Russell Armstrong’s death blamed on Real Housewives

The apparent suicide of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast member Russell Armstrong is being at least partially blamed on the Bravo reality show, which has not yet announced how it will respond.

Blaming suicides on reality TV has been popular among lazy journalists who oversimplify complicated and often impossible-to-know circumstances. In Russell’s case, however, it is clear that, at the very least, the show did not help his mental state.

A friend of Russell’s, William Ratner, told the Los Angeles Times, “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, I think, was [Russell's] downfall. The TV show put a lot of pressure on him to produce financially. You’re on a show with a couple like the Maloofs, who are verifiable billionaires, and you’re not.”

Ratner also said, “I went in and talked with him, and he said, ‘I don’t know why she’s doing this. Why can’t she do this off the show?’ He said there were still two weeks left of shooting and he didn’t want to be in it. He said the producers at Bravo told Russell and Taylor that they picked them as the ‘disaster couple,’ and if they weren’t going to have drama in the second season, they would cut them and replace them with someone else.”

There is some evidence from Russell that he was bothered by the show itself. Last month, in a People magazine story, Taylor said her relationship was physically and emotionally abusive, and Russell told the magazine, “Did I push her? Yes, maybe things happened in the heat of the moment, but it was during a time in our lives that was not characteristic of who we were. This show has literally pushed us to the limit.”

People has a round-up of reactions from his co-stars and others, including Andy Cohen, who said he was “so very sad” about Russell’s death. (Those reactions run counter to what TMZ reported in one of its typically horrifically written, unsourced, and sensational posts, saying that Bravo told the cast they could not talk about Russell’s death to the media.)

The big question is how Bravo will respond, with the new season set to debut Sept. 5. In a more credible story, The Hollywood Reporter said Bravo “is waiting at least 24 hours to make a decision about whether they’ll postpone the show,” noting that “Shooting has yet to wrap. But there were no shoots planned for this week, according to a Bravo spokesperson. Producers are still editing and sources said before the news of Armstrong’s death, that the network had ordered an additional four episodes bringing the second season total to 18.”

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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.