Bravo TV, Reality TV

Body Image by Bravo

Joining a reality TV show means a lot of things, but a big part of it is toughening one’s skin and buckling up for public scrutiny.

The old adage goes “the camera adds ten pounds,” so a size 6 to 8 woman might appear to be a size 10 or 12 on your screen, according to that saying…if it still applies. With modern technological advances to television and high definition, I’m not sure if this assertion is 100 percent sound today, but I can attest to the fact that I’ve met TV personalities who look smaller in person than they do on my screen.

Emily Moore Simpson never really suffered from any body image related self consciousness, but suddenly she was on a national program, Real Housewives of Orange County, with viewers weighing in on multiple social media platforms. Alarmingly, some were following her in order to tauntingly type “oink” in the comments section of her Instagram photos and add pig snout emojis.

To see Emily in person (which I have) is to note excellent cheekbones, gorgeous green eyes and a well-proportioned figure with enviable curves. While some were excited to see a woman who, like themselves, wasn’t a size 0 or 2 join the crew, others decided to be less kind, going directly to her pages to seek her out and inform her that she was dwarfing her shorter husband Shane – as if that were some sort of a crime.

The real crime here? People weren’t doing the normal thing that viewers do, roasting personalities behind their backs rather than directly to them. In addition: seeking them out deliberately to do so. Emily would proceed to divulge that the nastiest types of emails were sent directly to her, with one woman named Yvett going to the link of an event she posted about in order to share these unsolicited opinions:

You could argue that people get what they signed up for with reality TV, that they scrawled their signatures on the release forms and are making money…but you could also learn from the Bitch Sesh podcast’s “no tagging” rule. The comedy duo Casey Wilson and Danielle Schneider recap Housewives on their popular show and say as much smack and employ as much snark as they desire, but they don’t want the Bravolebrities they’ve discussed informed of the conversations. They perpetually ask audience members not to tag these personalities.

Along the same vein, I used to avoid reading the comments’ sections under my Huffington Post articles. I was fine with readers talking about me, I just didn’t want to focus on some of the highly irrelevant, nastier comments.

Realistically, some of these words will come to our attention and we have to harden ourselves. I remember writing about bullying and receiving an email from a man saying I knew nothing about real bullying and he could definitely show me what bullying was…

But back to the theme of body image…It’s something that comes up a lot with Bravo stars. The Vanderpump Rules cast has been candid about reducing their caloric intake in order to imbibe. Stassi Schroeder spoke about how Adderall worked as an aid for keeping her svelte. Sur manager Peter Madrigal spoke on several podcasts about seeing his stomach on social media and becoming motivated to stop drinking and work out twice daily. He said that rather than take negative comments from trolls and fight them, they inspire him and give him more of an impetus to prove body shamers wrong and get fit. As a result, he recently dropped 30 pounds.

Real Housewives of New Jersey‘s new cast addition Jacqueline Goldschneider opened up on the Oklahoma cast trip about her battle with anorexia and how she ultimately got healthy with the help of a nutritionist and psychologist. Several seasons ago on Real Housewives of New York, Jules Wainstein spoke openly about her own ongoing battle with anorexia. Fans spoke out then about how her frame was still disconcertingly skeletal, but she made no bones about it as she stressed that she was still in recovery – present tense.

For someone like Emily, an attorney who appears to have a tough exterior and seems ready for battle (in the courtroom) when called upon, a major lesson of the season was that people were going to focus on the things she couldn’t have predicted beforehand.

“I was fine with my body,” she said in interviews and on the RHOC reunion. Her cast mate Shannon Beador’s strategy with her own past weight gain was to point it out and poke fun at it. By laughing at or mocking ourselves (and in Shannon’s case, beating up on her self), we get to the punch before others do. It’s a recognizable type of defense mechanism. As for the newer RHOC cast member Emily, she was in tears when discussing her experience at the reunion. She has said that reality TV is not for the faint of heart.

That may be the case, but it would also be a shame to see reality TV become a place for the faint – from too much exercise, exertion, intense caloric restriction or fasting.

Emily is fighting back now by publicizing a new swimsuit partnership. Margaret Josephs of RHONJ amped up her workouts between seasons, but says she is fine and confident with having hips and enjoying splurge-worthy restaurant meals and desserts.

