The Real Housewives has been on television for over 16 years now, and while it is a staple within pop culture, I feel like there’s been a decline regarding the authenticity, and many seem to agree, pointing to the manufactured drama causing it. What was once a show that gave us hilarious one-liners, authentic storylines, and over-the-top moments has now become stale, overproduced, and a bit lost. Let’s get into how we got here and what we can do to fix it.
Out With The New, In With The Old
Listen, I understand that there’s always a need for a bit of a refresh from time to time, and I am absolutely here for it. But, if we’re being honest, I don’t necessarily think that firing OG/veteran cast members has been in the best interest of the franchises. For example, losing Tamra and Vicki was a big mistake (huge) for RHOC. The show lost some of its authenticity, and to introduce new cast members 16 seasons in doesn’t give me any excitement. We love The Real Housewives mainly because of the dynamic between the women, and when the women start to come across as co-workers instead of an actual friend group, it’s incredibly inauthentic. Obviously, because these franchises have been on for so long, it can be challenging to cast people that are genuinely friends. I think bringing cast members like Vicki and Tamra back to RHOC, Dorinda back to RHONY, and even Caroline Manzo back on RHONJ could bring the realness that some of these franchises so desperately need.
The Theme Of Each Franchise Should Stay Consistent
What makes us love The Real Housewives is that each city has its own theme. When you think of RHONJ, you might think of family, and when you think of RHOA you might think of laughter and shade. Recently with the RHOC reboot, I felt like the show was becoming something that it was never intended to be. When I think of RHOC, I think of really dramatic yet real storylines. From the Brooks cancer scandal to Shannon Beador’s divorce, RHOC was consistently good because the women were showing us their authentic selves. This last season, I felt like the women wanted to give us high glam and drama, when that’s more RHOBH‘s domain.
Shorter Seasons Are Better
While I love watching Housewives, there comes a point where some episodes are just flat-out boring. For example, the most recent season of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City was 24 episodes, and the main storyline of the season that we were waiting for (Jen Shah’s arrest) didn’t arrive until episode 10. The season felt drawn-out and was incredibly boring at times. I believe that each season should contain no more than 18 episodes, including the reunion. That way there isn’t a lot of filler and the fans can actually enjoy the season without feeling like the show has become a chore to watch.
The Women Have To Like Each Other
While we love a good feud, there still has to be some sense of sisterhood within the group. The reason why franchises like RHOP and RHOA work is because while the women may feud from time to time, there’s still this sense that they have a love for one another and are friends outside the show. Watching RHOSLC and RHOC, you get the vibe that the women aren’t friends outside the show, and that the friendships that they portray as “close-knit” are all for show. Even RHOBH and RHONJ who both have ensembles that have “teams” within the cast (Fox Force Four, Teresa and Jen, etc.) still have some sense of real friendships on the show.
Even with the last two seasons of RHONY, I felt like women were trying to shift the show into something that it wasn’t before. What was once a show that gave us belly laughs, genuine friendships, and sort of a Sex and The City vibe became a show where the women seemed to hate each other at times and there didn’t seem to be any genuinely fun moments, like we were used to before.
I do believe that there is potential for the franchise to go back to what we loved in the glory days of housewives, especially with the new season of RHOA, which looks incredibly promising. For that to happen for other franchises, however, the network will have to go back to the basics with its formula for producing its shows. We need authentic drama, organic chemistry between the cast, and to let every franchise stick to what made it popular in the first place.
Images: Nicole Weingart/Bravo
We’ve seen an abundance of race-based conversations on Bravo over the years, and most of the time they leave me feeling a bit uncomfortable. Not because of the subject matter, but because they are brought up awkwardly and are not received by the respective casts in an empathetic way. That’s why the conversation on Summer House about race, led by Ciara Miller and Mya Allen was not only important but, in my opinion, set the standard as to how these types of conversations should be had. Let’s talk about why the conversation was crucial, why it was done so well, and how everyone, including the network, could benefit from using this conversation as a blueprint moving forward.
