Bravo is editing Real Housewives after suicide, but removing Russell would be a mistake

The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills will be re-edited because of Russell Armstrong’s suicide, which friends attributed in part to his discontentment with the series, but may still debut Sept. 5.

Bravo president Frances Berwick told Variety, “Contrary to what is being reported, we have not made a decision to change our original premiere date but we are in the process of re-editing the show.”

Earlier, The New York Times reported that “was not expected to appear nearly as often this season, according to the plot outlines offered by Bravo. But Mr. Armstrong’s wife, Taylor, is one of the main characters in the series; their marital problems and pending divorce had provided a significant plotline in the show.”

Variety noted that “Berwick declined to specify exactly how the series is going to change, though it is likely the series will reshape or eliminate the presence of Armstrong over the course of the season.”

That would be a mistake. In fact, any editing is a mistake or, at the very least, exposes guilt on behalf of the production for doing exactly what Russell’s friends claim he said producers did: pressure him into being someone he’s not, and threatening to edit him certain ways. Whether or not that’s true, editing the show will make it look like the producers are either covering up or whitewashing reality, whatever that reality was, just as it’s a clear acknowledgment that producers control how he appears.

Whatever happened, Russell agreed to be filmed for the series, and it would be disrespectful to his memory to pretend that he did not, or to pretend that he was not a part of the production. The Real Housewives can’t just pretend this never happened. Of course, his mental state and marital problems shouldn’t be sensationalized or exploited for the sake of ratings, but they should also not be ignored.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.