I find it really discouraging when fans, especially women, shame these people for not being the Saks Fifth Avenue mannequin sample size. Most of us cannot relate to gorgeous servers under 35 who blow their paychecks on Botox (Vanderpump Rules) or Housewives who live in opulent mansions in gated communities. It makes no sense to expend hatred, or spew venom directly at these personalities when presented with images that don’t make us feel guilty…

as we sink our teeth into a chocolate chip cookie and enjoy our shows.

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Bravo TV, Psychology, Real Housewives, RHOC

#RHOC: Emily Simpson Triumphantly Claps Back at Tamra Judge on Social Media

“Where has THIS Emily been all season?!” one commenter in a Bravo-focused Facebook group wrote. His remark was in response to a social media argument that heated up between Real Housewives of Orange County cast mates Tamra Judge and Emily Simpson. The group consensus was that Emily had successfully told an aggressive Tamra off. “I’m wondering what transpired at the RHOC reunion,” another Facebook user replied, “Whatever it was had to be the catalyst for this angry back and forth.”

In many of our lines of work, we’ve learned it’s best not to address negativity. I witnessed a reporter from a top news magazine demonstrate that admirably the other day when a livid TV personality repeatedly lashed out at him on Twitter. It’s a lesson to note, but “restraint” rhymes with “saint” and many have deemed that non-coincidental. In addition, being on reality television negates many of those rules and restrictions. You’ve signed the contract and that entails speaking up for yourself.

In the interest of full disclosure, I socially met up with a small group that included Emily Simpson this past Sunday. I’ve had the opportunity to meet many other “Reality TV Personalities” over the years and I bristle at egos and get easily turned off by a lack of humility. Emily was down to earth, kind, sensitive and genuine. She was someone I clicked with, who I felt comfortable with despite badly needing a haircut and wearing my clunky glasses. She is someone to whom I wouldn’t hesitate to say: “Ok, you should really ignore your cast mates’ mean barbs.”

We sensitive folks (who the insensitive call “crazy” sometimes because of just how sensitive we can be. I’m not referring to Emily here as much as myself and others like me who are continually advised to “toughen your skin.”) consider that advice easier said than done. As an attorney, Emily has the right mix of sensitivity and no-nonsense toughness.

I think she handled Tamra properly and I hope she realizes that she effectively got the last word in their terse social media exchange (pictured above). I think she can spend today feeling content. From a production standpoint, and as one still rooting for the longevity of this franchise, Evolution Media can use the above exchanges in their opening footage sequence next season. As many viewers have opined on Twitter and Instagram, Emily has solidified that she’s earned the right to a spot as “Housewife” next season.

(Featured Photo Source: Reality Blurb)

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Philanthropy, RHOC

#RHOC: Emily Simpson Makes Thanksgiving Season About Giving Back

While viewers get to see an ultra-busy, dramatic and reactive side of Emily Simpson on Bravo’s Real Housewives of Orange County, her philanthropic endeavors haven’t been spotlighted.

Each year, in November, prior to Thanksgiving, Emily and her sister-in-law Shireen Burgan host a special Friendsgiving. With activities and a signature cocktail, festive decor and conversational games, participants are not only encouraged to mingle, but to bring their own discussion-eliciting dishes…plus a donation to the charity of focus.

Emily explains that this is her fourth year hosting Friendsgiving with Shireen and adds: “This year, it will take place Wednesday, November 7th, at my house. We decided to make it an annual dinner with our girlfriends and we always incorporate a charity into the event. This year we asked all our guests to bring a side dish and also to donate to Lonestar fostering connections. Lonestar fostering connections provides clothing and suitcases to children in foster care so that they have a sense of having their own personal belongings.”

Emily, who has been through her own fertility struggles that were well documented on RHOC, became passionate about Lonestar’s services and children going through foster care after becoming friendly with Lonestar Social Service’s founder Dr. James Mercer. It was he who helped to organize Brandi Redmond’s adoption and has been featured on Brandi’s show Real Housewives of Dallas.

For a holiday focused on giving thanks, it is always refreshing to hear about those who don’t take their blessings for granted and are devoted to helping the less fortunate. Last year’s Friendsgiving charity was the Illumination Foundation and Emily explains: “We adopted a homeless family and all my guests brought donations for the family. It was a single dad with four boys.”

