Bravo TV, Reality TV, #RHONY

#RHONY: Tinsley Is Taken-Aback (As Is Team Carole), Casting a Newbie

In the process of being incredibly flummoxed by Bethenny Frankel’s outspoken gripes, Carole Radziwill goes to great lengths to disprove them. In the third installment of the Real Housewives of New York reunion, Carole decides to harp on the Skinny Girl’s words about her friendship with Tinsley Mortimer, stating that they’re “not that close.”

Mortimer appears to take issue with these words and expresses her hurt.

See the video here: Carole Disses Tinsley

OPINION ALERT🚨: Carole often conveys that RHONY is the platform calling for honesty and telling it like it is, but it is in these instances where Carole comes across as insensitive and too immersed in the fight. I hated it earlier in the season when she told Dorinda that Sonja referred to her (Dorinda) as fat. Perhaps Carole’s rationale was that the camera footage would later be shown anyway. Either way, she only came across as Callous Carole and an unnecessary harbinger of mean girl gossip.

Because of how intense and unmerciful Bethenny’s fight has seemed, I’ve tended to side with Carole while witnessing the duo’s demise. But seeing Carole cavalierly toss her friendship with Tins into this ring enforces the point that all of these ladies take individualized turns being atrocious.

I’ve seen other “Team Carole” tweeters respond in a similar fashion. “This only reminds me that Carole is…maybe…15 percent better than Bethenny,” one wrote me in a direct message.

NOW, BACK TO THE SCOOP: While rumors have circulated regarding who will replace Carole, with speculation surrounding Jill Zarin, a source close to production tells me that Shed Media is focused on bringing a newbie into the mix rather than a former Housewife: “It would most likely be someone who is, or would be, a friend to Tinsley. The audience and critics feel that Tinsley makes zero sense on this show, but she has this chance to prove herself by returning next season. The most logical thing is to bring someone in who would be a friend to her, especially now with Carole gone.”

The source adds that “the Jill Zarin thing is incredibly far-fetched” and that production found rumors about Jill’s return as a full time Housewife to be amusing.

OPINION 🚨: If the new cast pick is someone strong, intelligent and accomplished in business, viewers will be more incentivized to keep tuning in. Bethenny needs a cast mate who challenges her or she will eventually check out altogether. She has made it clear time and again, and emphasized it by not attending Ramona’s skincare party, that these are people she films with rather than individuals she respects IRL.

I’m all for a casting curve ball that disrupts the RHONY Queen B’s game…and calls for new moves.

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#RHONY, Bravo TV, Psychology, public figures, Reality TV

#RHONY Psychology: Is the Bar Set Low for Your “Bethenny”? (Opinion)

Disclaimer: The following post may be deemed “psychobabble” as it reflects thoughts of a former psychology major, rather than psychologist or licensed mental health professional.

It is a residual learned helplessness from elementary school interactions with mean girls. When we come across someone brash, opinionated and intimidating, it’s somewhat instinctive how we set the bar lower, how we’ll lap up the love we do receive – between thorny barbs that prick us repetitively – like a little lost puppy dog.

As with an A-Plus student, someone like Bethenny Frankel has a podium to stand on so we are at a loss for words during debates. The little girls inside of us, upon recognizing approval from the harshest of critics, prize the praise of a “Bethenny” over the kind words of someone softer and more sensitive.

Because she is one who suffers fools lightly (so to speak), her moments of tenderness and vulnerability stand out more prominently than they would in an easygoing individual, and a fortress of respect surrounds her.

While I did not agree with certain actions of Carole Radziwill this season of Real Housewives of New York (RHONY), – her need to repeat atrocious things said to people behind their backs could perhaps be justified by the fact that cameras were capturing everything – I had compassion for her after witnessing her evisceration by cast mate and former buddy Bethenny Frankel.

No one on this show is without faults and the argument about “setting the bar lower” could be applied to other cast mates too. However, that would entail several other separate, lengthy articles. I’m going to stick to Bethenny in this particular one, while bearing in mind the argument about allowances made for Ramona Singer. We can save that Megillah (and ones devoted to Sonja, Luann, Dorinda…) for another time.

Think back to your days vying for the popular classmate’s attention and wishing you were in “the clique.” Remember laughing at the girl in the back brace who the cool kids were taunting? Would you put up with and participate in that sort of behavior now? I’m sure you are saying “no”, but if you think hard, you have probably made other mental adjustments for rude people.

You may know someone blunt who won’t back down and listen to you finish your points in a discussion – even when what they’re spewing is entirely wrong. It may be because they’re so often right and regarded as the “voice of reason” in other instances.

