Oh, lawd. Get ready for some middle-aged, nudie action in the upcoming season of Real Housewives of New York! An insider reveals that the show has just finished taping its fifth season and producers are claiming this will be the best season yet, as the ladies travel the globe in high-flying adventures. Isn’t this supposed to be a show about their “real” lives? Oh, what am I saying…
Spilling the dirt to The Huffington Post, show insiders reveal that the ladies built a Survivor-style alliance and even skinny dipped on a scandalous and drunken cast trip to St. Barts! Um… say what? “Sonja [Morgan] and Ramona [Singer] have totally bonded and formed a great alliance against the new ladies,” an insider reveals. Which, means there is much more Ramonja to come. “They are so inseparable this season that they shared a bed together in St. Barts and even went skinny dipping late one night after enjoying a few glasses of Ramona’s wine.” Ack. I hope those black modesty bars are on point, editing team!
Sonja confirms the skinny dip (because Sonja loves flaunting her lady bits, as we all know), but she’s not giving away too many details! “You know me, I always skinny dip,” Sonja shares. “Why else would you rent a house? I can’t tell you if I did it on film or if I did it with Ramona because that would be a storyline and I can get in trouble for that according to my contract.”
But, even though there were some happy, touchy-feely, friendsy moments, the season was not without its drama and catfights, as it seems, class wars began among the gals! “This season you will see the ladies travel to London, where Carole [Radziwill] thinks it’s so funny that LuAnn [de Lesseps] insists everyone call her ,’The Countess,’ that she makes all the ladies refer to her as ‘The Princess’ to mock her,” one of the ladies dished. In case you didn’t know, Carole was once married to PRINCE Anthony Radziwill, son of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis‘ sister Lee. Sucks to be LuLu, a princess title trumps that of countess!
Ramona has some serious animosity towards the new additions. Maybe she was missing Jill Zarin and wanted to relive the old times! Previous reports have claimed the new ladies were annoyed by her diva attitude and constant demands! “Ramona now thinks it’s her show for sure,” an insider spills.
“Things between Ramona and the new ones get so bad at one point they even discussed recreating the bathroom scene from the film ‘Bridesmaids’ after Ramona gives them her new red wine to taste.” Whoa! And Pinot Singer has another wine? Can I still call her Pinot? The Bravo Home Shopping Network rages on!
And speaking of the Bravo Home Shopping Network (BHSN, for short), the ratings for the season premiere of Bethenny Ever After are in and they are less than stellar!
Despite the heavy hype this season received, according to TV By The Numbers, the third season premiere brought in a shockingly low 971,000 viewers! To put it in perspective, the season premiere of Real Housewives of Orange County brought in 2.3 million viewers, which is typical for a mainstream Bravo show. It’s a good thing Bethenny has quit her day job and is moving (hopefully) into the talk show circuit!
Even more upsetting, Bethenny Frankel‘s numbers have dropped drastically, compared to past seasons. The season premiere of Bethenny Getting Married? drew an impressive 2.096 million viewers and ranked as the highest rated series premiere in the network’s history. Season two garnered a still respectable 1.5M viewers for the season premiere and ratings remained firm throughout the season.
Unfortunately, it seems many audiences may have grown tired of Bethenny’s woe is me shtick, or maybe, just maybe, after the whole lost at sea debacle viewers got an inkling of the fabricated drama and shied away. Or perhaps, there was some mighty good TV on Monday night. I know I was watching Ben Flajnik have a creepy mock wedding with Courtney Robertson, who professed her love by stealing Carrie Bradshaw‘s break-up speech.
The low ratings may be a blessing in disguise (unless you’re a Frankelenzombie), because Bethenny and husband, Jason Hoppy have expressed their desire to leave reality television behind after this season.
ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THE NEW SEASON OF RHONY? DO YOU BELIEVE RAMONA IS AN OUT OF CONTROL DIVA? ARE YOU SURPRISED BY BETHENNY’S RATINGS – DID YOU WATCH MONDAY NIGHT’S EPISODE?