At the end of episode 5, Ciara and Mya, along with cast mates Alex Wach and Danielle Olivera, shared their experiences spending their summers in the predominantly white Hamptons with their white housemates. They experienced moments that made them incredibly uncomfortable, from fellow houseguest Andrea Denver calling Mya by the wrong name to a guest at one of the pool parties calling Alex Bruce Lee. The housemates needed to know these things happened to understand the experiences that their BIPOC housemates endure, and to take a moment to reflect on their actions as well. Something that can seem like an innocent mistake, such as confusing Ciara and Mya, can be offensive, especially when that type of confusion does not seem to occur with the other white housemates. These are microaggressions that are not only exclusive to the Summer House cast but BIPOC across the nation constantly. Comments like “you talk so white” or confusing the names of Black people around you are offensive and can be incredibly awkward to address, especially to those who exhibit white fragility.
While the subject material was heavy, one of the reasons why the conversation was successful is because the cast took time to show support to their fellow housemates and listen to their grievances. The phrase “listening and learning” is regularly said on the internet as a response to BIPOC speaking up about their experiences with racism, but is oftentimes said in a performative manner. However, the Summer House cast truly did listen. From Paige tearfully showing support to Ciara and Mya to Kyle quickly shutting down Luke’s comparison to his experiences as a white boy from the midwest coming into the group to Ciara and Mya’s lived experiences with racism, the cast actually did a good job of listening and, hopefully, learning.
Conversations about race and lived experiences on Bravo are nothing new, but when you are in the position of leading such conversations, it can be intimidating, especially when your audience is apathetic. We saw this especially on The Real Housewives of New York City this year when Eboni K. Williams would bring up race. The cast would look either uncomfortable, quickly agree with the points made to avoid conflict, or show their entire ass as Ramona Singer did at the Shabbat dinner. The reason the conversation on Summer House was so well received and successful was because there was a proper space given for the conversation and the cast was open to receiving the conversation. Too often lately, it’s felt like producers and/or the network are pushing BIPOC cast members to have conversations about race in a very rushed and disingenuous manner. Giving those who have experienced racism the space to have well-thought-out conversations about their experiences, on the other hand, gives them the respect that they deserve and also makes the conversation feel more genuine to viewers. In Eboni’s case, I don’t believe she was given the proper space and attention in order to facilitate such conversations.
Beyond just the Bravo spectrum, I believe that the way this conversation was handled is the way most conversations surrounding race should be had. Abruptly asking someone about their experiences or forcing someone to share their trauma as it pertains to race isn’t being an ally. It makes us, as people a part of marginalized groups, relive those moments and it puts us on defense mode. No one wants to share their experiences and have a “devil’s advocate” who wants to refute or debate every point that they bring up. It’s important that when we have these conversations that there are three things present. Space, respect, and accountability, and that in my opinion is what the Summer House cast exhibited perfectly.
Last month, The Real Housewives of Orange County finally came back after a bit of hiatus with a “reboot” of the show. With Shannon Beador, Gina Kirschenheiter, and Emily Simpson joined by Heather Dubrow and two newbies, Dr. Jen Armstrong and Noella Bergener, I was excited to see the beloved original Housewives franchise back with a new vibe. I originally loved the fact the show had a new “classy” element to it, and that we were finally getting to see new stories, new people and Heather Dubrow’s massive mausoleum of a home. However, the excitement, the flashiness, and the cast quickly bored me, and I started finding the show a bit monotonous—and I’m not alone in thinking this way. It made me think, if we don’t fix what’s happening on the show at the moment, we might not get another season of RHOC. Here’s what I think the show needs to address in order to avoid that.
Heather Is Iconic, But She Isn’t The Main Girl
I love Heather Dubrow. I find her fabulous, hilarious, and she’s obviously rich as hell. However, what made Heather so good on her original run on the show was her role as the voice of reason and, at times, the villain of the show. She’s snarky—she plays it up for the cameras and can be a bit of a smart-ass. That’s why she’s an amazing Housewife. However, I feel like Bravo kind of f*cked up by pushing her to be the matriarch/center of the show. Sure, she could give us a Bethenny Frankel tease and be the alpha of the group, but the reason why that worked for RHONY was because each of the women on RHONY had their moments of standing up to Bethenny. I feel like most of the girls on RHOC, except for Noella, have a tendency to kiss Heather’s ass. It makes the show boring, and eventually could make Heather think she’s above this group. We for sure don’t want that.