Despite some aggravation, you say to yourself, consciously or subconsciously, “She’s tough, but has chosen ME as her friend…ME!!!” So you listen and bite your tongue to keep from objecting.

This does reflect a collective self esteem and the desire we have to be appreciated by people we see as accomplished, authoritative and determined. As confident as one could argue that Manhattan socialite and bestselling author Carole Radziwill is, she is not above succumbing to another’s flattery and adoration of her.

Avid RHONY viewer and reality TV blogger Essence Capp observes: “When Carole met Bethenny at Luann’s during Season 7, she was almost ‘star struck.’ She really did seem in awe of her during the early period of their friendship.”

Bethenny called Carole the “cool girl” during that time and Carole (no doubt) loved it. I cannot blame her at all: I’ve been a a part of this type of dynamic in my own social life. Who doesn’t appreciate and value the praise of a highly discerning individual? Bethenny had already set herself apart as being that fussy, fault finding judge whose BS detector was extra fine-tuned.

My husband will say to me “Forget elementary school! That was 100 years ago!” However, it is the experience of playground and classroom interactions, including past swift assessments made by teachers and peers alike, that shaped who we are today. Whether we are willing to reflect and admit to it or not, the social and academic scrutiny in our formative years can affect us throughout young adulthood and beyond.

Knowing this allows us to ask ourselves “Why exactly do I need this person in my life? Why does their opinion of me matter so much?”

Unfortunately, as the Carole-Bethenny breakup attests, it can take a falling out for us to step back and decide what is worth fighting for…and what isn’t.

As I write this, Carole is still tweeting about the fights with her former friend. In doing so, she comes across to many as the Bitter Betty of the duo. Perhaps it’s because she feels that now that she won’t be returning to RHONY, she has nothing to lose and can totally go rogue.

It is best, when there’s no reality show in the picture, to be the better person. In the fashion of those beloved by Bravo who can look scornfully upon the Housewives and laugh at them, Carole could bow out gracefully and opt to “plead the fifth” instead.

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Reality TV, RHOC

#RHOC OPINION: Emily Simpson & Gina Kirschenheiter Are Good Cast Additions

Like Kelly Dodd and Shannon Beador before them, Emily Simpson and Gina Kirschenheiter are facing some backlash as the new “Real Housewives” of Bravo TV’s Orange County franchise. Only one of the two is currently a “wife”, but that barely matters to a brand that has basically phased out the 4-letter word’s significance.

Impatient Real Housewives fans haven’t yet acclimated to the personalities of these two ladies who, I feel, are good additions to Real Housewives of Orange County. They don’t hesitate to get into the fray and last night’s episode was testament to that fact when Emily, as the caught-unawares newbie (who probably should’ve known better), found herself defending her husband Shane against Gina, the loud, unfiltered, Long Island-accented East Coast transplant.

Kirschenheiter possesses that same magical ability that catapulted Kelly Dodd from “Be Wary” to “Whoop It Up” on the Real Housewives Richter Scale. Brash, ballsy, having a tough exterior to mask sensitivities…The model of this particular make might just be Dodd 2.0.

Gina will inevitably clash catastrophically with someone in the episodes ahead (probably with Kelly Dodd herself) and compel us to tune in for the subsequent “redemption” season. I’m not in the hater camp at all: She is already serving us a heaping of drama as the inebriated cackler at Emily’s house party who was asked to leave by Shane, Emily’s husband.

Subsequently, Gina stirred things up as she relayed those events to her cast-mates, only to leave them wondering if Emily’s husband is controlling and in any way comparable to the creepy, exed out David Beador.

Emily Simpson, a lawyer and party planner (of all eclectic combinations) told Bravo.com she was blindsided by this spouse scrutiny she’s being subjected to. This is something Reality TV critics would have warned her about early on — had she only consulted us!

It will therefore be interesting to see how Emily navigates the intrusions of her cast mates during filming…and of RHOC fans now watching the events unfold.

We are still in the early episodes of Season 14 and Emily already confronted Shannon Beador about how erroneous any David likeness would be. She proved to have an ally in her corner when Tamra Judge scolded Shannon for picking at a “good marriage” as if it’s a bad scab, knowing from experience how hurtful it is to be on the receiving end of that type of social brutality.

At this point into the RHOC season last year, we were twiddling our thumbs waiting for Lydia and Peggy to mesh – in any meaningful way – with the other ladies. Now, in episode 7 of Season 14, which aired last night, we see a friendship has been solidified between Emily and Gina. The two seem to have formed a Big Brother-style alliance, #NewGirls, as they navigate the Housewives game with its mazes of moods and challenges of ever-changing temperaments.