Bethenny Ever After premiers next week on Bravo and in anticipation for the new season, Bravo has just released the extended preview! If you thought last year was bad – hold onto your margaritas because this year features more meltdowns, more tears, more screaming, and more Bethenny Frankel being herself. I’ll let you make your own conclusion about what that entails!
Unfortunately for Bethenny this season will shine a spotlight on her marital discord as a fed up Jason Hoppy basically tells her he is over being a character in her quest for reality television domination.
After two years of marriage Jason is apparently reaching his breaking point with Drama Frankel and if you believe everything you see on TV their marriage is having some serious issues! Jason advises her to quit the show if she doesn’t want the attention and after rumors have emerged that he is tired of televising their life, that may be a major reason Bethenny is threatening to make this season her last!
After a fight with Bethenny, he even walks away from her at an airport! “An apology is not enough for you, you just keep it going!;” he snaps at Bethenny in another scene.
Of course we know the two are still married and that Bethenny is working through her perpetual issues in therapy. “In my relationship, I’m the tortured one,”Bethenny admits to her one true friend – the camera! “Jason tells me that I pay you and everybody to tell me what I want to hear,” Bethenny confides to her shrink. Yikes, Hoppy – growing some balls!
In addition to juggling marriage and career Bethenny still has some major latent issues over her childhood and worries that her daughter Bryn will end up like her! “I want her to be soft and sweet and nice — and not hard and a survivor like me,” Bethenny sobs. In another scene she is speaking with a friend about wanting to give Bryn all the love she never had growing up.
Bethenny will continue to struggle with her mother, the outspoken Bernadette Birk, and shockingly even her assistant Julie seems over her shenanigans. This season should be a wild one – wildly annoying, that is! The extended preview is below!
Moving on, Sonja Morgan might finally be getting some! The sex-crazed Real Housewives of New York star who’s made no secret of her love of men recently spilled the beans about dating a fellow Bravolebrity!
Sonja confessed to RumorFix that she has been seeing Million Dollar Listing New York realtor, Ryan Serhant after they were observed “flirting up a storm” at the Human Rights Campaign event in New York on Feb 4.
“I’m crazy about him! He made me feel like I was the only woman in the room at the HRC gala,” Sonja gushed. “He’s adorable!” Ryan, a former soap opera actor, turned hand model, turned realtor will be starring in Bravo’s new east coast version of the popular show Million Dollar Listing. Oh, did we mention he’s much a younger man?
Although their relationship is very new, but Sonja is thrilled about what the future holds! ”I’m very excited about getting to know him better and spending more time with him. Who wouldn’t? But I want to take things slowly. I’m just dating at the moment.” A photo of Ryan is below!
Bethenny Ever After premieres February 20th at 9/8c on Bravo.
ARE YOU SURPRISED BETHENNY AND JASON ARE HAVING MARITAL PROBLEMS? IS THE SHOW EXACERBATING THEIR ISSUES? THOUGHTS ON SONJA’S NEW MAN?
CLICK THE CONTINUE READING BUTTON FOR A PREVIEW OF BETHENNY EVER AFTER!
It’s hard to believe, looking back, that Jill Zarin and Ramona Singer were ever friends. Well, not friends, per se, but at least frienemies! And after four seasons and one firing, the duo whose relationship rapidly deteriorated into a ‘her or me’ situation at Bravo still can’t stand each other!
Speaking to HollywoodLife, Ramona opens up about her animosity towards a certain former co-star! “Jill and I, it’s really funny because we were better friends before the show aired than now,” Ramona explains. “But you know, we’re still … when I see her, we’re still friendly. But do I spend time with her? No.”
And Ramona is still accusing Jill of talking about her to the media! “She makes up stories just for the press. If she were a different type of person, I would talk about it.”
Ramona still likes one of her former co-workers though – she is still the best of friends with Alex McCord! Am I the only person who just simply doesn’t buy this? “The only person I spend time with is Alex,” Ramona reveals. “I’ve always been friends with [her] on and off camera.”
