Jill Zarin, Alex McCord, Kelly Bensimon, Cindy Barshop fired from Real Housewives of New York City

Bravo has fired more than half of the cast of The Real Housewives of New York City, including three of its most best-known sources of drama: Jill Zarin, Alex McCord, and Kelly Bensimon. New cast member Cindy Barshop is also leaving, but that’s far less of a surprise.

That leaves just Ramona Singer and LuAnn de Lesseps as those who’ve been on the show since season one, and Sonja Morgan will also remain. Alex’s exit also means that her husband Simon won’t be on any more, nor will Jill’s husband Bobby, though he was less of a character than Simon.

And it wasn’t exactly a mutual decision. Alex wrote on Twitter that she and Simon were leaving “sadly but amicably,” and Simon went further, revealing that “contracts weren’t offered.”

In a statement to the media, reproduced by THR, Bravo said, “We’ve had a fabulous run with all the ladies and appreciate them sharing their lives with our viewers. It is a friendly departure among the other ladies and we continue to have ongoing discussions with them.”

This news is very surprising for a number of reasons. First, while news of their departure circulated earlier this week, those kinds of reports are common during salary negotiations and/or publicity seeking, and often turn out to be false, a product of publicists and network representatives using the media to play their Hollywood games. Second, with the exception of Cindy, the three fired cast members were an integral part of the show, which for me had its best season ever this summer. The three remaining women are a source of conflict and drama, too, of course, and other Real Housewives shows have managed to survive cast changes, but it’s not like this group has gotten stale yet.

Perhaps Bravo is just staving off the staleness or lowering its expenses by bringing in new cast members, but it will certainly be a different show when it returns.

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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.