PEOPLE's TV critic says the entire series should end

By Tom Gliatto
August 22, 2011 03:15 PM
Credit: Luiz Martinez/Broadimage

A reality show may present itself as a grand mansion, but it’s essentially a prefab house plunked down on what the owners hope looks like solid ground: If an earthquake rumbles below and splits open a fissure, the foundation of the house goes, goes, goes down, down, down.

Bravo has set about trying to repair the tragic mess that is now season 2 of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. The season, which was scheduled to premiere Sept. 5, will be reedited and possibly postponed in light of the suicide of Housewife Taylor Armstrong’s estranged husband, Russell. According to Variety, it’s likely that Russell’s presence – that is, his life – will be reshaped or reduced.

The fact remains that public interest in the show is now higher than ever. But, in a better world, Bravo would just go ahead and scrap not just the season but the entire series. And I say that as a fan of the show. The first season was one of the most entertaining things ever to come out of Bravo.

The death of Russell can t be treated merely as an act of God or some incidental tragedy. His suicide by hanging weeks before the premiere was intimately connected with Taylor’s public and personal life. It may very well be that his death would have happened without press scrutiny, without Taylor’s overnight fame and the disturbing revelations about his abusive behavior, but the possibility can’t be eliminated. This isn’t a garnish of parsley that can be scraped aside and off the plate.

Russell, although unseen, figured heavily in the season premiere screening disc Bravo sent out to critics earlier this summer: At a dinner reuniting the Housewives, Taylor, 40, was openly distraught over the state of her marriage – weeping in the powder room – but assuring everyone she was doing all she could to save her marriage.

Lisa Vanderpump suggested that Taylor knew how to turn the tears on and off, and her husband, Ken, mocked marriage counseling. Even before Russell’s suicide, they came across as stupendously cavalier. How much of this will remain?

Even if Taylor were to quit the show and move to an undisclosed island, claiming the need to shelter her daughter and her own spirit, Camille Grammer and the others would still be required, somehow, at some point, to address the issue. Awkward, one might say. And if Taylor remains, as the show spills into seasons 3 and even 4, how naturally can she be expected to mourn and recover with women who are not so much friends as costars? Or even possibly hostile costars?

These aren’t things that can be properly handled in a reunion show or on Watch What Happens Live.