“When you’re good friends with someone, you’re good friends forever,” Ramona added. “With Alex and I, we did develop a true friendship and I will always be there if she needs me. I know she’ll be there for me.”
“Whenever I pick up the phone with her, it’s just like I saw her yesterday,” she describes. “That’s what true friendship is.” Well, that’s very nice.
Moving on, Jill is still selling shapewear—she’ll be on HSN very soon—and she is still talking Real Housewives of New York! The former reality star, who claims to be in talks with Fox for her own show, says she has no hard feelings towards her still employed former co-stars.
“I will definitely watch next season of the Real Housewives of New York, I am looking forward to it,” Jill insists to RadarOnline. “It is funny how the press misrepresents me sometimes but the truth is that I have absolutely no animosity towards the show, Bravo or any of the girls, I wish them all the best and am sure the show is going to do very well.”
She also reminds us that even girls with hot bodies like Kelly Bensimon and LuAnn de Lesseps wear shapewear. “Countess Luann and Kelly have great bodies and they were fighting over my shape wear, they both wear it, you would be surprised to hear the list of people who wear it!” Those two fighting over shapewear? Now that’s some footage I don’t want to see!
[Photos Credit: WENN]
SHOULD RAMONA AND JILL GET OVER THEIR FEUD ALREADY? DO YOU BELIEVE RAMONA AND ALEX HAVE AN AUTHENTIC FRIENDSHIP? IS JILL OVER BEING FIRED OR NOT?
It’s as if one franchise slowly rose up after hearing that other (more blonde and tan) franchises were getting more press. So here we are, back with the Real Housewives of New York, fresh with some new gossip…Zarin style.
After the firing heard ’round the Bravo world, Radaronline.com is reporting that the Queen of Mean Princess of Park Avenue Jill Zarin has been asked to rejoin the cast. The season seems to be taking an exceedingly long time to wrap, leading some to believe that there’s just no excitement with the new ladies. It would make sense that Bravo wanted to bring back the franchise’s resident pot stirrer.
Jill, who claims she was contacted by a show insider, explains that the offer was too little too late. She maintains she was happy to get the boot along with cast mates Alex McCord, Cindy Barshop, and Kelly Bensimon.
Jill insists, “I thought about quitting the show during season 4, because my husband wanted his wife back. I had such anxiety and pressure to act a certain way and I was paranoid for a reason, because people were planning and plotting against me.” Planning and plotting? Sounds like a James Patterson novel, not a trip to Morocco to break up the monotony of Upper East Side luncheons and weekends in Quogue the Hamptons!
“I’m too old and have grown up too much to do Real Housewives anymore, I want to set an example to my kids and my grandkids,” she continues. Not to mention that she doesn’t need RHONY to be in the spotlight…she has a new show for that.
Jill will be returning to the small screen on the Cooking Channel, starring in Iron Chef America’s Top 5 Moments in Kitchen Stadium History. I remember her being quite the Paula Deen of the Housewives…um…And, if you miss her on Iron Chef, you can still catch her on the Home Shopping Networking, hawking her Skweez Couture shapewear line on February 10th.
However, Gossipcop.com is saying that the offer never happened! The site claims to have been told by a true Bravo insider that Mrs. Zarin was never contacted to return to the show. Other media outlets are also reporting Bravo is adamantly denying Jill’s claims. Hmmm…something sounds fishy. Is the source insinuating that Jill Zarin would actually make up a story to get press and remain relevant? I don’t buy it…much like I won’t be buying anything called Skweez. If only there was someone who could shed some light on this confusion. But wait…
After all the hullabaloo, Jill felt the need to take to her personal blog to respond to such preposterous claims. Personal blogs are way classier than twitter, you know. Get the memo, Atlanta! After seeing Radaronline.com’s story, Jill was quick to address the gossip (or is it?) on–where else?–jillzarin.com. Part of that statement, typos and all, is below.