No one could have predicted that the seemingly toxic, clashing duo of Shannon and Kelly would solidify a bond after discovering common ground. There have been numerous other instances of feuding Housewives who seem to hate one another becoming best friends, once they’re done trudging through the muck and mire….

And all of that annoying stuff Shane would change the channel on to avoid watching.

At this point last year, I was begging Peggy Sulahian’s publicist to clear up misconceptions making the rounds during an immensely aggravating silence. Lydia’s esoteric trippiness – which seemed like an LSD ride to Nowhere Land deserving of a full refund – no doubt led to an increase in Dramamine sales.

Although one woman didn’t want her marriage becoming a talking point and the other was ill-prepared for the demise of hers to be caught in the cameras’ cross hairs, Emily and Gina are giving us more to think about than whether ball can be played in the kitchen (although it’s safe to assume it would be outlawed in Shane’s home).

I’m interested to see the inevitable turmoil the OG gals will suffer at the hands of these polarizing newbies. I’ll tune in to find out what Emily sees in Shane and how she defends him against cast mates that are clearly “not his cup of tea.” I’m also wondering if he regrets signing those release forms.

The fact that I have questions shows I’m far ahead of where I was at this point last season. I see promise in these cast picks and I think Evolution Media has good insight and foresight. Only time will tell for certain, but there’s a reason this franchise is still around and still going strong after more than a decade.

(Photo Source: AllAboutTRH.com)

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Bravo TV, Reality TV, #RHONY

#RHONY: Luann De Lesseps Talks “Taking Sobriety Seriously”, Disses Dorinda

They say people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, but Luann De Lesseps must feel she’s just built a fortress.

In an interview with Michael Cook for Out In Jersey, the Real Housewives of New York star says cabaret has been a lifeline. She discusses her show Countess and Friends and says she’s committed to the staying power of her sobriety this time around.

As if her partying ways were documented 25 years ago, she even alludes to cast mate Dorinda Medley as being in a category of people that “drink too much and get sloppy.” So, we can understand why the two of them aren’t so close – as opposed to Bethenny Frankel who is “not a big drinker.” My, how the tides of Bravolebrity alliances have turned!

“Since I have quit drinking-I am thirty five days sober today by the way-I feel so much better and I just feel really good,” De Lesseps told Cook, “I feel in control, empowered, happy and ready. I am really not tempted to drink right now. That is my state of mind.”

The Countess also refers to her relationship with family members as being in a much better place (from when reports surfaced earlier about her children suing her). She says her kids are most important to her above all else, which solidifies her adamancy about not abusing alcohol again.

“Listen, I will be honest, I had my own hiccup with my children which we all know about because it was very public. We have reconciled and everything is cool.”

Fans will have to stay tuned and watch next season of RHONY to see how De Lesseps maintains (what she describes as) a “lifestyle change.”

“I am not perfect, although I try to be. But I am not. What happened to me happened. I dealt with it and now this time…I really feel that it is sticking for me this time around.”

(Photo Source: Bustle.com)

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Bravo TV, Reality TV, RHOC

#RHOC: Shannon Storms Beador on “Reality of Reality” Podcast (AllAboutTRH.com)

If you thought you couldn’t possibly learn more from Shannon Beador, it doesn’t take tequila or fireball shots to get her to spill the tea. Actually, coffee (rather than “tea”) would be a more apt reference since we all know it’s stronger.

The Real Housewives of Orange County star, already a gem of a reality TV personality in longtime producer and podcast host Aliza Rosen’s eyes, opened up about dating post divorce, terrible texts from the ex, trying to keep her cool but losing it (again!) this season, and how one cast member will receive an armchair psychological diagnosis from another resulting in havoc.

To read more about the interview, visit: AllAboutTRH.

(Photo courtesy of Aliza Rosen who is pictured on the left of RHOC’s Shannon Beador)

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Bravo TV, Moms, Parents, Psychology, Reality TV

#RHOD: Brandi Redmond’s Adoption Was “NOT as Easy as It Looked!”

Dr. James Mercer stands behind RHOD’s Brandi Redmond in this photo. He is the one who made her recent adoption of a baby boy possible.

Sometimes we’ll see something on television and wonder aloud “Why did that person get so worked up over something so silly?” And then we slowly learn the behind-the-scenes details: The conversation, which we saw a minute of, was actually two hours long. There was a topic brought up that a character pleaded with producers not to show. A third party was involved who would not sign release forms. These are all examples of things that interfere with us seeing more of what actually transpired when something is shown on reality television.

