Barbara Kavovit was added to the cast of The Real Housewives of New York City last season in a “friend” role, perhaps because she was one of the real-life friends who helped Cabaret Countess LuAnn Luann de Lesseps with her alcoholism and denial about her alcoholism.
Yet instead of being upped to a series regular, she may be exiting. That would be a terrible mistake.
First, the only person who is allowed to be cut from RHONY is Tinsley’s mom, Dale, who is neither an actual cast member nor even friend, especially not to her daughter. Nearly every second she’s on screen is one note: pouring her daughter glasses full of shame and guilt for not already performing her only job as a woman, which of course is to deliver babies from her womb to her mother for use as trophies.
This is cruel torture for Tinsley, but more importantly, for me. Every time Dale gathers Tinsley for a trip to You Are Failing as a Woman: The Exhibition, a black hole opens and threatens to swallow the season. I started fast-forwarding through Tinsley/Dale scenes and I am confident I did not miss a single thing.
Back to Barbara. On a Saturday Instagram post, someone commented and asked if she was returning, and she replied with, “don’t think so love” and a heart emoji:
In June, Barbara told Us Weekly,
“You know, I would consider [returning]. There’s still things that are left undone. And I kind of might want to get back into it and, you know, they filmed so much of me on my job sites, but they never aired it. And I just think that I’m really grounded and I think I lend something to that group. At least that’s what I’ve been told.”
The last part is a little desperate, but yes: she is more grounded, though that can come off as awkward because she’s surrounded by such fully formed Looney Tunes characters.
I’ll admit it took a while to get used to Barbara. But I felt the same way about her as I did initially about Sonja, who joined in season three: I didn’t quite know what to make of her at first, but eventually proved to be indispensable.
Before I am expelled from the RHONY fan club: I am not comparing Barbara’s contributions to Sonja’s. They are not comparable, and I’m not defending Barbara as Sonja-level. She’s not.
But that’s to be expected: you can’t compare someone who’s been doing this for nine seasons to someone who’s brand new to it.
I stipulate that Barbara may not have been at the center of drama every episode, but people of the jury/Bravo executives, isn’t that far more preferable to the subtle dinner-time contributions of Aviva Drescher? Which, I may remind everyone, got her kicked off the show, that’s how transparently phony it was.
The Real Housewives of New York City works because everyone is their own particular brand of farce wrapped around a real, damaged human, coupled with some delusion about themselves but also the ability to throw sharp barbs directly at the center of other cast members’ lunacy.
There’s something simultaneously relatable, aspirational, and repulsive about each of the core stars.
Barbara the Character only really checked off box number one, but she often did that with surprising aplomb. I felt for her during the Miami trip, when she had no idea what was going on or how, exactly, to participate in this madness. She showed up, even though she ended up excluded, unable to find a seat at the middle school lunch table so she just stood awkwardly behind some kids and tried to eat her lunch standing up.
Being on the periphery doesn’t make things easy, and Barbara often came off as a bit clumsy with her efforts to sit at the table, especially her early protectiveness of LuAnn, before Lu officially revealed that her focus this season was Lu, not her friends, actual or television.
There was something a touch too juvenile about Barbara not inviting Dorinda to her clambake—so LuAnn could have a safe place to enjoy her clams in peace—and then confronting Ramona with: “You were also spreading lies about her.” Of course, Ramona regularly mocking Barbara’s appearance was the truly juvenile behavior.
Barbara’s attempts may have been awkward, but she’s laid the groundwork to be a compelling character. Above all, there was a willingness to confront the other women but also to just be herself amidst all this performance and Skinny Girl product integration. She tips the scale back toward normalcy just enough to unsettle things.
Also, if Kristen “Who?” Taekman got two full seasons as a regular cast member, Barbara should at least return as a friend.