“I have to admit that most of it is….TRUE! Shocking..I know. but…most of the questions I answered a long time ago from and older interview. I was asked but someone I can’t mention..if I would be interested in coming back for a cameo. That is all I will say right now . I won’t say when or by whom..actually , ironically it was more than one person. It is true that Bobby asked me not to come back. Actually that was reported in the NY POST on Page 6 in July 2011. We were overheard at a restaurant talking and he begged me not to go back on the show but to please quit. I NEVER told any one this but…I actually emailed some of the ladies and producers a goodbye letter, wishing them all well and why I wanted to leave while we were still on top. Maybe I will publish the email one day. But then I didn’t quit. I will save that story for another day…”
Somewhere Simon van Kempen is wearing a dashiki and calling Andy Cohen on speed dial wondering why he and his Brooklyn bride were not asked to make cameos. Y’all know I’m right!
Not one to be left out when the “brunettes” are making news, Kelly Bensimon is also making headlines for committing the ultimate in celebrity cardinal sins…dating one of Madonna’s exes. And not just any ex, she’s reportedly seeing the father of Madonna’s tween daughter Lourdes, Carlos Leon. #dontcrossmadgesheisfrightening! The huffingtonpost.com has the deets.
The potential new couple was spotted walking together–gasp!–in the East Village this past weekend. Kelly’s “friends” predict that we will be seeing even more of the twosome in the future.
One such pal reveals, “They started out working on a project together but have since gotten very close. Kelly always says that if you are not married or engaged, you are single. So, technically she is still single, but we all know that they are together.”
While Kelly herself declined to comment on the nature of the relationship, she did admit, “We met seven months ago. I’m casting him for the show I Can Make You Hot. Have you met him? He’s an amazing dancer and athlete and jelly bean connoisseur.”
I’m sure Madonna isn’t batting an eyelash at this news. She’s probably used to it seeing as another of her former flames was linked to former RHONY’s Bethenny Frankel. When the Material Girl split from baseballer Alex Rodriguez in 2009, he reportedly found comfort in the arms of a Skinny Girl. No word yet as to whether Madonna ever dated Ross/Jacques.
Photos of Carlos are below!
[Photos Credit: WENN]
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF JILL ZARIN’S INTERVIEW? DO YOU BELIEVE SHE WAS CONTACTED BY BRAVO OR IS SHE JUST TRYING TO GET MORE ATTENTION? IS KELLY DATING CARLOS LEON?
In the approximately five billion years it has taken to shoot the re-tooled fifth season of Real Housewives of New York, the ladies get to go on yet another Bravo-sponsored vacation.
If you recall, earlier reports leaked that the gals had taken a trip to London in addition to a trip to South Beach which gifted us these photos. Now that it’s winter, the cast headed down to St. Barts.
Meanwhile, the NY Post wrote a scathing report about newbie Carole. According to The Post, Carole, who is related to the Kennedys by marriage, is failing to bring any class to the show. The report states that while filming in St. Barts, Carole was was spotted partying with her costars – Ramona,Sonja, LuAnn and others — at Le Ti, a cabaret-themed night.
A source revealed, “Le Ti has a dress-up shop with items to suit every fetish. By the end of the night, all the housewives were in tiny red pirate outfits with Jack Sparrow hats, and exposed midriffs gyrating on the dance floor.”
The source continues of Caroline, who has won three Emmys for her writing: “It’s sad to see Carole, a journalist, former ABC news producer and whose husband [Prince Anthony Radziwill] was the cousin of John F. Kennedy Jr., stooping to this level. She must really need the money.”
Back in New York, former failed housewife Cindy Barshop of the Vajazzling Barshops decided to introduce yet another product to the market that no one needed: fur merkins for your lady bits, available at her Completely Bare spa in New York. In case you get cold from all those Brazilian waxes. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, you can add a little something different to your nether regions for two Benjamins.
The ‘Foxy Bikini’ is available at $225 and the ‘Carnivale’ for $195. According to the Completely Bare website, both of these services can also be added on to your laser hair removal or waxing appointment. It seems to me you can skip the wax altogether and achieve the same effect. Am I right, ladies?