The Direction Of The Show
I’m happy that we have a reboot, and everyone (including me) wanted the show to go in a different direction—especially after such a dark season—but I feel like this season’s direction isn’t what RHOC needed. Yes, we love wealth, and yes, we love opulence, but not every franchise needs that for it to be good. Each Housewives franchise is amazing because they all have their own special qualities: RHONY has a comedic vibe to it while RHOBH is more focused on opulence and wealth. What made RHOC special was the dynamic between the women and the show’s casual vibe. I don’t know if pushing the show in the direction of RHOBH is the right idea. It comes across as a bit jarring, especially to longtime viewers. In addition to the direction of the show, the cast feels a bit disjointed. For instance, the reason the Real Housewives of Miami reboot is working so well is because there’s a good balance of newbies and OGs in different capacities. RHOC needs to bring back some OGs to balance out the cast and stir the pot a bit. Those vets would be Vicki and Tamra.
Vicki and Tamra
Vicki and Tamra were the foundation for RHOC. While I was happy to see them go at first, I deeply regret that decision. They knew how to stir the pot in such an organic way that it made the show incredibly worth watching. From Bass Lake-Gate to Vicki being a complete hater to Meghan King, those girls understood the assignment. I think bringing them back in a friend role in the same way RHOM has done with Marysol and Adriana would balance out the cast, and we all know that Vicki and Tamra would keep everyone on the cast accountable. Plus, with their recent fallouts with Shannon, it only would make sense to bring them back.
I absolutely love RHOC, and I’m not saying this season is bad. But, it is definitely missing something that could bring it from being a 6/10 to a 10/10. We need the show to change its direction a bit, bring back Vicki and Tamra, and not push Heather so much to be the centre of the show. I know for a fact that if these changes were made, RHOC could be back in its prime.
Image: Nicole Weingart / Bravo
As a Bravo fan, I am no stranger to Bravolebrities occasionally fucking up. We’re all human, we all make mistakes, and in order for us to grow, we have to take accountability and want to do better. But what happens when there is a lack of accountability? When there’s silence from not only those who said the offensive remarks, but an overall lack of acknowledgment from those who employ said people? There seems to be a growing number of ignorant and offensive remarks being made across all Bravo shows, without any type of acknowledgement or condemnation from the network, and it’s a problem.
Last week on Below Deck, Chief Stew Heather Chase was caught on camera repeating the N-word in front of Black castmate Rayna Lindsey. Chase, a white woman, apologized via Instagram, stating that she was “remorseful” and that she has now learned that her words and actions can affect others. Here’s my issue with this whole thing. Not only was the apology lackluster, not only was it months after the show was taped, but the network has refused to speak on the incident at all. This is the same network that immediately issued an apology after Kenya Moore wore a Native American costume during a Halloween party on RHOA, the same network that issued out statements that they do not condone violence during the whole RHOP Monique and Candiace fiasco, and most importantly, this is the same network that created content amplifying anti-racist practices in June 2020.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Mary Cosby of RHOSLC has made several ignorant remarks this season as well. She compared Mexican people to “people that make drugs” and said she appreciated fellow Housewife Jennie Nguyen’s “slanted eyes” and commented on her skin tone. Nothing but silence from the network, the same network that put out a rather apathetic statement in support of AAPI people in the wake of the ignorant comments Kameron Westcott and her family made about Dr. Tiffany Moon.
Ramona Singer of RHONY fame has spewed out offensive rhetoric over the years of her stint on the show, from stating during a Shabbat dinner on season 13 of RHONY that “Jewish people did not like her” and turning a conversation about medical racism toward Black women into a conversation about her, and her comments online saying “All Lives Matter” during the height of the BLM movement. Yet again, there was silence from the network. What was more concerning was the fact that there was not a reunion for RHONY where Ramona could be held accountable for her behavior. Instead, she was allowed to be on Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip and did press for the show as well. Was the network protecting her? Was there no reunion so that Ramona would be able to promote RHUGT? These aren’t just questions that I have, but questions other Bravo fans have too.
