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The ‘deal Bravo stars make with the devil’, and other must-reads

The ‘deal Bravo stars make with the devil’, and other must-reads
Along with Eboni K. Williams and Bethenny Frankel, Leah McSweeney—pictured here on The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip—went on the record for a Vanity Fair piece about being a Bravo star. (Photo by Peacock)

Happy Halloween! It’s the end of the month, and thus time to share the reality TV news, links, and I’ve been curating.

In this collection are plenty of news items; behind-the-scenes tidbits from Big Brother and Survivor; appreciations of Tiffany Pollard and Nikki Glaser; and much more.

I always welcome suggestions, so if you read or spot something fascinating, please send it to me!

And if you’d like more of this kind of thing, add yourself to my free weekly newsletter:

Must-reads: Real Housewives edition

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)

Vanity Fair’s expose on The Real Housewives arrived yesterday. We’ve been waiting for this since Anna Peele’s reporting led NBCUniversal to attempt some damage control last month with policies about alcohol and mental health care.

The more than 8,500-word piece is not entirely new—claims about Ramona using the N-word off-camera, never mind her actual racist behavior on camera; Leah’s drinking; Bethenny’s call for unionization.

But it is particularly and fascinatingly detailed. For example, there are quotations from producers’ daily beat (plans for filming) and hot sheets (summaries sent to executives), and the “big words” messages producers write on their phones to signal cast (“BRING UP SONJA’S DRINKING”).

RHONY gets the most attention, with Leah McSweeney and Eboni K. Williams going on the record, breaking down what happened behind the scenes on that franchise, from racism to the drunken mess of season 12.

For example, in the infamous episode where a drunk Leah stripped and threw torches onto Ramona Singer’s lawn, happened after “McSweeney says co-showrunner Darren Ward had warned her, ‘This shit is boring as hell,’ and ‘You better turn it up.'” Leah also said that while she was paid $3,000 per episode for her first season, she was offered $250,000 for one week of filming for Ultimate Girls Trip.

A fascinating thread through the piece is the callousness and cruelty Andy Cohen treats his stars on Watch What Happens Live—and these are people he owes his career to.

Peele describes “the deal Bravo stars make with the devil,” and a Housewives star who is not named explains that they know what they’re getting: “If you go to the whorehouse, you’re gonna get fucked.” Here’s the story of just how fucked some of them got:

Meanwhile, earlier this month, there were two other great deep dives into The Real Housewives of New York and its evolution, and I’d recommend both:

October 2023 reality TV news

Two people clinks glasses in a kitchen
Tiffany “New York” Pollard and Johnny Bananas on House of Villains (Photo by Casey Durkin/E! Entertainment)

Former Dancing with the Stars pro Lacey Schwimmer says Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Louis van Amstel’s public body shaming of her and Cheryl Burke “ruined me. I remember crying and crying and crying.” [Entertainment Tonight, 10.31.23]

Food Network renewed Bobby’s Triple Threat, saying its ratings increased 11 percent among people 25 to 54, and and 16 percent for women 25 to 54. Will the Titans be allowed to leave their couch before season three, or do they have to sit there as punishment for their losses? [10.31.23]

Below Deck season one star David Bradberry has sued former Abercrombie & Fitch and its former CEO, Mike Jeffries, claiming the company’s “support allowed Jeffries to successfully rape, sexually assault, and coercively sex traffic David Bradberry” and other models. David was one of eight men who shared his story with The BBC earlier this month, in its report about how “the fashion mogul exploited young adult men for sex at events he hosted.” [Fortune, 10.28.23]

The Miami Dolphins will be featured on Hard Knocks’ in-season spin-off, and two of its players are not thrilled: Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa responded by saying nothing for more than 11 seconds, while cornerback Xavien Howard said “Hard Knocks is bullshit, especially during the season. No, I’m serious. I’m not a fan.” [Palm Beach Post, 10.25.23]

In her memoir, Britney Spears wrote about her time judging Fox’s The X Factor: “…to act skeptical for eight straight hours while judging on TV? Uh, no thank you. I absolutely hated it.” [Page Six, 10.24.23]

A butler hired for The Real Housewives: Ultimate Girls Trip sued Bravo, claiming “acts of sexual harassment and assault committed by [Brandi] Glanville”; his lawsuit says producers “allowed and even encouraged Glanville to sexually harass” him. [Law & Crime, 10.23.23]

On Cheryl Burke’s podcast, fired Dancing with the Stars host Tom Bergeron said he released a statement about Sean Spicer’s casting to “let people know that they fucking lied to me” and “at that moment, I knew this is probably my last season, because of that one betrayal. Up until that point, there were people of character there.” [People, 10.24.23]

A Florida man’s desire to be on Zombie House Renovations led him to kill his wife; he was just convicted and sentenced to life in prison. [BoingBoing, 10.19.23]

Apple TV+ has cancelled The Problem With Jon Stewart just as production on season three was starting; the New York Times reports that “Stewart told members of his staff on Thursday that potential show topics related to China and artificial intelligence were causing concern among Apple executives.” Huh. Why would Apple be concerned about China or AI? [New York Times, 10.19.23]

A new study from The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film found that, during the 2022-2023 TV season, “females in speaking roles were better represented on unscripted programs (50%) than scripted programs (43%)”, and “women fared better as directors on scripted (22%) than unscripted programs (11%). However, the percentage of women working as producers was higher on unscripted (47%) than scripted programs (41%).” [SDSU, 10.18.23]

Reality TV producers talked to RealScreen about “the extremely challenging environment” of selling shows to networks, with “some nets apparently claiming they are stocked solid until 2025.” [Realscreen, 10.18.23]