To get inspired about hosting your own philanthropic Friendsgiving, here’s a video of Emily and Shireen discussing the planning that went into this year’s event. (Click on the hyperlink.)

Other Real Housewives who will be in attendance this Wednesday are fellow Season 13 newbie Gina Kirschenheiter and RHOC alum Lizzie Rovsek.

(Photo: Emily Simpson and Shireen Burgan, Facebook)

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Bravo TV, infertility, Moms, Parents, Reality TV, RHOC, Women

#RHOC: Between the Filler Scenes, Bringing Awareness to Fertility Challenges

The past few seasons of Real Housewives of Orange County have disappointed many who expect more than a montage of filler scenes, but we keep watching because storylines are there…Although it oftentimes may seem akin to separating the wheat from the chaff.

One theme this season consists of Emily Simpson, an attorney and party planner in her early 40s, desiring to have another child with her Mormon Persian husband Shane. On RHOC, Emily is clear and candid about her past emotional ordeal trying to conceive. When a viewer – who missed the explanation of why her sister became her surrogate – asked about the backstory, she responded: “I did in vitro. I was pregnant with twins and I lost them both at 4 months. I went into pre term labor and lost a lot of blood. I had to have an emergency D and C and then a blood transfusion. Because of this… my sister then was a surrogate and carried all three of my children.” When Emily lost all that blood, she was greatly at risk of losing her life. All viewers can agree that her sister must be an incredible person. Emily has said that her sister has a daughter of her own who calls Emily’s daughter her “sister cousin.”

Emily is not the first Housewife on RHOC to bring awareness to fertility challenges. Before she joined the group, there was Meghan King Edmonds who married the older, divorced Jim Edmonds, a former baseball center fielder turned sports broadcaster who had retired from babymaking – or so he thought, prior to marrying Meghan – and had gotten a vasectomy. The smart thing Jim did at the time was having sperm frozen, a “just in case” move.

Longtime RHOC viewers remember how Meghan spoke lovingly about her stepkids, arguing with the other ladies that despite not being their biological mother, she felt a strong bond as if she were.

Meghan wondered then if she would ever have kids of her own with Jim and she was anxious about the challenges. Frozen sperm doesn’t always take, but after IVF, Meghan conceived twins. Then we saw her grapple with the fact that one of the twin sacs had vanished and she cried for the early loss of that twin, but went on to have a healthy daughter.

Last year, when I interviewed Meghan, the idea of using more of the frozen sperm was not her major focus as she was pouring her daily energies into the new baby, but Meghan would go on to have twin boys –and a full term (for twins, that is 36 weeks) pregnancy, an impressive feat for multiples. (My own twin boys were born premature and spent five weeks in the NICU nine years ago.)

People have reached out to Meghan, and more recently, to Emily to thank them for their candor about fertility struggles. Hearing about the authentic hurdles that were eventually overcome instills viewers with encouragement, ideas and hope.

When I encounter folks that don’t watch reality television and feel a sense of despair, I try to share my own fertility saga. In my late teens, my hormones were entirely out of whack and my mom took me to see a pediatric endocrinologist. That visit armed me with the knowledge that I would most likely need “help” in order to conceive when the time – which seemed a long way off back then – was right and I wanted to start a family. Miraculously, I had no trouble conceiving my first child after coming off a birth control pill, but when I wanted to try for a second, the old hormonal issues reared their ugly heads.

I spent many months in a reproductive endocrinologist’s office as he scratched his head, trying to figure out why I wasn’t responding to any treatments. After my first attempt at IVF, I miscarried. Following the recovery from that devastating loss, I tried IVF again. However, this time the doctor recommended adding preimplantation genetic testing of the embryos. Out of the 18 embryos that were produced, only one, “Number 17”, was deemed healthy.

I remember saying to the doctor “Everyone always implants more than one embryo. What’s the chance of one even taking?” I expected this to result in more despair and as my doctor was mentioning the possibility of surrogacy and donor eggs, I reasoned that my son would be an only child and that was totally OK. I was ready for it and would have to figure out creative responses to “Mom, I want a brother or a sister.”