The message of accountability should be clear, concise, and apply to everyone. When Stassi, Kristen, Max, and Brett were fired last year, it seemed like a zero-tolerance policy of past racially insensitive remarks was enacted at the network. But there hasn’t seemed to be anything like that since, and there have been a number of racist incidents since then. If you don’t want to fire people for their remarks, then that’s fine. But, public accountability is what can eradicate most of these issues. Letting your viewers know that you understand why they might be offended and how you chose to move forward is key to creating a safe space for viewers. And it shouldn’t take a reunion special for these issues to be addressed. Waiting until a reunion is filmed to speak on these issues leads to viewers feeling more confused and angry about where you stand as a corporation about these incidents.
When you let the ignorance manifest and don’t speak on it, it sends the message you truly do not care. I wonder if the network regretted the firings of the VPR cast members and instead of keeping that same energy for others who commit the same wrongdoings, they are choosing to stay silent and “feel out the waters” to see how viewers react to these incidents. That’s a bad call. If Bravo continues to be silent all of their previous anti-racist work will come across as extremely performative. Let’s do better, Bravo.
Image: Charles Sykes / Bravo
With RHOSLC having a pretty lackluster first season, the bar was set high for the second season to finally up the ante. But even with a near on-camera arrest by Homeland Security, it took us 14 episodes to get some real drama going on and well, that’s not a good thing. While I am appreciative that we finally get to see some real action going on, I can’t help but wonder why it took so long? Was it filler scenes? Was it a lack of direction for the first half of the season? Was there some lackluster storylines going? Well, babes, it’s all of the above, and I’m sorry that’s not really Shah-Mazing. Yes, Jen’s arrest was incredibly iconic and it made the girls work for their checks, but it shouldn’t take a federal indictment for the women to actually pick up the pace and do what they need to do.
In my opinion, there is only one solution: a mild cast shake-up. Now, I’ve been a huge opponent to 5-6 housewives on a cast. I’ve always thought the more the merrier. However, in this case Bravo might want to take the RHONJ (seasons 1-5) route and cast around 5 women and maybe a friend or two. Let’s dive into who should stay and who needs to go.
Whether you like her or hate her, she is the show. Not only is her arrest intriguing to watch, but there’s also a certain dynamic that she brings to the group that is absolutely perfect for reality TV. She brings the drama, the fashions, and the FBI. Plus, it seems like a lot of the storylines this season surround her, so thank you Jen for giving us a show.
Hi baby gorgeous! Honestly, we all should be counting Lisa Barlow’s in our sleep. Lisa is a pot stirrer and to be honest, I wasn’t feeling her at the beginning of the season. I thought her antics were childish and not Housewives-worthy. However, the delusion of Lisa Barlow and the constant meddling is what makes her a great Housewife, and as the season progresses I can see the need to keep her.
Whitney isn’t boring by any means. She definitely calls the B.S. out and is pretty funny, but I just can’t seem to really care about anything going on in her personal life. While her storyline last season about dealing with her father was incredibly powerful, this season she hasn’t given us much besides telling us that she spent her entire life savings on a skin care product that I haven’t heard of before (not so smart). But, I think she would be an iconic friend to the show. Messy, funny, and comes in at the right time.
I’m not gonna lie to you, when I first watched Jennie, I found her personal story intriguing but her dynamic with the women to be a little bit bland. However, after last night’s episode, I am absolutely sure that she’s needed in this group. She’s great at addressing things head-on and not holding back on how she feels.
Whether you like it or not, Heather is the glue to this cast. She’s funny, relatable, and honestly just a down-to-earth person. I love the fact that Heather is a ride-or-die, and I also love that she stands in her truth. Beyond that, she’s good at starting those necessary conversations and, like Lisa, is an incredible pot stirrer.
Mary: No Idea
Mary was one of my absolute favorites for a while. I like that she’s incredibly delusional, has a no-nonsense attitude, and can read the girls when necessary. However, Mary has made so many offensive remarks regarding body image, race, and stereotypes to the point where I don’t see how she can recover from that. It’s not that I’m trying to “cancel” Mary, but it’s more so the fact that she has burned almost every bridge in this group that it’s kind of hard to see her returning. If the people she offended can move on from her comments, then I would like to see her back, but that is yet to be determined.
