#RHONY, Bravo TV, Reality TV, RHONJ, Women

The Reality of Reality TV Friendships

I often marvel at how perplexed fans are by the demise of a “friendship” between women on reality television. While casting directors often choose people who are familiar with one another, they also look for personalities that are dynamic enough for on-camera clashes and fireworks.

Sometimes a televised kinship is just that, a business arrangement of sorts where the women go back to their real friends during the months of no filming. In other instances, like colleagues in various professions, true personal bonds are formed and cast members do get together when the cameras aren’t rolling.

However the fates of these reality TV friendships are always uncertain due to group dynamics ahead, seeing one another in new environments, and after being asked dozens of questions about the other person by persistent (and often meddlesome) producers.

Last season of Real Housewives of New Jersey, Margaret Joseph was seen bonding with Danielle Staub and this season, according to Staub’s recent appearance on The Wendy Williams Show, the two had a massive falling out during the filming months. We also had the terse and painfully tumultuous “breakup” of Carole Radziwill and Bethenny Frankel on Real Housewives of New York, that left the viewing audience taking sides. On this season of Real Housewives of Dallas, currently airing, Leeanne Locken And D’Andra Simmons seem to be falling apart at the seams. With the latter, as Locken explained on the podcast Everything Iconic With Danny Pellegrino , there had been some particularly hurtful drama when they tried to work together on a prior reality show four years ago. Until this interview, most of us were unaware of the deep wounds and buried grudges that date back to that earlier project. Having a chaotic history coated by several layers of Southern politeness may have finally brought simmering resentments to a boil.

In many of our lives – the lives of regular people who will not be featured on television – we have lifelong friends as well as people who were once friends who we’ve lost touch with. Then there are friends we’ve lost – not to death, but to life circumstances, differences in lifestyles or geographical distances.

Sometimes women become too close and confide their deepest darkest secrets and a confidence is broken. Other times, we may come to see something in a friend that compels us to pull away. We don’t have producers asking us to articulate exactly what is going on in those moments or encouraging us to hash it out. If we did, we might be able to salvage those friendships through communication we wouldn’t otherwise employ – or more likely, an all-out screaming, glass smashing row would ensue.

The point is that although we all want to be part of a Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda dynamic a la Sex in the City, the headlines about longtime colleagues SJP and Kim Catrall not being able to stand one another attest to how fraught and complicated female relationships can be when you strip away the fictional script.

As a child I always thought it would be incredible to have a huge group of friends, but today I have about 6 or 7 really close friends. According to Facebook, I have 1,361 “friends” though I think I have broken bread with about fifteen percent of that contingent.

Like Leeanne and D’Andra, Margaret and Danielle, Bethenny and Carole, I have had my own friend fallouts over the years and although they cannot compare in volatility to the televised versions, I still wish all friends and acquaintances were life-long ones.

The notion of having everybody adore you forever is a childhood fantasy. As adults, we grow and change, our priorities shift. Fallouts inevitably result from differences in politics, beliefs and the loss of commonalities we once shared.

Whether a producer is in our ear or not, intuition dictates when it is time to walk away.

(Photos courtesy of: Bravo TV/NBC Universal, Us Weekly, People)

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Bravo TV, Reality TV

#BravoTV: A “Firing” or a Resignation? Stars Are Often Saved By Semantics

I recently published a post with Rob Shuter’s intel on the Carole Radziwill departure from Real Housewives of New York.

In a nutshell, Shuter, a well known gossip columnist, shared that Radzi had been fired from the franchise. The implication was that this was as a result of some sort of “it’s her or me” ultimatum stated by cast mate Bethenny Frankel who had a major beef with her former friend.

Do I personally believe Carole was fired? No.

I think Carole was exasperated with Bethenny’s nitpicking, constant criticisms and complaints, and I think Carole decided it was optimal to opt out of (what had inevitably become) “The Bethenny Show”.

But that theory begs the following question regarding Bravo in general: “Real Housewives” do not announce a departure mid-season unless there’s a real problem, so why did Carole and the network let us know now that she wouldn’t be returning next season?

My personal contention is that Carole lost her characteristic cool at the reunion, where she blurted out that she didn’t need to subject herself to the torture any longer. After this impromptu announcement, the network may have encouraged a public statement because there were too many witnesses present at filming for this to be kept under wraps long-term.

The above is only my theory and I could be wrong…while Rob Shuter is correct, or vis versa. I don’t think we’ll get a definitive answer to this, at least not any time soon.

One thing I’ll tell you is that while Bravo has (technically) “fired” talent in the past, it most often doesn’t go down the way people would assume. For instance, it’s not similar to how it was shown on NBC’s The Apprentice (or Celebrity Apprentice): An executive isn’t pointing a finger at a Real Housewife saying “you’re fired.” More often than not, there’s a discussion that results in a “mutual decision” that things aren’t working out.

