Last night’s Real Housewives of New York seemed to really emphasize that these franchises may have a limited lifespan. Anyone who has been watching these past two seasons of RHONY, or the past few seasons of Beverly Hills, Orange County, Miami, or even DC has probably noticed it too.
Bravo has started to cast women on these shows who go against the archetypes that make these shows such visceral pleasures to watch. As original cast members leave the series, women who are younger and less driven have started to infiltrate the cast, and its making the shows harder and harder to watch.
Last night’s major storyline continued to highlight how poorly Kristen Taekman is cutout to go against the Heathers, Luanns and Ramonas theses shows have made into reality stars. After thankfully leaving the three week trip to Montana, we joined Kristen back in her day to day life of sitting at home, devising ways to try to get her husband to pay attention to her. After having a date night with Type A Heather and her husband, Kristen thought she’d appease her husband’s demands by cooking dinner for once. To the surprise of no one, husband Josh was less than thrilled at the attempt and the episode ended with the couple getting into yet another argument. Josh clearly has a huge amount of disdain for anybody who is not an entrepreneur and little patience for someone, like Kristen, who cannot appreciate the fact that he will grace their home when he so pleases.
The Real Housewives shows are usually showcases for Type A personalities like Ramona, Nene, Vicki, Heather and Lisa Vanderpump. But for the last few seasons, we’ve continued to see these types replaced with mousy (Kristen), subservient (Alexis Bellino), overwhelmed (Lynn Curtin), desperate (Brandi Glanville) or pathetic (Aviva Drescher) women who tend to fade into the background. Unless the women are inherently interesting, or have a built-in report with the women that predates the show, like say Kim Richards or Sonja Morgan, their storylines tend to be snooze-worthy affairs that makes me just wish they’d get off the show. Yolanda Foster’s season-long goodbye to her daughter comes immediately to mind. Actually what little time was spent on Carlton Gebbia and Joyce Girard last season comes immediately to mind, too. But also Aviva’s trip to the farm where she lost her leg and her “asthma.” These are women who apparently have little ambition but to just ‘be famous.’ They refuse to engage in anything that might be controversial if they can help it and are just boring filler between segments of those wives actually willing to drive plot and storylines. On other reality shows, these people are called fence-sitters and don’t last an entire season
And clearly that’s the problem that Beverly Hills suffered last season after getting rid of Camille Grammer and Adriene Maloof, Bravo’s flagship Housewives show suffered a huge dip in audience and New York is right behind it. Casting drives reality shows and unless Bravo can find better, more engaging women who have a tough skin and don’t just want to be famous, their entire formula for these shows is in jeopardy. Thankfully, somebody seems to have realized this, as Jersey is bringing back Dina Manzo with their new season (to replace the dreadfully boring Caroline and her family of ham-tossers), and there are rumors that Jill Zarin, Camille and Adrienne may be making comebacks to their respective franchises as well. Hopefully they are able to inject some of the energy back into these shows before they go from must-see viewing to, as Dwight would say, “dreadfully boring” DVR fodder. Which would be unfortunate, because these shows, at their best, present women who are positive role models, even with all their faults.