Reality has interfered with The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. While my cable is unfortunately on the fritz despite two appointments in three days from Time Warner, reporters on the TV beat watched the season premiere of the show to see how it would handle the recent suicide of Russell Armstrong, a cast member’s husband.
Bravo had already announced that the show would continue with certain edits, a new segment featuring a conversation with the cast (all except for Taylor, Russell’s estranged wife) had been added to the premiere, and a suicide prevention PSA was planned. But even with these tweaks, the tragic realness of Armstrong’s death is making the usual tawdry drama of the show hard to swallow. Media reporters are, for the most part, not responding well.
The Los Angeles Times‘ Show Tracker blog says the season should have been cancelled all together. Referring to a dinner party during the premiere, the post says, “But now we know that as these tableaux were constructed, as these little scenes were nursed into being, the petty tensions fed, the catty diatribes coddled, offstage a man was slowly moving toward self-destruction.”
Ken Tucker’s TV on EW.com calls the episode “grotesque.” And a few articles have latched on to a comment from Housewife Kyle Richards, who said during the added conversation, “Life goes on. It has to.”
A number of marriages have ended during the course of the Real Housewives many iterations (one even on this show). Executive producer Douglas Ross made an appearance on the Today show with three of the Beverly Hills ladies, saying that while Taylor and her marital troubles are part of the show’s storyline, it’s not the whole show, which was reiterated on that show again this morning. Bravo has come off looking dismissive of a man’s death and a family’s destruction, more concerned with capitalizing on the pre-premiere attention the show and paying short shrift to the life that has been lost.
We talked about this issue on today’s Morning Media Menu, with GalleyCat’s Jason Boog saying that this could make a difference in the future of reality TV. There have been instances in the past where reality TV has led to actual calamity, so it’s possible that this will succumb to our collective short memories. E! Online has already published a story about the Housewives, fresh from their somewhat somber Today show appearance, whooping it up in NYC last night.