Surprisingly, “Number 17” became the boy that is my 12 year old today. We joke that he was a pain in the butt before he was even born because I was informed I was at risk of preterm labor and took progesterone shots (administered in the derrière) throughout the pregnancy as a preventative measure. He was born only 4 weeks early and was a solid 6 pounds and 11 ounces.

Because of the incredibly lengthy, time (and money) intensive, highly emotional ordeal to give my oldest son a sibling, I declared I was done after two. I gave away my baby clothes, my maternity wardrobe and other related accoutrements. So when my husband turned to me and said, “If we want to try for a third, we better get cracking now,” I gave him the side eye and looked at him as if he were a 90 Day Fiance cast member rather than the man I had married. “I thought I had retired,” I said to myself, while half entertaining the very remote possibility of trying for a third and last pregnancy.

I was technically “advanced maternal age” and my husband is six and a half years my senior. Knowing that doctors had told me it was nearly impossible for me to get pregnant any other way than IVF with PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnostics), I said “let me try one round of IUI (insemination preceded by fertility shots) which is covered by insurance. If the one round doesn’t work, WHICH IT WILL NOT, NO CHANCE OF THAT, then we are meant to only have two kids and that’s totally fine!”

Unlike my prior Manhattan fertility practice that had extra long waits and a packed waiting room area, I found a center near me in New Jersey. I thought it might be a worrisome sign to find myself as the solo patient in the waiting room and my antenna went up further when I was ushered in right away to the exam room. But, long story short: This no-frills fertility practice worked its magic. After only one completely insured round of IUI, I conceived and exceeded what the expectations were for my body. The twins are 9 years old today.

So from infertility to 4 children – actually being told at age 17 that I would have a hard time getting pregnant and hearing that so early on – my journey is one I’ve shared with others in need of encouragement. I’ve been able to relate to people who have miscarried because that, for me, was a far greater ordeal than I detailed above.

I’m not a public figure, nor will I ever be, but when I see someone who has a platform, like Emily Simpson on RHOC, use it to bring awareness to options like surrogacy and detail an emotionally fraught fertility story, I know it’s appreciated among fans going through similar experiences.

It is a natural instinct to seek people out who have already been through the journey you have only just begun. When my twins were in the Nicu as preemies, I had no frame of reference. I remember a man telling me that his daughter was born even more premature than my sons, had weighed a mere one pound at birth, and was now obtaining a degree at an Ivy League university. I cannot properly convey how reassuring that was to hear.

Conversely, when I miscarried years ago, many friends came forward to share their sad miscarriage stories, ones I had never been told despite knowing these people for years.

While we watch reality TV often to escape our lives, we also tend to admire the characters whose challenges we are facing or have faced, the ones we discover commonalities with. While many people make fun of reality TV lovers, the real components of it can provide solace to someone going through an ordeal or contemplating their options.

In many circles, people are incredibly tight-lipped and private about these matters. In the community I hailed from, I hardly ever heard anyone discuss fertility challenges when I was growing up. More people end up hearing about these things from their friends when they are the ones to initiate a discussion about their own struggles and frustrations with the challenges. So when Emily Simpson appears on our screens and discloses that her sister was her surrogate after she suffered numerous miscarriages, we’re going to look up, listen and take note.

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Bravo TV, Psychology, Reality TV, RHOC

#RHOC: How would YOUR Husband Fare on a Show Like This One?

As a lawyer and party planner, new “Housewife” Emily Simpson thought her unique dual careers would provide ample fodder for reality TV…Along with the fact that her sister surrogated her kids following her own fertility struggles. There was also the interesting family she had married into of Persian Mormons.

But what Emily did not expect was for her husband Shane to be attacked so viciously by show fans on social media.

That’s the risk you take when embarking on a project like RHOC: One should expect anything, everything…everyone to be brutally dissected in the public arena. In general today, even people who aren’t famous can be torn apart for writing something divisive, or uttering a phrase without significant forethought. Of course, this only intensifies for individuals starring on reality television shows.

I hate to highlight certain gender stereotypes, but unfortunately some do exist. There are men out there who act as if they’re allergic to arguments women have. I’m married to a man who will take a pass when it comes to my recaps of PTA drama (and yes, there are some men on the PTA…lest you think I’m singling women out too severely) or the cliquish chaos that transpires between parents on the playground. I frequently want to share the deets of a hard day with interpersonal dynamics gone awry…and he’ll suggest I complain about it to my (other) BFF. I hate that and I’ll tell him so in no uncertain terms. I’m not always successful in this regard. It’s as if these accounts are too migraine-inducing for him to endure.