Honestly this was a tough one—I really wanted to say Meredith should be a friend-of. I get it, she’s “iconic” and you can’t really figure her out and because she’s so “mysterious” and blah, blah, blah. I’m not saying I want Meredith gone, by any means—she’s hilarious at times and her aura is very intriguing. However, if Meredith does stay, I really need her to drop this whole Jen Twitter drama. Not only is it exhausting, but it just really isn’t that deep. She’s already cussed Jen out and “forgiven” her so I feel like the whole issue needs to be done with. Other than that, I like that she calls Lisa out on her messy behavior and I also like the fact that she’s someone who has her own opinions and isn’t swayed by others. I also love the fact that I never can tell exactly what she’s saying. We love a mystery.
So yes, I do think the cast should be five Housewives and one or two friends-of. I like the idea of having a core cast : Heather, Jen, Jennie, Lisa, and Meredith and the possibility of having Whitney and maybe a newbie come in and stir it up. This way we can focus on a core group of “friends” who know each other, and who understand the assignment when it comes to giving us a great show.
Images: Natalie Cass (4), Thomas Cooper, Andrew Peterson (2) / Bravo
This season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills was basically sponsored by the tragic chronicles of Erika Jayne. From the embezzlement allegations against her (estranged) husband Tom Girardi to the scrutiny of her suspiciously well-timed divorce filing and everything in between (rolling cars, snowstorms, cheating, emergency surgeries, burglaries) there was no shortage of content to cover. In the words of Scheana Shay, it most literally was all happening to the untouchable ice queen Erika Jayne.
But a scandal can’t stand on its own. As Meghan King so graciously set the precedent with CancerGate, and the Potomac ladies exercised with Michael Darby, you truly need someone to both recognize the potential of a Bravo God-gifted scenario, and to take a firm stance and ask the hard questions. And in this season of RHOBH, both Lisa Rinna and Sutton Stracke understood the assignment.
Erika may have brought the tangential legal woes, surprise details about her and Tom’s pretty mess-y marriage, and more, but Rinna and Sutton were the vehicles who made that content a conversation about the cast’s stance on the matter(s), rather than a full-blown Erika pity party.
Hear me out.
If it were up to Kyle or Dorit (sans PK), the season most definitely would have steadily chugged along. Shocking news about Erika would drop and they would run to comfort her. They’d patiently listen to her confusing explanations, partially because they didn’t want to cause waves and partially because they couldn’t be bothered to read a 4,000 word article in the LA Times.
Which sure, would still be semi-interesting, because we’d see Erika’s response to the news in real time, and may have even gotten a shady comment or two from Dorit during a confessional. But overall, it’s safe to assume that even though the cast may have *gently* alluded to their suspicions behind closed doors, they likely would have never confronted Erika IRL.
But what we got this season was so much more entertaining than the above. Sutton gave us ruthless investigative journalism, while Rinna presented us an unwavering, court-worthy defense of Erika. Despite their differing positions on the matter—actually, because of their differing positions on the matter—Sutton and Rinna’s strong opinions shifted the storyline beats away from just a regurgitation of the headlines, and made it about the cast’s dynamic in relation to how they felt about snow in Pasadena and rolling cars.
And that’s what makes a strong Housewife and memorable season. The glamorous houses and cute family moments are nice additions, but the real tea is hearing the ladies voice their stance on matters that the viewers and Bravo fandom sure as hell are tweeting about and taking sides on.
Because Rinna and Sutton took the risk of sharing their perspectives, it paved the way for the others, including an initially timid Kyle and fence-sitting Dorit, to throw shade at Erika’s ever-changing stories, discuss what Erika knew/didn’t know, and even speculate about whether Tom was of sound mind.
And because Sutton was on one end of the spectrum, Rinna’s 180-degree POV complimented the stance by showing another side. Even though Rinna is generally getting heat for her actions this season (and last…), we can’t forget that her over-the-top opinions and pot stirring nature are why she’s a good housewife—she’s an exaggerated character with strong opinions, and that gives the viewers something to talk about and the cast something to fight about. Without someone like Rinna (or Sutton) initiating conflict, we’d be watching a season where everyone’s hunky dory… yawn.
