As a dedicated Bravo fan, I can’t help but feel that over the past few years, Bravo’s decisions have become as questionable as Scheana Shay’s (previous) choices in men, and its content as boring as Teddi Mellencamp on screen. It’s no secret that the network’s come under fire for multiple problematic cast members and its lack of diverse representation… also, after confusing viewers’ requests for juicy content with Lucy Lucy Apple Juice content. And what has this resulted in? Low ratings for even the network cornerstones like RHONY and RHOBH. No bueno, Bravo. But I’m not here to sh*t on the network. After all, Bravo’s given me endless laughs over Sonja’s shenanigans, defined “real friendship” for me via the Witches of WeHo, scared me sh*tless into never committing a crime thanks to Teresa/Jen/Erika, and has taught me everything I know about fashion through Dorit’s confessional looks. So instead of jumping on the boycott Bravo wagon, I’m here instead to use my PhD in reality TV to offer guidance and recommendations on how to reinvent the network and bring in a bigger, better, more engaged audience.
Promote The Hidden Gems
As a die-hard Bravo fan who chooses to watch TV over having a social life, reading books, or generally bettering myself, I don’t sleep on any content. And because of that, I know Bravo has hidden gems that the average viewer is completely oblivious to, like Shahs of Sunset, Family Karma, and Married to Medicine. These shows bring it all: diversity in race, religion, and sexuality; messy drama; and heroes and villains that you both want to be and love to hate. But I can’t blame the viewers for not knowing what they don’t know. So my recommendation for Bravo is to promote the sh*t out of this content. Viewers are begging you for diversity, reckless casts, and something fresh to pass the time with. It’s not like you have to start from scratch to build this… literally, all you have to do is reallocate your advertising budget.
Pick A Star and Build Around Them
In the early days of Bravo, the network would often pick a star and build a show around their personality, friend group, and/or vocation. Exhibit A: The Millionaire Matchmaker with Patti Stanger. Exhibit B: Vanderpump Rules with Lisa Vanderpump. Exhibit C: The Rachel Zoe Project with Rachel Zoe. This formula completely put Bravo on the map in the ’00s—by finding someone who had either the glam, aspiration, knack for confrontation, or chaotic family/workplace dynamic, the network was able to build an empire around stars like the Manzos and Bethenny Frankel. Now, don’t get me wrong: as a dedicated Housewives fan, I’d never be able to live without my ensemble casts that bring together a bunch of messy, middle-aged women who take lavish trips, get dressed up for game night, and live by the motto “everyone is jealous of me.” But my suggestion to bring back this old formula, pick a star and build around them, would be a fun alternative to punch up the current ensemble staples.
Copy The ‘VPR’ Formula
Vanderpump Rules was the sh*t in its early days. The concept of filming a broke, IRL friend group that had zero expectations for the show created the perfect hurricane of messy AF drama that you seriously couldn’t dream up. Need I remind you about Jax sleeping with Kristen, Laura Leigh (no elaboration required), and “suck a d*ck Diana”? Using early VPR as a case study, my expert recommendation is this: find an unknown group of friends who happen to work at the same establishment and who have less than 1,000 Instagram followers each. Let them be their petty, scrappy, desperate, and jealous selves and the show will write itself. Make note that this cast doesn’t have to work at a bar/restaurant (although the element of late nights and alcohol definitely helps fuel the fire). Whether they’re at a retail location like Very Cavallari or a real estate firm like Selling Sunset, the most important thing is to cast the right people—the location/industry is simply a backdrop to the drama. So what’s next? Bravo has announced a show featuring Kandi Burruss’ Old Lady Gang restaurant is in the works, but why stop there? How about building a show around Southern Charm star Leva Bonaparte’s new restaurant/bar… I mean, the crossover opportunity is built in.
Stop Leaking Sh*t To The Press
You used to be able to expect the unexpected when it came to storylines and conflict. Think Kim Richards v. Lisa Rinna in Amsterdam, Scary Island, Brooks faking cancer, or Manzo v. Manzo v. Manzo. There was a sense of intrigue and anticipation for a new season or episode to premiere, because besides the season trailer, you literally had no idea what madness was about to ensue. But now, thanks to social media, leaked news stories, and cast members spilling tea on podcasts, the element of intrigue that made (nay, forced) you to tune in in real time to watch an episode has been minimized. For example, before RHOA premiered, we already knew that someone allegedly hooked up with a stripper on a cast trip. And, before last year’s RHOP, we already knew the main conflict was going to be Monique and Candiace’s fight, and that it ended in police reports and the group being ripped apart. Sure, having some idea of the conflict can get viewers excited, but it also dulls the element of surprise. So this leads me to my next recommendation: lock down the content. And I know this seems like an impossible task in today’s current media landscape, but hear me out. There’s stuff that fans generally don’t care is “leaked”, like reunion outfits or where the cast goes on their annual filming trip. So continue not giving AF if the ladies post or podcast about that. BUT, when it comes to major feuds and main storylines, I’ll stand firm on (a) stopping the cast and crew from leaking information (The Bachelor franchise’s tight NDAs prove you can prevent people from spilling the tea); and (b) having the cast and their family/friends refrain from engaging in social media back-and-forth that gives away who is pissed at whom, and from speaking on podcasts that give away details before the season airs. And trust me, if fans can’t can’t get their content from social media or the gossip headlines, they’ll put down TikTok on a Tuesday night to tune into RHONY for 43 minutes with no questions asked.
Retire—Or Replace—The Sh*tty Franchises
It’s time to retire the sh*tty franchises. I’m looking at you, Dallas and Orange County. Why? Well, we’ve reached a new level of Housewives saturation because Bravo’s failed to trim the fat—AKA, get rid of the boring/problematic franchises – and some viewers are suffering from Housewives fatigue. And sure, I get it, if you’re a diehard Housewives fan you’ll take PuppyGate and the RHOD crew road-tripping to Oklahoma over no content at all. BUT, this is about Bravo upping its ratings and engaging the casual viewer… which can only happen if the content isn’t a dumpster fire of controversial cast members, repetitive plotlines, and the same old tropes over and over again. Let me take a step back. You know how each friend in your crew has a role? For example, there’s the one who can do makeup, the one who has the hot guy friends, the one who acts like the mom of the group, and so on. I use this friend group analogy as my litmus test to see if a franchise is worth keeping or not. IMO, each franchise should bring its own unique twist to the network… like how RHONY brings fast-paced entertainment, RHOBH brings aspiration, RHOP brings spicy drama, etc. etc. But others, like RHOD and RHOC, bring less to the table than Teddi Mellencamp did in season 10… so retire them quicker than Rinna turned on Denise. Now that Heather Dubrow is coming back to Orange County, they get one more season to turn the ship around, but that’s it. And even if Bravo does retire a couple franchises, they have Miami and Nashville (allegedly) in the pipeline. So, fingers crossed that these new groups of ladies bring the same unfiltered theatrics and enjoyably out-of-touch ego that the early New York and Beverly Hills ensembles did, before self-producing became a thing.
Images: John Tsiavis / Bravo