On Real Housewives of Dallas, Brandi Redmond’s adoption of a baby boy invariably did a disservice to the adoption process because it wasn’t as easy as producers made it look.

Although we saw the man who made things possible, Dr. James Mercer, for half a second last episode, he (and others he works with) spent a ton of time with the Redmonds ensuring that the family was 100 percent ready and on-board to adopt a child when one became available.

Mercer explains that there were actually months of scheduled home visits in addition to unannounced, surprise visits for the family. There was psychological vetting, drug testing, reference checking and many other evaluations.

Although you might deem Brandi to be socially messy on the show surrounded by the…er, dynamic personalities (cough cough, Leeanne Locken), that doesn’t change the fact that she “completely has her shit together as a parent.” This was how one Dallas acquaintance of hers so eloquently put it to me.

Dr. Mercer, who possesses his own background worthy of a reality show and went through foster care as a kid, confirms that Brandi “has an immense amount of love to give and is an excellent mother.”

“Through Stephanie Hollman, I was introduced to Brandi,” he explains, “As a social worker, Stephanie had become familiar with my work with Lonestar Social Services, a foster and adoption agency serving the state of Texas. Stephanie is the kind of person I could call up and say ‘This child really wants a Batman bed. What can we do?’ and before you know it, she has donated a bed, bedding and her husband is making himself available to play softball with another child. The Hollmans are the most giving people with huge hearts. When Brandi was having her fertility struggles, Stephanie said to me ‘what about Brandi?'”

“This is not an easy process. It can be a year of totally consuming you and testing your patience and commitment. Then there are times things come up unexpectedly and the process can take longer. Or, there are certain highly specialized requests so things don’t happen as fast as you’d like them to.”

“Brandi was incredible throughout this whole journey. She didn’t get special treatment or have it easy – No one gets ‘special treatment’ in something as serious as this. Brandi never wavered and only became more committed as time went on. She has spent so much time with us that…and hopefully you’ll see this ahead on the season..our cause is something she’s become quite passionate about.”

Mercer is bound by certain confidentiality rules, especially since this was a closed and private adoption. What he was able to divulge is that he works closely with hospitals and social workers and was alerted about the baby, born to notably “young parents”, eligible for adoption.

At that point, Brandi had already completed the scrutinizing and selective vetting process. It is important to note here that a “closed adoption” means nothing is revealed, so the birth mother would not know that the adoptive mother appears on a reality show. When I asked how long it took Brandi to adopt the baby from start to finish, he is able to respond: “Minimum of seven months.”

Brandi was able to become an adoptive mother on the merits of her parenting history, cohesive and warm family dynamic, stable home environment and by meeting other benchmarks built into the system.

Mercer, who himself was eventually taken into a loving home as a child following years in foster care, made a mental commitment long ago to place kids in the best possible homes. “This is more of a crisis than people realize or even talk about,” he emphasizes, “There is a high number of kids who still need families.”

After writing his memoir several years ago, Dolores Catania of Real Housewives of New Jersey reached out to Mercer to say she was in awe of his work. The two have become close friends and appear often in photos together — in the event that you were wondering why his face looks so familiar.

He is no stranger to “Real Housewives” in general because of their common interest in philanthropy (a necessary component of taking care of kids without families and trying to place them in homes).

Dr. James Mercer’s book

One of the benevolent people he’s met through the charity circuit is Lisa Vanderpump. That’s right: The queen bee of RHOBH is not just passionate about pets.

Mercer wants viewers to know that Brandi Redmond and her family were subjected to the same rigorous process as the other non-famous clients he works with, but adds that she did get lucky in the end when the baby became available. “There are other people with very specialized requests and it’s been harder to get things in place as quickly. I really think the timing and how everything worked out for Brandi was a miraculous thing and clearly evidence of God’s amazing work! But there was so much involved during the preceding months that I wish people had gotten to see so they would understand it wasn’t as simple as it looked on TV. That said, I’m THRILLED they are showing this on TV at all! More awareness needs to be brought to adoption and the needs of these children.”

“We didn’t in any way ‘make it easy’ for Brandi as some critics have suggested. Also, it doesn’t matter who you are. Oprah would have to go through this whole process and it would require the same amount of vetting for her, as well as the same intense level of commitment. The priority is to ensure we find our kids the ideal, suitable and loving homes.”

