The fallout from the Vanity Fair exposé on the Real Housewives is picking up speed. In the days after writer Anna Peele outlined just how deep the toxicity, substance abuse and racism runs in the Bravoverse, which I wrote about here, Ramona Singer was cut from Bravocon at the eleventh hour, she lost her job at the real estate agency she was working for, Leah McSweeney is vowing to refuse every offer Bravo makes, and the network is finding themselves in a very vulnerable position. You wouldn’t know that though, based on Andy Cohen’s subtle address of the situation on social media.
Recently, a Bravo fan account called @watchwhatcrappens shared a reel of a news reporter navigating a flood in a row boat, with Vanity Fair written across it. Two people walking through the water had “Bravo viewers” written over them, implying that fans aren’t giving up on the network just yet. Andy’s response? A crying laughing emoji.
I was relieved to discover I wasn’t the only one that found his response greatly offensive and insensitive, given the severity of the claims being made.
“I’m a viewer, however, after reading, several points they make, about your poor taste in regards to Leah’s sobriety aren’t funny. Show a little more empathy. You have children now. Would you want someone mocking your daughter if she’s got mental health or substance abuse issues?” one viewer responded.
“do better. Laughing at racism as long as it’s not about you?” said another.
“why is this so funny? Not a good look! I met you years ago and have said great things about you but now I am questioning why I did. You’re human and I give you Grace but this is serious, Andy!... Does Bravo not know anything about PR 101?” another questioned.
I’m glad someone asked, because a lot of viewers are under the impression Bravo has no idea how to take accountability – and for good reason. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that Andy constantly plays both roles of moderator and executive producer – and season after season he’s making a case for why he can’t be trusted to hold the title of both at the same time.
In her Vanity Fair article, Anna recalled how Andy described his role to her back in 2021. She wrote:
“The series and cast members orbit around Cohen, who described himself to me during a 2021 interview for New York Magazine as their “boss,” among other roles, including “father.” It’s an unusual employment arrangement and a singular workplace.”
Father? I mean, that’s weird. And if he does in fact view himself that way, the viewer’s question about whether he would want someone mocking his daughter if she had mental health or substance abuse issues is even more valid.
The thing is, there was a point in time where it really did make sense to have Andy moderating. But that was years ago when the franchise was smaller. He knew the housewives, he knew the storylines, and he knew the audience. But he’s developed such close relationships with some of them that it jeopardizes the main function of his role as the moderator, which is to guide any conversation or debate without bias. Moderators are supposed to be neutral, not showing favoritism to one party over another. And as we’ve seen over time, he’s not nearly as impartial as he needs to be in order to continue filling both roles, effectively and professionally, anyway.
Simply put, Bravo has become too big for its britches. In the early 2010s, the Real Housewives franchise was a guilty pleasure. A salacious escape from the mundane circuit of television. It was an hour where women could sip a glass of wine, watch rich people argue, and come back next week to do it all over again, after the kids had fallen asleep, of course. Now, though, as I wrote in my last piece, it’s become its own society, complete with a cult following, a cast of over-glorified women that are made to feel like goddesses as people (like me) fawn over them at an annual convention. And the fans aren’t just over-worked moms looking for a TV escape anymore. The audience is full of men, women, celebrities, even Michelle Obama - all from different socio-economic classes, different religious backgrounds, and different ethnicities.
The evolution, if we can even call it that, of Bravo reminds me of that small, Silicon Valley tech startup where the cool frat boy boss, in this case, Andy, allows employees to do fun things like play foosball and drink beer during the office happy hour. This is fun, engaging and most importantly, manageable when you only have a staff of 20. But try and keep this culture up when you’re working with over 150 people, trying to do office tours for stakeholders when there’s someone passed out in their own puke in the bathroom and the office creep is making the staff feel uncomfortable again. You quickly realize that it’s not sustainable. And every time the frat boy boss tries to implement some order, people have a hard time taking him seriously. Or they tell him to f—k off on national television, like Tamra Judge did, which I wrote about here.
There’s a reason she felt entitled to do that on the reunion for this season of Real Housewives of Orange County. Because he went from being her boss to her friend. It’s also why there are reports that NBC is “pissed” over Bravo “ruining” shows. Bravo isn’t taking themselves seriously, how can NBC be expected to?
After the Vanity Fair piece, Page Six reported that Peacock may not air the newest installation of Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip, filmed in Morocco. The reason for this isn’t necessarily the expose, but the sexual assault allegations that surfaced just before it was published. I wrote about those allegations here.
The other show NBC is reportedly referring to is Real Housewives of New York, which had to take a hiatus and come back with an entirely new cast after Ramona’s racist antics, which they went out of their way to cover up, according to Leah, who was quoted saying as much. There are reports that the next season will be tabled, too, now that it’s finally been acknowledged that Ramona said the n-word via text. And now, after filming an entire season of RHUGT, it may not air.
The axing of either of these, or both, will be a huge loss for viewers, who were promised a season full of drama, and the return of alums like Alex McCord (where the hell has she been?), Phaedra Parks, Eva Marcille, Camille Grammar, Brandi Glanville, Vicki Gunvalson, Gretchen Rossi and Caroline Manzo, who left Morocco abruptly after allegedly being locked in a bathroom by Brandi and groped in her private parts.
But it’s also a huge loss for Bravo, a network whose specialty appears to be fumbling the bag on a massive scale. Do you know how much it costs to fly an entire cast and field production team out to Morocco, put them up in a villa or wherever they may have stayed, fully stock it with food, alcohol, house staff, excursions and whatnot, only to have to shelce the whole show and not make any money off of it (except for potential tax write-offs)?
As much as I want to believe NBC is pissed over the ethical issues at play here, it’s likely the loss of all this money that’s got them riled up. But I suppose it’s good news that they’re finally riled up about something.
Caroline Manzo is the perfect proxy to help us really understand how far gone Bravo is. If you watched Caroline on Real Housewives of New Jersey all those years ago, you could easily assert that she is probably the most honourable housewife to have ever appeared on any Real Housewives series or spinoff. She is a truly devoted wife, mother, and now grandmother, who has always displayed having a strong moral compass and limitless integrity.
For Caroline to agree to take time away from her family and do a spinoff all these years later, I don’t think she had a clue what she was getting herself into. She may have been under the assumption that Bravo was still what it was all those years ago. And if her allegations are true, which I absolutely believe they are, she got a rude awakening being locked in the bathroom with Brandi that night.
My question is – why didn’t producers step in? I wrote about how quickly and swiftly Below Deck producers were to intervene when a stew was inebriated and on the verge of being sexually assaulted by a deck hand. Why didn’t anyone stop Brandi from locking Caroline in a bathroom?
These are the questions no one signs up to ask themselves in wanting a bit of salacious entertainment. As viewers, we shouldn’t have to think about things like racism or sexual assault. We came here to escape the chaos of daily life, not to be reminded of just how much horror there is out there.
This is the first time in my 15 years of being a Real Housewives fan that I am truly starting to question my viewership of this franchise. I simply cannot stand the ethical hangover that comes from indulging in a culture that women are going on record to detail just how much it’s negatively impacted their lives and mental health. And if Bravo doesn’t swap out the laughing crying emoji responses to people’s trauma with a clear plan to course correct and right some wrongs here, there’s going to be a lot more viewers turning their back on the network.