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Why Bravo’s RHONY plan is stupid and cowardly

Why Bravo’s RHONY plan is stupid and cowardly
Andy Cohen, wearing some funny glasses on Watch What Happens Live (Photo by Charles Sykes/Bravo)

More than six months after The Real Housewives of New York City ended its 13th season without a reunion but with multiple complaints of racism, Bravo finally has a plan for the beleaguered, aging franchise.

The Real Housewives of New York City is being completely scrapped and rebooted with a new cast.

Except maybe a cast member could come back.

And then some of the original cast members will get their own show, also called The Real Housewives of New York City, but with an as-yet-to-be-determined subtitle.

So yes, Bravo is dealing with the problems that surfaced among members of the cast—never mind a creative and ratings slump that started well before season 13—by actually doubling down on RHONY, with a new cast (probably) and (some of) the old cast.

This is the result of months of thoughtful consideration, and “a real gift to the fans,” as Andy Cohen said? It is what everyone wanted, or a perfect way to make everyone happy? Or is it actually cowardice?

Andy Cohen’s plans for RHONY

Andy Cohen with his notes on Watch What Happens Live
Andy Cohen with his notes on Watch What Happens Live (Photo by Charles Sykes/Bravo)

In an interview with Variety’s Kate Aurthur, Andy Cohen outlined the changes. He said “we’re at a crossroads for RHONY,” and “We’ve spent a lot of time figuring out where to go. And the plan that we’ve come up with, I think, is a real gift to the fans.”

First, they’ll recast The Real Housewives of New York City. Cohen said:

“[New York City] is the most multicultural, diverse, and energetic and exciting city in America: We are searching for a multicultural group of friends who really best reflect the most exciting city in the country. We’re looking for a group of women who are real friends, and who are of diverse backgrounds, races and religions.”

New York City has always been “multicultural” and “diverse,” and Bravo has always cast it full of rich white ladies.

While they’re doing “a major casting search. We’re going to be casting all over Manhattan and the boroughs,” he said, that new cast might just include old cast members, including Eboni K. Williams, who became the first Black cast member on RHONY in its entire life (and is now on a CBS reality show).

“We are interviewing multiple groups of friends. So certainly if Eboni is interested and has friends that would meet our casting goals, then of course they would be considered,” Cohen said.

It does sound like they’re committed to finding actual friend groups, rather than people who don’t interact when the cameras are off, which ends up making The Real Housewives even more artificial than it already is.

Andy Cohen said:

“I want us to find five new stars that nobody’s ever heard of, who have real connections to each other. Who are friends. I want it to be fun! I want it to be funny. I want it to tick the boxes for everything that we love about the Housewives. They’re fun, they’re outspoken, they’re dramatic. They’re aspirational. They’re successful, they’re opinionated. And they’re their own group.”

Honestly, that sounds great, and if that’s what Bravo actually is doing, that’s a good sign.

But assuming Eboni doesn’t return, re-casting from zero just makes it a new Housewives franchise. Why give it the RHONY name? Why not just give us that show? Maybe call it The Real Housewives of Manhattan?

But the most grating part of this plan to me is Bravo’s refusal to do anything about its most problematic RHONY cast member, and to leave the door open for her to return.

Will Ramona Singer return to RHONY?

The Real Housewives of New York City's season 13 cast, centering Ramona, as always. (from left to right) Luann de Lesseps, Eboni K. Williams, Ramona Singer, Sonja Morgan, and Leah McSweeney
The Real Housewives of New York City’s season 13 cast, centering Ramona, as always. (from left to right) Luann de Lesseps, Eboni K. Williams, Ramona Singer, Sonja Morgan, and Leah McSweeney (Photo by: Heidi Gutman/Bravo)

NBCUniversal already has two seasons of The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip (one of which has not yet aired), so it already has a mechanism to bring back former cast members and remix seasons.

It’s even bringing back two RHONY cast members, Dorinda Medley and Jill Zarin, for season two, which filmed at Dorinad’s Berkshires home.

So why do we need RHONY: Legacy or RHONY: Throwback, which are working titles for the show that could be broadcast on Peacock or Bravo?