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Uncategorized

#ShahsOfSunset & Other Shows: Realness Versus Reality Gold

Last year, preceding the premiere of Shahs of Sunset, cast member Mike Shouhed told me he thought the season would garner an Emmy nomination. I love this Bravo show, but over the course of watching past (and now, the current) seasons it’s become apparent that the cast acutely feels the need to drum up drama during duller moments. It is true that a lot of what we see is real and raw, and that MJ, Mike and Reza wish they didn’t have to show viewers certain things. But…what makes them great, ultimately, is that they know that “sharing everything” – no matter how excruciating some disclosures are – is exactly what they signed up to do.

Also, and especially this season, it seems to viewers that the cast is overly conscious of plot lines going stale. That’s precisely when they’ll throw Molotov cocktails into the mix. The “fake” components don’t bother me as much as they probably should – There is something about this dynamic Persian crew that has me captivated. I’m tuned in for all of their adventures.

Sometimes events can seem “extra”, but it works with this kooky ensemble of outlandish personalities (Reza’s husband Adam, who was the more easygoing “better half” last season, must have recently received a memo to be more reactive on camera. He’s dialed it up bizarrely this season, which strikes me as rather inorganic).

Asa Soltan is the former full-time Shahs cast mate who kept so much of her personal and romantic life private and was adamant about keeping various details off camera. This season, she’ll only have a few cameo appearances which suits Mercedes Javid (“MJ”) just fine after expressing her annoyance about Asa in an interview with me.

Even with the irksome intervention of several publicists on the phone line, MJ’s effortless candor with me was greatly appreciated. I could totally sympathize with and feel the frustrations she was having: Here she was discussing “dysfunctional” aspects of her life in detail, repeatedly hearing her mother painstakingly critique her on television. In the meantime, Asa was intent on keeping everything close to the vest (including her longtime romantic partnership with Jermaine Jackson II).

Mike’s comment about the show deserving an Emmy, Reza and MJ’s shenanigans designed to antagonize the irascible GG, the outing of Shervin as a deceptive womanizer…These are all things that could cause the VP of Bravo PR to quake in his suede loafers while pacing and pondering: “Will the press pan this show as being scripted?”

More realistically, I’d say he’s largely unbothered because Ryan Seacrest Productions works their magic annually to put this masterpiece together in way that hooks longtime viewers and reels newbies in. Scripted-seeming or not, as Mike Shouhed himself would tell you: “People freakin love it.”

Here’s the thing with reality television: While a lot of what is filmed is off the cuff, so much is also planned and devised with precision beforehand.

So should we believe MJ and Reza when they say that a shocking announcement at a party was merely a spur of the moment drunken move? Only partly.

Their tactic is most likely a PATT move: Plan, Ambush and Tag Team. There was no peace in mind when inviting Shalom’s other ex to the Valentines soirée. It’s unlikely that MJ and Reza didn’t have some strategic meeting of the minds beforehand.

It’s been rumored that some Bravolebrities have practiced “lines” in front of mirrors before we see their quote-worthy words uttered with impeccable delivery. One reality tv personality had a line that stood out to many, but the individual privately admitted that reality TV bloggers gave them the quote word for word, hoping to drive a certain narrative home.

Producers do make executive decisions such as: “You’re turning 50 and I know you’d like to have a party. That’s where you’ll ask ____ about her husband’s separate apartment that she’s never seen.” But the personalities on these shows will admit that after only a bit of initial nudging, once the ball is rolling it’s easy to push past formalities and go rogue. If you don’t operate at the requisite speed to freely let your freak flag fly without filter, then honey, you weren’t made for reality TV. (See: Peggy Sulahian, 100th Housewife — also referred to as “Peggy Shhh No Talk!” by comedian and Housewives impersonator Amy Phillips.)

While I can grapple with what’s not reality about reality television – and I watch The Bachelor franchise as true testament to that – I think there’s a limit to what’s acceptable. There’s an immense amount of scheming that goes on behind the scenes when you consider reports of romantic couples who are not actually items at all, but rather, have made a business arrangement to benefit both parties. There have been at least two couples that come to my mind at this very moment: They are seen as having contrived storylines. These couples have been dogged by rumors of business arrangements: You play my fiancé/boyfriend/girlfriend/on-off hookup. It will make things much spicier this season.

A seasoned reality personality knows that being sensational wears off fast. Because it’s ideal to stay perpetually fresh, the wheels are always turning.

Knowing that I know all of this about reality TV, it boggles my husband’s and my sons’ minds that I have a more difficult time getting into modern scripted shows. To that I say: Where is the fun in knowing it’s all fake, when I can enjoy wondering about what is, versus what isn’t, instead?

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