Roku Channel renewed Reptile Royalty, UFO Cowboys, and Lincoln Log Masters. Call me when they bring back Dishmantled. [10.18.23]

Nikki Glaser and her insult comedy is the key to FBoy Island, Tara Ariano writes in this appreciation of Glaser’s hosting: “It’s impossible to overstate her importance to the finished product.” [Cracked, 10.17.23]

World of Wonder announced that Drag Race France, Drag Race Philippines, and Drag Race Thailand have all been renewed for third seasons. [10.17.23]

Antoni Porowski will star in a new NatGeo show produced by Gordon Ramsay’s production company. On No Taste Like Home with Antoni Porowski, he will make guacamole—just kidding, he’ll “discover the rich heritages of global celebrities by way of their ancestors’ food traditions, techniques and culinary experiences.” [10.17.23]

The European game show The 1% Club is coming to the U.S. on Amazon, which describes it as a game “that tests the nation’s intelligence, based on a scientific survey. This entertainment format is not about what you learned at school or your ability to memorize facts. It’s a chance to test how your brain works through a series of questions that often lead to extremely entertaining answers.” [10.17.23]

Kelly Clarkson is 100 percent done with The Voice: “I’ve learned a lot about what I’m capable of handling, and also what you should not handle,” she told USA Today. “That was me saying ‘bye’ to The Voice and having this big move. I love that family, but I was like, ‘I’m struggling. I can’t smile anymore. I don’t feel like smiling.'” [USA Today, 10.16.23]

What happens when a Big Brother player is voted out and joins the jury? Claire Rehfuss shared her behind-the-scenes story. [TikTok, 10.15.23]

The contestant who became paraplegic as a result of an America’s Got Talent: Extreme stunt has sued producers and NBC. [TMZ, 10.12.23]

Katie Thurston filmed both Bachelor in Paradise and Fboy Island this summer, and talked to Rob Owen about how that was possible. [Seattle Times, 10.11.23]

The New York Times covered how climate change affects Survivor and The Amazing Race, yet somehow didn’t once mention that Survivor is in Fiji permanently because of the tax breaks [New York Times, 10.10.23]

Disney Entertainment Television says its Directing Program will now “offer emerging directors guaranteed segment directing opportunities on some of ABC’s most popular unscripted series, as well as shadowing, mentoring and professional development in the genre.” The first two directors selected are Rachel Shimko, who will work with Ken Fuchs and direct part of The Bachelor, while Kerry Clemens will shadow Phil Heyes and direct a segment of Dancing with the Stars. [10.11.23]

“How Tiffany ‘New York’ Pollard Changed the Game for Black Women on Reality TV” is Ej Dickson’s appreciation of the reality TV star, who’s currently on E’s fun House of Villains. [Rolling Stone, 10.9.23]

Top Chef Masters runner-up, Next Iron Chef contestant, and chef Michael Chiarello died at 61 after having an allergic reaction and going into anaphylactic shock. [Napa Valley Register, 10.7.23]

Zach Wurtenburger told Tyson Apostol that Jeff Probst cursed him out during a Survivor challenge. [10.5.23]

A hilarious takedown of the Cake Boss’s cake vending machines in Las Vegas. [TikTok]

Hollywood Reporter TV critics Dan Fienberg, Angie Han, and Robyn Bahr compiled a list of the 50 best TV shows of the 21st century so far—and several are reality, including Survivor! [Hollywood Reporter, 10.4.23]

Survivor Borneo winner Richard Hatch is back in court, representing himself “as federal prosecutors attempt to collect nearly $3 million in delinquent income taxes, penalties, and interest stemming from his reality-TV victory 23 years ago,” The Boston Globe reports. Hatch told the paper he cannot afford an attorney. [The Boston Globe, 10.3.23]

The Golden Bachelor’s premiere had strong ratings. It’s been the most-popular ABC premiere ever on Hulu, and ABC said it was “the biggest multiplatform audience (7.70 million Total Viewers) for any telecast in The Bachelor franchise in nearly 3 years” and “the highest-rated debut for an unscripted series on any network in nearly 2 years among Adults 18 to 49.” [The Futon Critic, 10.3.23]

The Amazing Race’s post-production editorial team has joined the Motion Picture Editors Guild; Worldrace Productions agreed to recognize the union. Outstanding! [9.29.23]

Lizzo’s lawyers asked for her former dancers’ (from her Amazon reality show) lawsuits against her to be dismissed. In a statement, Lizzo said, “I know what it feels like to be body shamed on a daily basis and would absolutely never criticize or terminate an employee because of their weight.” [People, 9.29.23]

The headline really says it all: Does the Pioneer Woman live on stolen Osage land depicted in ‘Killers of the Flower Moon?’ [The Oklahoman, 9.18.23]

reality blurred updates

  • Monday, Oct. 30: Former ANW star Drew Drechsel was scheduled to be sentenced last week (he already pled guilty), but so far, there’s been no word in court documents about what happened.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 24: Jason Siegel’s sister, Ali Segel, posted e-mail she received from Claim to Fame casting. Ali does not seem interested; she wrote, “Have i hit rock bottom yet”
  • Monday, Oct. 23: The sets for Netflix’s Squid Game: The Challenge look pretty incredible in the trailer.
  • Friday, Oct. 13: Brandon may not have done well on Survivor, but he’s awesome on social media. For example, see this TikTok video or his Instagram bio.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 10: Love is Blind’s reunion on Oct. 15 will not be live, which is too bad considering how entertaining this was.

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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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