“Ugh can we not talk about those Housewives?!” he’ll ask as I start to divulge a fascinating development regarding Bethenny Frankel. At least he’s consistent: “Ugh, can we NOT talk about reality stars?!” he exclaims, when I bring up anything related to Donald J. Trump.

Emily Simpson’s husband Shane seems to be afflicted with that same malady. Knowing my own husband, and how he would NEVER sign release forms for a reality show, it boggles my mind that Shane somehow agreed to take part in this season of Real Housewives of Orange County.

When Emily hosted a poker party in their home, Shane told her friend Gina Kirschenheiter (the other RHOC newbie) at the end of the night, that she was incredibly loud and needed to leave.

This made no sense to viewers since the party was obviously planned beforehand and slated to be filmed. My guess is that Shane never thoroughly thought things through. Had he done so, he would have either sent the children to sleep elsewhere, where they’d be undisturbed by raucous partiers, or requested that Emily find a special venue for the poker event.

So now, of course, Shane, who is diminutive in stature, is being lambasted publicly as the “little dictator” married to Emily Simpson. Some have questioned whether or not he’s “controlling”. This past episode, we saw him sparring somewhat with Kelly Dodd at Tamra Judge’s party. This was after Kelly confronted Vicki Gunvalson’s boyfriend Steve Lodge (while he was busy chatting with Shane) about statements Steve made to Page Six.

Shane has made it known that he has very little tolerance for “loud women” and drama…..I have to admit to being utterly baffled by this on-camera revelation. Had he never watched the show he’s now on?!

I can tell you that my own husband has walked in on scenes featuring Vicki Gunvalson (RHOC) and Ramona Singer (RHONY), and scurried out of our bedroom faster than a mouse chased by a broomstick. For him, the interactions are stressfully jarring. These are the aunts at bar mitzvahs cornering you about finding a spouse…when you’re only 13. This isn’t something he wants to watch in his leisure time.

It is convenient that we have more than one television in our home so he can find solace in some other program. It doesn’t matter that he has the entire series of MASH memorized and can quote each episode verbatim. If Klinger is on, he’s elated. It’s the same deal with Cheers and Seinfeld.

Try as I may, I’m unable to persuade him to join me for some Vanderpump Rules…or EVEN an episode of Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen when one of the Pittsburgh Steelers is tending bar!

This will bug me at times, though I’ve come to know my mate: I wish we could jointly revel in the hilarity of those harried Housewives, the Ramona eyes, the drunken Dorinda slurs about Lu’s alcohol issues, Bethenny telling Carole to act her age and not her shoe size (or whatever the hell she said – I have PTSD from that), the infamous incident of a prosthetic leg thrown across a dinner table….

I wish that together we could analyze bizarre interactions between ladies whose problems pertain to the one percent. In my fantasies of such spousal interactions, we easily share the same anthropological viewpoints and are able to wax philosophical about Bravo shows….

As one does.

Alas, there are trade-offs in life and in marriages, and I should be thankful that he keeps things tidy (more so than I do), is an excellent cook and baker and most importantly, hands-on dad.

Although my husband isn’t Persian or Mormon, and he’s more likely to come up with an excuse for a trip to Costco rather than confronting my loudest girlfriend from Long Island, there’s no way he’d be able to film a scene that requires listening to recaps of frenzied fighting between filming friends and foes.

We see time and again with each of the Housewives franchises, that the husbands are obligated to listen and weigh in. To his credit, Joe Gorga of Real Housewives of New Jersey has mastered the art. He will, at the very least, act as if he’s listening and then offer some type of solution to his wife Melissa (she seldom takes his “advice”, but let’s grant Joe an “E” for effort). Jim Marchese of the same franchise overstepped his bounds in bellicose fashion and lasted a mere season.

I realize this is a highly unpopular opinion, but I have to give props to Shane Simpson for simply showing up…thus far. I know several husbands who would have found the largest plants or palm trees to hide behind at Tamra’s party before cameras surrounded them, catching instinctive eye-rolls and frantic – but flailing – signals for rescue.

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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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