Bravo’s firing of New York Housewives lost it one-fifth of the show’s viewers

Last fall, Bravo made the somewhat baffling decision to fire most of the cast of The Real Housewives of New York City. The result: a more than 20 percent decline in ratings. Genius.

The New York Daily News reports that episodes one and two were “down 21% in total viewers — from almost 2 million to 1.6 million” — and “the season so far is down 22% among viewers 25-54.” The paper quotes an “insider” who claims Andy Cohen used to shepherd the series but is now too distracted with himself to care about it.

That may or may not be true—sounds pretty sour-grapes to me—but I think the problem is more obvious. Dumping such a significant portion of the cast exposed what’s previously been an unspoken and hidden reality: these women are not real friends, and it’s harder to care about brand-new forced relationships.

The cast members have their lives mashed together by the producers to create drama, and very real drama does emerge as personalities clash. And over the seasons, we get comfortable with the dynamic. To compare it to a scripted show, it’s like replacing Kramer and Elaine with two brand-new actors who are in new roles and never acknowledging what happened to Jerry’s across-the-hall neighbor or other friend.

New people can join (Sonja worked well) and occasionally someone can leave (Bethenny), but disrupting the dynamic makes the artificiality really clear. The new cast members aren’t bad, but the whole thing just feels weird with Ramona now creating drama with people who talk about how they don’t even know her.

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