There were so many reasons I loved the first season of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. After sitting through a lackluster follow-up to the first season of Real Housewives of New Jersey and the utterly atrocious Real Housewives of D.C., Beverly Hills offered a cast of entertaining, eccentric, and lovable — or lovable to hate — characters. There was the constantly feuding Richards sisters. The near-divorcée Camille Grammer. The refreshingly normal — but incredibly plastic — Adrienne Maloof-Nassif. And, of course, Jiggy. Adorable, wonderful Jiggy!
Yes, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills was the ultimate guilty pleasure. But now, days in front of its Sept. 5 premiere, I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll feel even more guilty watching the series. As we’ve all read by now, Russell Armstrong — estranged husband of Beverly Hills cast member Taylor Armstrong — tragically committed suicide earlier this month. And though Bravo did re-edit its Housewives footage, and plans on airing the premiere alongside suicide prevention PSAs, I’m still having a tough time seeing the light and airy show as anything but dark. Most of the fun of watching Housewives was the fantasy of the whole series: Here were women so outlandish, so spoiled, and so bejeweled, they seemed to have more in common with fairy tale Evil Stepmothers than human beings. Armstrong’s suicide squashed the fantasy. Housewives seems real now.
Of course, some might argue the premiere would serve TV fans well. After all, it will certainly prove that money doesn’t buy happiness, and offer help for those suffering from suicidal thoughts through its newly added PSAs. Still, peeking in on one family’s drama leading up to a great tragedy — it just feels like invasion of privacy beyond the tightly edited artifice of today’s “reality” TV shows. So, my short answer: Yes, I’ll tune in to Housewives premiere, but you better believe my finger’s going to be prepared to change the channel. Bravo might be able to change the episode’s content, but it can’t change the fact that the premiere is going to offer viewers an uncomfortable viewing experience.
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