The World Is Stage, Part 5: Bravo hides behind the US constitution, and prevents anyone from being offended by comments made by hosts Bethenny Frankel and Ramona Singer
Ratings for the latest installment of The Real Housewives of New York City dropped 37% compared to last season, a shockingly far more significant drop than the “Doe Slays!” episode did in October of last year, a drop that seemed to even surprise the show’s lead, Bethenny Frankel.
The reality television franchise that has come to define her career since first premiering in 2007 now looks to be stalled by an entirely predictable long-term problem with its talent. (Andy Cohen’s appearance as moderator of the panel in front of most of the women provided some predictability, considering how much the Bravo executive likes to publicly say that he likes the women.) Rather than dealing with the women individually, Cohen created a whole show revolving around them all at once. (Though, to be fair, why shouldn’t everyone be on the panel?)
The Real Housewives of New York City: why can’t it get anything right? Read more
In the premiere, we saw Frankel finally fight back against her ex-husband and stepson’s every wish and whim, when the son of co-host Carole Radziwill demanded that she, as an adult, publicly apologize for “bragging” about being anorexic in high school, because then “you’ll know I’m normal”. Frankel complied, and began to reconcile her estrangement from her son. But it was another scene that I find both cringe-worthy and ironic. Radziwill later asked Sonja Morgan about her waistline, because Morgan had openly chatted about her looking like a “fat kid in a gym bag”. This line of dialogue used to be followed by the quotation: “You need to be thin enough to run fast and still skinny enough to eat”. So Radziwill asked: “What did you do after your breakdown?” Morgan simply stared at her shoes.
So many of the tropes of that line are beloved – blonde plus size women. Her crinkled, glazed eyes and slight manner of speaking make her a wonderful, more fun cover model than the other Real Housewives New York City women, but she can’t really act! Nobody on the panel, when asked what they do when they’re not using their phone, described it as anything entertaining – so if we are going to take their word for it, they must not enjoy television.
Another unique trait of the show that made it incredibly successful in its early days – and one that made Frankel and co. seem so different than the likes of other alpha females – was the way that they interacted with their husbands. Jill Zarin and the other women’s husbands were the equal of Frankel’s, as far as power goes. But on this panel, the husbands were basically fluttering through their wife’s faces like glue. Perhaps there was something odd about the show’s move away from women married to successful men that now gave them jobs. (If there was something oddly repetitive, I’d like to know.)
Perhaps the villain in that scene is Dorinda Medley, a member of the Bravo family and a character that was introduced into the Housewives franchise as the largely reformed widow of John Mahdessian, a man who took her to rehab and was recently on Celebrity Rehab with Dr Drew. During that scene, Medley’s husband John turned away from the room when her storyline with Frankel and Zarin went too far, as Frankel asked Zarin how her divorce was progressing and Zarin shook her head no. “No, my ex-husband wasn’t supposed to be involved in my life,” Medley told the panel. “I just hope it’s going to work out for you, if that’s what you’re asking for.” Not only is John a man with a penchant for inappropriate, sexy language and his own love of “dessert” (hey, RHONY), but he also mocks the women’s appearances, and in her final scene before leaving, Frankel pretended to have too much makeup on, even though she was wearing thin color blocking and mascara.
What we saw last night was nothing new to Frankel. It shows that the franchise that she helped build has become a mess. Frankel has already used Twitter to criticize the episode as a “train wreck”. The difference