Cindy is getting some serious backlash from animal rights group PETA on the merkins which are made from real fur and calls the merkins “outright sleazy, and downright cruel.” Cindy responded by saying it is her right to stage a lame publicity stunt for her businesses, “wear fur down there” and hopes PETA will “respect that.”
Also below are photos of Cindy’s fur merkins!
[Photos Credit: MediaPunch/INFphoto.com]
TELL US: WOULD YOU WEAR A FUR MERKIN? DO YOU THINK CINDY IS JUST TRYING TO GET PUBLICITY FOR HER SPAS? WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE LADIES BIKINI WEARING PAST THE AGE OF 40?
CLICK THE CONTINUE READING BUTTON FOR ALL THE PHOTOS!
Well they weren’t off our TVs for long! Three of the four fired Real Housewives of New York stars are reportedly moving onto new reality shows. We all knew they wouldn’t go quietly!
Hot on the heals of news that the indomitable Jill Zarin is in talks with Fox to get a new show based around her moving to Beverly Hills, here come the rumblings of other fellow firees seeking the spotlight again.
First up is Silex! Alex McCordand Simon van Kempen circulated an email amongst their friends pitching a new reality show. The crafty NY Post was able to obtain a copy of said email, which basically calls Bravo out for creating “faux reality shows.” You don’t say! Alluding to their experiences on RHONY and referring to their former job as a “trainwreck!” You mean the friendship between Bethenny andAlex wasn’t real!?
“While we were sad to lose the dollars . . . we weren’t sad to be off that particular show,” Alex and Simon’s email reads. “Now that we are free-and-clear of our Bravo contracts, we have been meeting with . . . just about every cable network as well as a couple of the main networks,” in the hopes to interest someone — anybody, really — in a reality show about 30-something parents in Brooklyn. “We would never expose ourselves to another faux reality show,” the email reassured prospective castmates, alluding to the behind the scenes magicians at Bravo!
Despite their unsavory experiences in front of the camera broadcasting their basement office and munster shoes for all the world to see, Silex still craves the spotlight and is hoping to start a new show based upon their fabulous Brooklynite lives of raising kids, hawking towels, Twittering and dishing about being the daughter of an oil barron (remember Alex like grew up super rich in Kansas, ya’all!). Except this time Brooklyn isn’t going to be the laughingstock of said show; this new show is going to prove to Americans that Brooklyn, and it’s inhabitants, are really, really cool. Hey, I like Brooklyn!
The show, which is tentatively titled “Based in Brooklyn,” seeks to shine a light into the culture Silex dubs “Brownstone Brooklyn” a.k.a. yuppies converting the borough into a trendy place to live.
When the Post asked Alex if she would consider selling her new show to Bravo, you know that network that produces faux reality shows, she suddenly got flustered. “I don’t know, I hadn’t, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t, it’s not just me either if we did this it would be Simon and me together,” Alex confessed.
Next up, Kelly Bensimon was apparently overheard talking about her new reality venture while she judged the Miss New York USA pageant this past week. The New York Daily News eavesdropped on the cray-cray one asking a famous blogger if he would be interested in a guest appearance on her new show.
What new show, you ask? Supposedly Kelly, who is a self-proclaimed expert on hotness, is working on a TV project to coincide with her upcoming book, “I Can Make You Hot!: The Supermodel Diet,” which hits shelves in April. Well, in my mind the first element of hotness is being sane, so I don’t think I could take any of Kelly’s advice seriously!
[Photo Credit: WENN.com]
WOULD YOU WATCH ALEX’S OR KELLY’S NEW SHOWS? ARE YOU SURPRISED THEY ARE RE-SEEKING THE SPOTLIGHT?
For reasons that are hard to comprehend, she is still being featured in the press and giving interviews holding on to her very last threads of relevance by slamming her former co-workers at every opportunity.
Radar features a piece with several choice quotes from Jill, where she insists that the show is nothing without her: “Now that I’m not there, who is going to hold court this season? None of the new women knew each other before they were cast. I know if I were there, I could make people feel comfortable.”
If by making people feel comfortable, you mean loudly picking fights at every opportunity, then sure, Jill, you could have made rumored new cast members Carole Radziwill,Heather Thomson andAviva Drescherfeel right at home in the Real Housewives family!