And bless Rinna for giving us a B-storyline between Garcelle and herself (ICYMI: Garcelle questioned why Rinna didn’t take that same gumption to defend Denise Richards the season before as she did with Erika). Rinna’s stance—which yes, is not the side most Bravo fans agree with taking—gave Erika a
partner in crime blindly loyal friend, reminiscent of vintage Kyle & LVP.
Rinna and Sutton aside, the closest we got to confrontation was Garcelle saying “that’s not what you said the other night” to Dorit, after Dorit said to Erika that she didn’t want to pry into the legal situation. I hardly can imagine Garcelle stepping up to initiate that dialogue without Sutton, just given Garcelle’s later commentary on how she felt she didn’t fit in. And need I remind you, SUTTON was the one who called the everyone-but-Erika is-my-reputation-affected meeting at Dorit’s house, that so nicely gave Garcelle a Dorit soundbite to reference.
So TYSM, Sutton and Rinna. Even though Erika brought the headlines, you arguably made this the best season of RHOBH since PantyGate.
There’s nothing more painful than watching a Real Housewives trailer or mid-season teaser and realizing it’s packed with groan-inducing storylines. You know the ones—the vow renewals, drinking interventions that are totally cringy, straight-up boring, and so overdone that they’re more tired than me after attempting to run a mile.
So here are some scenes where I wish someone yelled “Bravo, Bravo, f***ing Bravo!”, so that production would have trashed the footage rather than making us suffer through it. These are the Bravo storylines that need to stop.
Their Kid’s Driving Test
Four words, 17 letters: Where’s the value add?
There’s no reasonable explanation for why precious on-air time is used on a storyline that advances zero actual plot. If you really want to announce that your kid is practicing for their driving test, that can be done via a single tweet or Instagram story (that’s right, it doesn’t even deserve a static post).
And besides, watching a 16-year-old learn to drive triggers the trauma I developed from taking my own test, while simultaneously making me jealous AF that they’re learning using their own Mercedes, and not a passed-down 2004 Honda.
What makes it even more boring is that the story is always the same, no matter the franchise and no matter the season. The Housewife/Househusband is nervous for the kid to drive, the kid does something “cute” like hit the curb, the kid takes their test. End of story.
And I’m not against seeing the kids on screen, but in order for me to care, it needs to be something ridiculous, like Luann and Ramona planning Victoria and Avery’s over-the-top sweet sixteens (I’m reminiscing about vintage RHONY, sue me).
A vow renewal is a glorified “look at me!” party that’s undeservingly given a multi-episode buildup. Like seriously, despite how much party planning they do, it somehow always ends up looking like a cookie-cutter ceremony inspired by a 2013 Pinterest board.
So, Housewives, stop trying to make vow renewals work. Viewer entertainment (or lack thereof) aside, renewing vows during a season has a success rate of about 3% (my math sucks, but according to my calculations, it’s only worked for Whitney Rose… so far).
And I get that the Housewives are trying to be respectful to the institution of love during the ceremonies… blah, blah, blah… BUT, I’d prefer a boozy party where the ladies feel open and free to be dramatic (versus at a buttoned-up ceremony). Think more Kyle’s White Party or Heather Dubrow’s Hoedown, and less Vicki/Don re-tie the knot.
The Cast Doing Outdoor Athletic Activities
A good Housewives scene either: is dramatic AF, includes new info, advances the plot, and/or shows the ladies doing something aspirational.
Watching them do outdoor activities like bocce or an adventure course is none of the above. Let’s be honest, if I wanted to watch someone zipline or hula hoop, I’d start viewing my friends’ Instagram stories.
And I get that these outdoor activities are usually filler footage. But honey, there’s so many other options that would be so much more fascinating to watch… like the ladies shopping with the dollar amount spent flashing on the screen, or even ordering at a restaurant. That’s right, I want to sit in my thrift store college hoodie and judge how XXpen$ive it is to be them.
The only exception to this is if it’s RHONY. Because let’s face it, no matter what they’re doing, Sonja and Luann find a way to flirt with the hot instructor—and as a single gal, that’s something I take notes on as I watch.
Finding Long-Lost Family
I’m not saying cast members shouldn’t find their long lost family, I’m just saying I don’t want to see it on my screen. Not only is it an extremely isolating storyline because it pulls the cast member away from the group, it’s also overdone and never really results in anything positive.
