‘The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’: the past, present, and future

Is it entertainment?

Ever since the advent of story-based reality TV, there has not been a show as divisive of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” — but in this occasion, it is due to the content of the show rather than the pure entertainment value.

Is it truly “entertaining” to watch a woman suffer? Typically on shows such as this or “Jersey Shore,” “drama” can be best defined by making an inappropriate gossip or coming across as “fake” (the most overused word in the entire genre) by talking about someone behind their back. On season 2 of “Beverly Hills,” the drama was real. We had a woman struggling through an physically and emotionally painful relationship in Taylor Armstrong, and her decision to file for divorce was just the beginning of her tragedy. As the tabloid headlines have shown us, though, Taylor is not the only one — we have another woman in Kim Richards who is struggling through addiction, and Camille Grammer (who started this season off in the midst of a custody battle) also had to walk around on eggshells thanks to a Russell Armstrong lawsuit.

The argument could actually be made that despite the show’s attempts to lighten up the mood by aggrandizing “drama-in-the-reality-TV-sense” situations as Brandi Glanville wearing a rather revealing swimsuit in Hawaii, this was the realist reality TV show to date. However hard the ladies and the producers tried to cover up the pain, it still shined through — and transformed the show from a guilty pleasure to an uncomfortable exercise. Some have been quick to refer to it as exploitation of some women going through tough times — but every morning, they agreed to go in front of the cameras. Even contracts can be broken under extreme circumstances.

Now that the actual season itself is over, the ladies are all sitting down for their ritualistic discussion about anything and¬†everything¬†with Bravo’s resident mastermind in Andy Cohen. As for how they are transforming this into three separate weeks of television, that is a question as worthy of any that has been asked. The obvious answer? It’s the same one that could go for why they wanted to air this series to begin with — ratings. The show is not the powerhouse that “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” is with viewers, but it is still one of the highest-rated of the entire franchise — and all things “Housewives” typically fare better than most other Bravo programs.

As some of the videos below show, expect this reunion to alternate between serious questions by Cohen, petty bickering, and occasional lighthearted moments that remind us why this show is so popular to begin with. It’s a simple enough question to ask how the show tries to move forward from this difficult season, since they can always re-cast women and deliberately try to put the show in a happier place. (As a matter of fact, rumor has it that they are already working on recruiting some new people.) At the same time, though, we’ve already went this far down the road with Taylor and Kim — since we have seen so much pain, shouldn’t we really see it through to the other side?

Photo: Bravo

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