It seems like it’s just a way to not actually cancel RHONY. And Andy Cohen admits that they’re taking the easy way out. He told Variety:

There were people who really wanted: Let’s just totally start over. And then there were people who were like, “Wait a minute, but what about this group that we’ve invested 13 years in?” I think that’s why this is really listening to everybody.

Could Ramona Singer join the new series?

Bravo literally wouldn’t say: “Cohen and a Bravo spokesperson said official casting hasn’t even begun, and wouldn’t elaborate further on Singer specifically,” Variety reported.

Think about that as you read about the two separate complaints about on-set racist comments. Us Weekly reported that one of those was “corroborated” after an internal investigation, while “the second one filed by Eboni, the findings were not corroborated.”

The incident that prompted the second complaint involved Ramona referencing Eboni K. Williams and saying, “This is why we shouldn’t have Black people on the show.” Ramona told the New York Post that “I never said that. It’s a terrible lie,” and “It’s very disappointing that even after my name was cleared that people still want to slander me.”

But another cast member, Heather Thompson, told the New York Post that it actually happened: “I was there and I heard Ramona say that and I freaked out.”

Real Housewives of New York City star Ramona Singer on Watch What Happens Live
Real Housewives of New York City star Ramona Singer on Watch What Happens Live on July 17, 2019. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Bravo)

Even if you don’t believe Heather, there’s also everything else, from her problematic public behavior to her on-camera micro-aggressions.

Meanwhile, Bravo fired a woman of color, Real Housewives of Salt Lake City cast member Jennie Nguyen, over racist social media posts. So why does Ramona still have a job for what she’s said and done on the air? Why won’t Bravo even say anything about her?

Instead, they re-hired her. After RHONY season 13 filmed in 2020 and 2021, Ramona was still cast on The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip, on which she immediately and repeatedly called Kenya Moore “Porsha,” the name of another Black woman and cast member from The Real Housewives of Atlanta who was not part of the Ultimate Girls Trip cast.

Bravo and NBCUniversal have made it clear that they value what she brings. And let’s not forget Bravo misled us about why it cancelled the reunion. According to Us Weekly, “The season 13 reunion never taped as a result of the investigation.”

But this is what Bravo said at the time:

“Due to scheduling challenges around taping the reunion of The Real Housewives of New York City in a timely manner, Bravo confirmed there will not be a reunion for this season. It’s disappointing to not be able to bring the cast back together, but we are happy to have ended on such a high note with the finale, and are now shifting our focus to next season.”

The bullshit is off the charts in that one: “scheduling challenges,” “ended on such a high note,” “shifting our focus to next season.”

That last one might be true, though: By keeping RHONY around and creating a new series, Bravo really is hoping to shift our focus away from the mess that is Ramona and all of RHONY, directing fans to the legacy show and critics to the new show, multiplying the money it can earn off the show instead of losing it.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart

    Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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Happy discussing!

Eugene

Monday 28th of March 2022

Here's my general issue with the RH shows - they take inflated egos and give them a platform by which their egos grow even larger. These "housewives" don't realize that the main reason why people watch the show is because those housewives' lives are such train wrecks. So you throw someone like Ramona into the mix, and their ego lets them get away with no self editing as they act like an ass to everyone around them. I'm all for cutting them now and starting over. You can have a circus for entertainment purposes without including the clowns who are nasty.

Adrienne

Friday 25th of March 2022

Honestly, Bravo isn't doing any favors to the NY Housewives by continuing to use the OG's. Ramona is now a pathetic figure and poor Sonja and LuAnn have substance abuse issues which it tooooo painful to continue to watch. Yes, its time for a new guard and YES one that really shows NYC's multicultural aspect. Which would cancel Eboni having to school the old biddies (of which I am now one of)

Tdc

Tuesday 21st of June 2022

@Adrienne, Eboni should definitely stay. She was the only reason why I watched it. Ramona and Luann microaggressions and racist comments definitely showed they don't interact with POC. Ramona behavior was disturbing.

Mike b.

Friday 25th of March 2022

I read the interview. Our beloved Andy-pie and his unabashed enthusiasm for dick, hot guys, pot and top superiority. I've watched every season and the last one did limp along as a covid causality. After getting rid of lots of cast members over the years I don't get the ride or die of holding on to Ramona. I like the rest of the OGs but would watch a reboot.