It’s the classic “expectation vs. reality” meme. Producers expect that this will pull on viewers’ heartstrings, but what really happens is that we end up watching boring one-on-one convos between the cast member and whatever family member/detective/family-finding-specialist they’re consulting for episodes on end.
And I hate to make this comparison, but it’s like RHONY this season. You tell yourself to keep watching because maybe something good will happen this episode! but you’re disappointed every time. Mainly because it leads to a dead end (Melissa Gorga and her “sister”) or a situation where the long-lost family member clearly doesn’t want to be found (Ashley Darby and her dad).
All which begs the point: what’s the purpose of this?
The only thing more uncomfortable than accidentally watching an episode of Sex/Life with your parents is a Housewives drinking intervention.
There’s something undeniably depressing and hypocritical about a group of drunk women confronting another drunk woman about how much she’s drinking, and speculating that she may have an issue (while being one sip away from slurring their words as they do so).
Besides being extremely cringey, it usually results in the group inevitably feeding fuel to the tabloids to speculate about that person’s drinking/substance abuse habits, which is so not fair, especially if the cast member has kids and businesses that’ll be affected by the rumors.
What happened to the days of lighthearted (but juicy!!) storylines like Adrienne Maloof’s chef Bernie versus Lisa Vanderpump? Bring back more of that, and stop trying to force these overdone plotlines down our throats.
Images: Heidi Gutman, Paul Morigi/Bravo; Myles Aronowitz/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images
There’s nothing that brings the internet together like a good old fashioned scandal. Whether that’s Hilaria “how you say cucumber in English” Baldwin, the O.J. trials, or Tom and Erika Girardi vs. everyone they’ve (allegedly) f*cked over.
As of late 2020, Erika Jayne/Girardi officially transcended the reality TV world into mainstream news and pop culture after she filed for divorce from Tom and the couple was sued for allegedly leveraging their breakup to embezzle money. And even though the Housewives franchises are no stranger to legal scandals (Teresa Guidice, Lynne Curtin, Jen Shah, etc.), Tom’s reputation and the sheer gravitas of the situation has catapulted the story into major news outlets like the LA Times and CNN — but most importantly, it’s being featured on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Up until this season, Erika Jayne was the Kourtney Kardashian of RHOBH: boring AF (Kim said it, not me). And sure, unlike Kourtney, Erika has been interesting to look at, but beyond that she’s been cold, reserved, and truly an enigma wrapped in a riddle and (allegedly stolen) cash.
IMO, getting to feature the divorce/lawsuit this season is the best thing to happen to RHOBH in a looooong time. Over the past few years the franchise has been littered with trivial storylines like PuppyGate that drag out for 10 episodes longer than they should, so bringing in an actual scandal to basically be the eighth cast member this season is bringing much-needed dimension and depth to the show. Otherwise, you just know the entire season was going to be ViolateGate (Sutton vs. Crystal). Yawn.
And I commend Erika on what she’s given us so far in season 11. She’s basically the Faye Resnick we never got — divulging her perspective on the lawsuit, commenting on Tom’s declining health, and sharing her real feelings about her and Tom’s relationship now that she doesn’t have to protect him. Her storyline this season has seriously resurrected the franchise from the brink of irrelevance, lacing it with a hint of true crime-ish elements combined with a more open and off-the-cuff Erika who’s actually pulling her weight within the cast.
And that leads me to my hot take: let’s keep The Pretty Mess on RHOBH as long as she’s still being… well, pretty messy.
If I’m getting too far ahead, there are CliffsNotes below to get you up to speed. But if you already have your PhD in the Erika/Tom scandal like me, feel free to skip the summary and get straight into my open letter to Bravo on why they should keep Erika around for season 12.
Erika’s Involvement in the Lawsuit(s)
About a month after Erika filed for divorce, Edelson PC filed a class action lawsuit against Erika and Tom, alleging that the couple embezzled settlement funds meant for victims who lost family in the 2018 Boeing plane crash. The lawsuit also claimed that the “‘divorce’ is simply a sham attempt to fraudulently protect Tom’s and Erika’s money…”.