Since she apparently ran out of things to say about her feud with former BFF Bethenny Frankel, Jill set her sights on slamming former frenemy Ramona Singer.
“No one cares about Ramona Singer anymore,” Jill rants about her former costar. “I’ve heard the new cast members are not happy with her. Ramona planted that ridiculous story about me borrowing clothes from Saks Fifth Avenue and returning them worn. But I’m having a huge party there in February, so Ramona is the one who looks like the idiot.”
While we are sure *someone* cares about Ramona, there is probably some truth to the statement that Ramona is fighting with the other ladies. Ramona, as we all remember, has had a fight with all of her cast mates at one point or another.
Not one to take anything sitting down (or without a glass of wine), Ramona tells Wetpaint Entertainment that, “Jill is delusional. And needs a reality check — no pun intended.”
Delusional or not, Jill is doing just fine for herself these days, proudly showing off a $19,000 ring once worn by Elizabeth Taylor to the TMZ cameras last week that husband Bawby Zarin gifted her for their 11th wedding anniversary. While Jill may say she’s happy going back to being just another New York wife, we think she misses the cameras much more often than she will ever admit to.
A picture of Jill’s $19K ring is below! The NY Daily News is now reporting that Jill’s pricey purchase has inspired her to start her own jewelry line, which will debut in time for Valentine’s Day. How convenient.
I think it’s fair to say that the Real Housewives franchise has changed television. The intensely popular shows that prove to us that anyone can be a trashy trainwreck — regardless of marriage partner, pedigree or income bracket — have become one of the most discussed and hotly debated things on television. Indeed, the shows have become a must watch for millions of people worldwide captivating real housewives and celebrities alike. Even Oprah admits to watching!
The real question is — Why? Why are we so drawn to the dysfunction, the orchestrated drama and the opportunity to observe women embarrass themselves and ruin their lives on national television? The even bigger question is: How much of this is reality at all?
The Hollywood Reporter set out to answer just those questions in an in-depth investigation into “the guiltiest pleasure on television” which is worth an estimated half-billion dollars to the NBC-Universal network. Putting together a group of ladies they refer to as the Housewives All-Stars (their version – not mine), the legendary entertainment magazine interviewed producers, insiders, Andy Cohen and the ladies themselves to figure out just why we watch and why the women participate.
“People want to watch rich girls behaving badly,” explains Linda Ong, president of brand strategy adviser Truth Consulting. “The franchise started as a real-life Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous but became this cultural analysis after the economic breakdown. Every town became a sociological experiment, a very real-time reflection of what was happening to the 1 percent.”
“We wanted something very authentic and they started to film something Curb Your Enthusiasm-esque,” Frances Berwick, president of Bravo and Style Media, explains of how Real Housewives of Orange Countywas developed. “It required a whole revision, so we came to a point where we had to decide whether to sink more money into it or just pull the plug.” Obviously money was sunk.
Housewives was originally supposed to be a film — a real documentary — of the gated community where RHOC is filmed. Entrepreneur Scott Dunlap set out to capture the lives of rich women in the affluent suburb of LA after observing his friends while attending a dinner party in the exclusive Coto community. “Everyone was sitting around the table, the ladies blinged-out, talking about family vacations to Tuscany and all bloviating the same thing: ‘Our life is perfect,’ ” he remembers.
The film never got made, but a decade later Scott eventually turned the idea into a reality show and it became a surprise hit in its very first season. Berwick, who had just green lit the surprisingly successful Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, was in good graces with the network and they decided to take a gamble on the Housewives show with her encouragement.
After reshooting the first few episodes and an “incredibly, incredibly long edit,” the show finally went on the air. “It was an experiment,” a network insider concedes. “They weren’t envisioning this huge franchise; the network was just trying to depict a lifestyle. They didn’t put a lot of advertising or money into it at first.” Shockingly, the show took off with the difficult to reach 30-something viewers the network coveted. Viewers who were still young, hip, and influential, but who had money, education, and technical know-how.
