“Serious discussions” at Bravo still resulted in a Real Housewives that is Bravo’s biggest failure ever

The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills ended its season last night, focusing on a wedding that took place shortly after Russell Armstrong killed himself. But why let a death ruin a party? That seems to be Bravo’s philosophy.

Let’s just say it: A man killed himself in part because of this season. But Bravo aired it anyway.

I stopped watching when Bravo and the show’s producers decided to treat domestic violence as comically as the show’s typical stupidity. The real problem isn’t that reality included domestic violence and suicide. Documenting those things is something reality TV is equipped to deal with. The problem is throwing it into a jokey context and trying to keep it all fun and light because why depress people who can buy products and Tweet about the show and go to BravoTV.com and vote and yay.

A few weeks ago, Andy Cohen told TV critics how Bravo executives decided to proceed with this season: “Well, we had had many discussions, as you can imagine, and for a long time, about how to do this–serious discussions. And I think what emerged is the story of a woman trying to extricate herself from a bad or from a marriage in which she was unhappy where domestic violence was playing a part.”

No, the story that emerged from this season was that domestic violence can be treated in the same soapy, stupid way by a network too unwilling to lose a few dollars. Bravo president Frances Berwick told the Los Angeles Times, “We were covering her story line as we would with any other cast member. I think not airing it would be ignoring a central part of her journey.”

Again, that’s really disingenuous because airing it is not the problem: it’s how they aired it that matters. Their decision to keep domestic violence on the same level as fun times was further illustrated when Andy explained to TV critics his thinking behind Taylor’s appearance on Watch What Happens Live.

“I thought a lot about it and what I wanted to do was maintain the integrity of what we do at Watch What Happens: Live, which is fun. We’re a fun show,” he said. “So this was an interview obviously that was very serious. And she also wanted to have fun on the show, so but the audience hadn’t seen her really that much and it wasn’t necessarily time to be fun, so we spent the first 10 minutes of the show talking seriously, took a break and then went into the fun, so we did think about that. And also, we taped the reunion that week and we talked a lot about every serious thing you could imagine, and that’s a better forum for that conversation anyway.”

Reunions are a forum for conversation? Excuse me while I stand up after being shoved back down into my chair in shock. But yes, we have at least two reunion episodes coming up.

As to Russell’s decision to appear this season, Andy Cohen said, “He was given the option to come back or not come back and he chose to come back. He had spoken to producers a lot vocally about how much the show had helped his business, being on the show. So I you know, I can’t speak for him.”

Neither can Russell: He’s dead.

discuss this story