On the heels of that, Tom’s former business partners filed a separate suit against him, claiming that Tom kept funds over $315,000 that he owed them for his own gain.
And although all this shadiness was allegedly orchestrated by Tom, the scandal is being framed in a way that implies Erika is guilty by association — and not just because of the allegedly opportunistic divorce, but also because her company EJ Global received over $20 million in loans from Tom’s law firm.
That $20 million was probably spent on her glam squad’s room and board during cast trips alone (kidding) (not really), which makes it all the more sad to know it could have been used to pay victim settlements — and all the more infuriating considering it did not belong to Erika in the first place. And that’s a sentiment the judge agrees with, after ruling that specific victims can go after Erika for up to $11 million to replace the amount Tom never paid them.
Why This Sh*t Is Interesting
What punches up the entire storyline is the juxtaposition between the way the media/lawsuits are framing Erika, and how she’s portraying herself on RHOBH.
While the lawsuits suggest that Erika had some part in/knowledge of Tom’s shady dealings, the RHOBH version of Erika is acting as if nothing illegal happened. In fact, she’s enraged that people dare speculate that the divorce timing was suspect, saying during the latest episode, “What’s being said is just, I mean, it’s insane. That my divorce is a sham, but nobody cares about the facts.” She also explicitly said the divorce wasn’t a ploy to hide assets while FaceTiming Kyle and Lisa. THE TEAAAA.
I’m the first to admit that she’s in a sh*tty position, mostly thanks to Tom. But we can’t forget that Erika is a performer by trade with an alter ego that even Danielle Staub couldn’t pull off. We’ve seen her transform from the world’s best poker player to a puss-patting, bodysuit-wearing, loud and bright singer/dancer. All this to say, her time on the stage and those two episodes in The Young and the Restless prove that she has the chops to act the part that her PR recommends.
And as much as I love to analyze what’s strategy and what’s not, at the end of the day I just want good TV. So Erica sharing those tidbits about the lawsuit hit hard, as did the comments about her and Tom’s pre-divorce relationship. For the past five seasons, we’ve heard nothing but glowing reviews of Tom “styrofoam cup” Girardi. Not a peep of indiscretion or disagreement, and not even Kim Richards piped in threatening that she had dirt. But Erika has finally, finally expressed several iotas of emotion and raw stories about their relationship this season, and whether those are her true feelings or a narrative suggested by her PR team (or Mikey), it makes you wonder, what other dirt is she going to spill, now that she’s not protecting Tom?
And we’re going in the right direction. So far this season, Erika has detailed his heartless goodbye, admitted she was pissed he didn’t come see her on Broadway, and even expressed her fear about her public perception post-divorce in the last episode when she said, “I don’t want his actions to absolutely kill what I have created.”
And there are logical reasons why Erika is being more real. For one, she needs that Bravo paycheck more than ever, especially after detailing her fears about the attorney fees in the latest episode. Now that she literally needs this job, it’s in her best interest to involve herself in the storyline and bring some actual juiciness — whether that’s Tom related, post-divorce dating stories, etc.
Another reason to keep her on the show is that despite the accusations, Erika’s still proving it’s expensive to be heeeer-er-er-er by boarding a PJ and sporting a $189k ring. That’s some major BDE when you’re in the middle of an embezzlement lawsuit, and some very Jen Shah-esque energy that makes for ridiculously entertaining TV.
And while Erika’s attorneys briefly dropped her and then took her back (for reasons we can only speculate), her castmates have continued to show their support and allegiance to Erika, both on the show and on social media. From Kyle and Lisa dancing to “XXPEN$IVE” and most of the ladies wishing her a happy birthday publicly, they clearly don’t feel a need to distance themselves at all. Truly women supporting women, in the words of Ramona Singer.
Thanks to Tom, Erika’s part of a truly impactful scandal that I’m 100% sure will be turned into a Hollywood blockbuster. With that being said, capturing Erika’s perspective on the RHOBH is a fresh, deep, real storyline that’s captivating AF. And because court cases take forever and Erika can only say so much right now, Bravo can easily milk this content well into next season as well. Not to mention, Erika will definitely be opening up with some new storylines about post-Tom life in an effort to stay relevant (and liquid… with those big lawyer bills).