The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills: A New Generation Of Soap Operas
I feel like we’re forced to ask ourselves the question, “Why do we enjoy, or even encourage, reality television?” every time we turn on said programming. If you’re like me, you’ve been scoffed at and berated for your viewing tastes at least once. I agree that there has been quite the negative view that if you partake in mindless reality television that you have low standards, you’re dumbing yourself down, the terrorists win, etc. I used to be one of those people, but no longer am I in denial or self-conscious when announcing at a fancy party that I enjoy an episode or two of Jersey Shore. There, I said it. However, if anyone knows any one thing in particular about me, it’s that Bravo is my go-to network for reality-based shows and entertainment.
While friends, family, and most of the television world collectively take some holiday downtime at the end of each year, there are the select few that just don’t quit. While so many of our beloved programming is on a mid-season break, Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is a shining example of the best kind of filler for withdrawing reality show junkies, myself included. Season two continues to roll on until January 23 when the finale airs, but then we still have the famous two-part Bravo reunion show to look forward to on January 30 to give some closure to any and all of the viewers’ burning questions. The reality show is yet another installment from the Real Housewives of… franchise and has grown in massive popularity over the last year. According to the Nielsen stats, the RHOBH season two premiere ratings drew in a whopping 2.2 million viewers in September 2011, up 42% from last year, setting a record in the show’s series.
Season two has proved to give more dirt on the ladies than ever before. While the other Housewives series gave the viewers what they craved in the form of back stabbing, cat fights, and impending legal matters, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills has far surpassed its sister shows with this year’s drama, drama, and then some more drama. No time was wasted when the first episode jumped right in with yet another painful dinner party, hosted by Adrienne Maloof this time around, where Taylor Armstrong had a passive aggressive back and forth with Lisa Vanderpump’s husband, Ken, over the importance of couples therapy, which Taylor had been participating in. This was only the first of a long list of cringe-worthy events.
The complete cast of ladies was back this year, plus we saw the introduction of new “friend” housewife, Brandi Glanville. You may know Brandi from the gossip rags a while back where her now ex-husband, actor Eddie Cibrian, brought attention to their marriage by abruptly leaving her for singer LeAnn Rimes. Brandi brought fun to the otherwise uppity Beverly Hills atmosphere with her truck driver mouth and carefree attitude, sending half of the housewives into a tizzy. In fact, the wild child even had a quickie two-day marriage followed by annulment for fun in Las Vegas on New Year’s Day this year proving just how offbeat she is. No one could get used to the idea of sharing space with a new cast mate more than sisters Kyle and Kim Richards who quickly became the Super Bitch Duo at the infamous “game night” two-part episode hosted at housewife acquaintance Dana Wilkey’s house. These two were looking for any reason to pounce on Brandi and managed to twist any little word she said into something bigger than it needed to be. I’m sure I wasn’t the only viewer amazed at the level two grown women could drop to over…well, I’m not even sure what provoked them to be honest. Jealousy is usually the first word that comes to mind but the mean girl attitudes resembled a group of neighborhood street cats defending their territory and nothing more. Needless to say, they were pretty offensive but God bless Brandi for enduring it and deciding to stick around.
However, Brandi was not all alone and did find a friend in Camille Grammer with whom she shared some common ground with over similar public divorce stories. Camille was formerly married to celebrity Kelsey Grammer who, like Cibrian, left his wife for another woman while making little effort to hide it. Season one of RHOBH, as well as the media, both chronicled the Grammers’ separation process and season two has shown us the aftermath and dividing up the belongings, children included.
Soon after the game night incident, Lisa Vanderpump’s tea party rolled around where we began to see Taylor buckle under the weight of her own personal life. After Taylor called out Lisa who so elegantly stated, “I’m not your friend,” a whirlwind of pointy words began to fly. Normally quiet and generally meek, Camille had the most effect on the party when she finally repeated the serious accusations out loud that Taylor had been alleging against her own husband, Russell, about a possibly abusive relationship. Taylor panicked and became angry with Camille, claiming that the speech about the abuse put herself and her daughter in danger. If your friends’ simple discussions over your husband’s supposed actions are putting you in danger, then there is something seriously wrong going on at home. All in all, it was not the tea party of the year.
The well appropriately titled episode that followed, “Malibu Beach Party From Hell,” was an insanely, like, no really, INSANELY, heated continuation of the bizarre tea party. Taylor, Camille, and a gaggle of women faced off at a girl’s night gathering held by Brandi over Camille’s prior unwanted opinions of Russell Armstrong. Taylor truly broke down to the point that it was more than evident that all her emotional tears and stress were not really about her friends but really about her husband. These are the dramas that suck us in to a great reality television show, but at the same time it was heartbreaking to watch.
What perhaps made the show stand out the most this season in particular was the abrupt death of Taylor Armstrong’s husband, ruled a suicide, mere weeks before season two premiered. No doubt that the very public news that forced Bravo to do the last minute re-editing of their lives was the push that made the record breaking premiere episode such a success. As I mentioned, the episodes that followed, and have just recently began to climax, chronicled the alleged abuse and other heated troubles between the couple leading up to the obvious demise of the relationship. Before his untimely death, it seemed Russell Armstrong was beginning to realize that his wife’s involvement with the show was giving everyone in the world a look into their private lives which has been nothing but negative thus far. In an effort to keep friends quite, he began to react against them in the form of angry letters and threats of legal action. Lisa and Camille were two of the housewives directly under fire for merely repeating stories Taylor had openly told. Every week, there has been a new mention or allusion being made to the physical altercations Taylor has been through in the past involving her husband and the tumultuous ups and downs have put all of her Beverly Hills friends in an awkward position. Episode after episode we continue to watch the tragedy unfold.
It wasn’t all gloom and doom in season two, though. We’re watching as Lisa turns from socialite to mother of the bride while helping design and plan the wedding of her one and only daughter, Pandora. There was also that Vegas bachelorette party with those Chippendale boys! By the end of the season, we’re promised to finally see a blushing bride take the big stroll down the aisle. We’ve also witnessed just how smart, savvy, and respectable Adrienne Maloof is with her many entrepreneurial and humanitarian ventures. She threw a back yard fashion show to showcase her newly designed shoe collection and elected Step Up, an organization that promotes women in business and the arts, as the charity to receive the proceeds from the event. Adrienne is a true role model that is often hard to find on reality television, especially in flaky Los Angeles.
There’s no rest for the ladies of Beverly Hills and like a good soap opera, they manage to leave us in suspense every week. Will we see Taylor lose her mind completely? Will Kim and Kyle ever drop the attitudes and accept Brandi? Will Giggy the dog be Pandora’s ring bearer?! We may never know but as for now, we’ll continue to watch their lives unfold a week at a time and look forward to the exciting grand finale fireworks that are sure to come.
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills airs Monday nights at 9/8c on Bravo.
Images courtesy of Richard McLaren/Bravo.