The network immediately signed on for a second season, but decided to hire drama based veteran reality producer Doug Ross who has helmed shows such as Fear Factor and Big Brother.“Scott did a great job at identifying killer cast members,” Ross explains “but the network thought with the help of some ‘grown-ups’ this thing could really blossom.”
Bravo had been working on a show called Manhattan Moms, which was the inception for Real Housewives of New York. The series was originally supposed to be about wealthy NYC moms trying to get their children into ultra elite private schools. With RHOC bringing in ratings Manhattan Moms quickly transformed into RHONY. It was at that point that Zalanick decided to turn Housewives into a franchise. Since most of the season had already been filmed the network and it’s production company, Shed Media, decided to simply go with the footage they had.
The network didn’t even tell the cast members (then Jill Zarin, LuAnn de Lesseps, Alex McCord, and Ramona Singer) about concept change. “We went to check out the artwork on the computer and it said Real Housewives of New York City,” Jill describes. “At first we were a little disappointed, to be honest.” How Bethenny Frankel was added I don’t know, but it was her vision to use the show to promote her business that changed the format completely. Thanks B — because of you we have the Bravo Home Shopping Network!
After the first season success of RHONY, Real Housewives of Atlanta and Real Housewives of New Jersey cropped up shortly thereafter. “Bravo unwittingly had stumbled upon television’s next guilty pleasure: a vehicle that showcased the lives of a handful of spoiled, consistently imperfect women whose only real distinction was the city in which they reside — and their unerring ability to behave badly.” With the premiere of RHONJ (now arguably the most hotly contested of the franchise) Bravo was able to capture more than just the 30-something audience and gained fans across all age ranges — including men and older viewers.
And casting is at the nexus of the franchise’s success. Bravo has shown a ruthless ability to let go of stars that no longer agree with their vision — hence the firing of four members of RHONY including original cast members Jill and Alex. They also seem to have an innate ability to locate women whose propensity for drama will result in big ratings. Teresa Giudice, anyone? And to keep the perspectives fresh, Bravo regularly adds new Housewives into the mix.
The real shocker (or perhaps not so real shocker to regular viewers) is the requirement for the women to craft their own storylines. “We started meeting with producers to discuss storylines,” former Housewife Peggy Tanous reveals. “I started getting anxiety thinking about all the forced drama that does happen on occasion.”
Peggy starred in one season of RHOC which featured a season finale argument with her former close friend (and the woman who got her scouted for the show) Alexis Bellino. Peggy has cited the end of this friendship and the contrived storylines as her reason for deciding not to sign on for a season two. While that may be the case, shortly after Peggy resigned (or was let go), news surfaced of her family’s financial distress.
Doug Ross contends that the producers in no way stage scenes or fabricate drama, “The audience could sniff that a mile away, so why even bother?” Although he does admit that the women are expected to plan events expressly for filming purposes.
Shed Media’s Maureen O’Connell agrees, “Honestly, sometimes I wish they would do what I tell them. I wish I had that kind of puppeteering power. But it’s the women who ultimately drive the train.” The responsibility of keeping the drama alive is an important one because drama = popularity with fans (sometimes) = ratings = maintaining their position in the cast roster and well, their paycheck.
But are they taking it too far? Since the franchise’s inception it’s bared witness to countless financial crisis (foreclosures, bankruptcy, tax evasion, etc), the destruction of friendships, arrest, divorce, murder (Kandi Burruss‘ fiance was in a fight, resulting in his death, outside an Atlanta strip club in 2009), alcoholism, family strife and now domestic abuse and suicide. Yet — the women and the viewers keep coming back.
On the converse, the cameras have also captured the good: friendships, marriage, love, pregnancy, incredible financial gains and business opportunity. Andy thinks the network is more than conscientious of the colorful cast of characters that pay his bills and garnered him his own TV fame in the form of Watch What Happens Live. “I have a deep responsibility to the women,” Andy insists. “And I take that very seriously.”
