ve got to know how to sell it. You’ve got to know how to dress well. You’ve got to know how to walk and talk, and you’ve got to know media. You’ve got to know how to post great videos. You know what, drag queens and real estate agents are the Marines of reality!”

Although he is an old hand at being a reality star, Serhant admits that filming Owning Manhattan was daunting. “Shooting this entire show was terrifying. It was unlike anything I’ve ever done,” he says. “We shot the entire show in real time, and it’s the only real estate show where there are live firings. So, I don’t know if I would call those scenes ‘fun,’ but they were the most real I’ve seen on an docuseries, and I’m excited for the audience to experience them.”

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Viewers will see a softer, mentor version of Serhant, encouraging brokers to “Take it to the Wall” (literally, a wall in the main office where agents list their big sales). It also delves into his goal of merging technology and real estate, especially through his Instagram, which has over 2 million followers. 

“We’ve been making property shows for a gazillion years. I mean, the first show we made was Hot Property for Channel 5 in the U.K., literally last century,” Bailey says. “And it’s funny to see how selling real estate and homes has evolved and really fused with media and social media. it used to be that a listing would be just a few pictures, and you’d have to make an appointment — you’d have to go see it. And now, there’s 360-degree videos. There are drones flying through the house!”

Much of the drama of the season revolves around Serhant’s attempt to sell the soaring penthouse at Central Park Tower, the highest residence in the world with an elevation 17,545 sq. ft. Currently listed for $195 million, the penthouse serves as a metaphor for the great heights Serhant and his crew aspire to.

“The question ultimately was, what will make people look up from their phones? What if the show opens in voiceover, has a first-person narrator and, because all episodes release at the same time, the series feels like a documentary film — what does that look and feel like?” Serhant says. “Then, layer in incredible real estate as in the most extreme properties in the world, real deals being done for significant amounts of money, the backdrop of New York City, a diverse and unique cast of personalities and emotions — some who are new to the business and some who are quite seasoned — lots of drama and humor, and we surprise the audience until the final credits of the final episode. What would that be like?”

Viewers are now finding out. In a media space crowded with real estate fare, Owning Manhattan promises to be a breath of rarefied fresh air, with one old hat in the center of it all. “Ryan is back where he belongs,” Barbato says. “On everyone’s TV set all around the world.”

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