Some disagree. It was the suicide of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast mate Taylor Armstrong‘s estranged husband Russell Armstrong this past summer that caused fans, viewers and the media to question just what the reality of filming the show entailed. Particularly after reports surfaced that Bravo and NBC may have encouraged Taylor to file for divorce from Russell to remain on the show.
Bravo and Andy had questioned whether or not to air the footage from this past season featuring Russell and there was news of re-editing to present a softer storyline. Obviously that did not happen. “We talked endlessly,” Andy acknowledges. “In the end, we decided to capture what happened as sensitively as we could.” It seems that ultimately the network has decided not to feature Russell’s death in the storyline. The season ends Jan 23rd and no mention of it has been made.
Defending his position — and the network’s — Andy reminds viewers that the women agree to participate and the producers are not responsible for the issues that arise during filming. “Look, this franchise is a documentation of a period in these people’s lives. All of these women have stories to tell and some are dealing with some really serious issues.”
Despite the bad taste such episodes have left in viewers mouths the ratings continue to grow (the season premiere episode of RHOBH was up 42% from the series first season premiere) and show no signs of slowing down. It is Bravo’s ability to bring the constant and unexpected drama — a White House crashing, a huge family blow out at a Christening — that keeps viewers unable to look away, not knowing what there is to expect next.
Additionally, it is the women themselves that keep the drama happening and their decisions to return season after season, year after year. The reason is likely money. Jill even recently admitted that she was sad to be off the show because of the paycheck it generated.
And just how much money do the women make to expose their lives to the non-stop drama? A Lot. A lot, a lot. Particularly given the opportunity to develop their own brands — which is encouraged — and have the ability and support to promote these brands on the show which reaches huge audiences. All earnings from which the network takes a percentage of.
“Combined, the Housewives have published more than a dozen books; received product deals from makeup and jewelry to sex toys and alcohol; average well over 100,000 Twitter followers (Atlanta‘s Leakes has nearly 600,000); and receive an approximate six-figure salary each season (the New York cast is drawing a $250,000 payday for season five) — not movie-star money, but steady income for people arguably of limited talent.”
The desire for that success and the monetary wealth that comes with it is sometimes all-consuming. At this particular behind the scenes shoot, Housewives All Star Pinot Singer spent the whole afternoon hawking her pinot grigio line, advertising it to anyone who would listen and scaring off her fellow Housewives. I think it’s fair to say Ramona has a one-track mind.
Ramona was brought to the attention of producers by her then friend Jill, but she wasn’t interested. “By age 39, I already had $1 million cash in the bank,” Ramona dishes, grabbing a bottle of what else? – Pinot! “I said, ‘I’m sorry, but no thank you. I don’t have time. I don’t need to be famous.’ ” She gave it a second thought after the producers convinced her it would be a good platform for her business, True Faith Jewelry. And after five years on the successful series and the development of her own Pinot, Ramona is hoping to follow in Bethenny’s footsteps and nab her own spin off. Seriously? No.
“I’m already thinking ahead,” Ramona reveals. “Initially I thought I wanted to do something like [advertising executive and TV host] Donnie Deutsch and actually visit companies looking for help. I can’t just sit on a couch.” I’m guessing that means she wants to try a Tabatha Coffeyapproach…
Not all the drama is caught on camera – backstage at THR’s exclusive photoshoot with the RHOBH’s Lisa Vanderpump and Kyle Richards were overheard talking. “One of the girls asked me what I think of Brandi [Glanville],” Lisa whispers loudly to Kyle, while Brandi sits alone pretending to ignore them. “And I said, ‘Who?’ ” Then the two friends burst into laughter. Yeah, Brandi doesn’t fit in – that’s obvious, but why so mean ladies? I expect more from Lisa.
Andy insists the show has no malicious intent, and after all the characters drive the storyline. And the viewers are obviously liking what they see since they return season after season. “It’s good, clean fun,” he asserts. “Its like eating a bowl of no-cal popcorn; guilt-free gossip. You can watch it, you can talk about it with your friends and, at the end of the day, you can feel better about yourself and your life.” Right… I’m not sure I agree.