The executive might say something like “X, I see how you aren’t enjoying yourself this season. I know we’ve been asking you to tone down your weekly blog posts and not go rogue in your interviews. We’ve been demanding a lot of you and I can see how that’s really taking a major toll. I know you’re contracted til the end of next year, but we’ll allow you to get out of your contract and write your letter of resignation now.”

Bear in mind that there are also channels to go through and kinks to work out initially between the production company and Bravo the TV network (i.e. Evolution Media produces Vanderpump Rules, RHOBH and RHOC for Bravo. Shed Media produces RHONY. Sirens Media is the powerhouse behind RHONJ.)

The network would rather end things amicably and lead the discussion in such a manner that the star can declare they’ve independently made their final decision about not returning.

For legal reasons and to end off on a good note, this is a sound strategy by Bravo.

More often than not, this is how a Bravo “firing” actually goes down, with semantics on a star’s side. One particular Bravolebrity was greatly encouraged to hand in a letter of resignation last year and that individual can now say they “quit”, despite the fact that there was an exorbitant amount of tension, anxiety and breath holding until the official severing of ties.

The act of firing is a royal headache that not only involves the most influential higher-ups, but a legal department as well as personal attorneys.

While there may be no way to confirm the precise circumstances surrounding Carole Radziwill’s RHONY departure in particular…in general, most discussions that result in the parting of ways are orchestrated by ringmasters of collaborative reasoning.

These authoritative – yet diplomatic – figures are also discerning deliberators, skilled at relaying rationale so it resonates.

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Reality TV

#RealityTV: Remember, You’re Tweeting About A TV SHOW, Fans!

Robin Thicke is not the only one to identify where there are “blurred lines”…

When blind items hit the Internet, readers scramble to figure out all possible allusions. Paragraphs that are so murky can be hard to solve…unless a reader is entirely familiar with the situations – and in terms of what I frequently cover, the reality show. Lately, there have been a slew of blind items clearly pertaining to popular reality shows.

It is one thing to see oblique references on the Internet, but what about when targeted information about an individual is blasted out on social media platforms? In recent times, we’ve seen it is an effective strategy for shaming those who are in the wrong, and getting that “news” out to the masses. In this post Harvey Weinstein scandal world, the Internet has been an asset to enforcing the message that a certain type of conduct is intolerable. But what about when the Internet is used by the Harvey Weinsteins to smear victims?

Perpetrators of bad behavior are notorious for ensuring that they have a platform to spin stories negatively – in order to feed the press info that shifts focus away from their own atrocities.“The Internet is a void that everyone is screaming into,” my own father reasons, “Who in the world is listening?”

It’s clear he doesn’t believe that many people are really taking inane reports they read as truths. The problem is that people very easily believe what they read in a blog established to malign someone without merit.

We laugh at individuals who fall for National Enquirer headlines while on line at the grocery store, but we also easily witness how a false story takes off with alarming speed. And my father did not grow up with the Internet, nor does he rely on it for his work, unlike another man his age who sits in the oval office and has taken to Twitter in erratic fashion.

Covering reality television, I recently saw how viewers – more accurately, fans – escalate from discussing who their favorite characters are and trading barbs about what’s seen on TV…to hurling outlandish and abusive personalized attacks at one another.

“I said that I found Kenya Moore of Real Housewives of Atlanta to be frightening,” my friend David relates, “and suddenly I see tweets about me, including a poll, weighing in on how racist I am. I reiterate: The poll was about ME. Racist?! Because I happen to find a reality character frightening due to her intense behavior on a reality show?! How in the world did people make the stretch to ‘racist.’? I was trolled for months by these same multiple accounts. When I reported it to Twitter, an email came back saying that Twitter didn’t find the tweets abusive. I felt completely let down by the social media platform.”

A woman who chose to identify herself for this piece as “Carly” explained her similar vexations with Twitter: “I’m being taunted mercilessly by the same series of accounts because I dared to comment on a Real Housewives franchise. What ensued were below the belt tweets that included personal information about me. These sick individuals had apparently visited my other social media pages to check details. As a single mom with a very young child, I was terrified and immediately set all my accounts to ‘private’. Everyone thought I was overreacting when I contacted a lawyer and asked family members to stay at my house with my child and I for a few days. It’s insane that conversations via social media can lead to this much panic. I am still considering closing my Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts for good.”Family members have also advised me in the past to “get off social media” when I privately shared anecdotes of that nether world (I now mainly avoid doing so). I think that due to the type of work I’ve conducted over the years, predominantly in the area of marketing, I have to be on these platforms generally for outreach.

In a non-professional capacity, I love to promote the good work of my friends. Facebook and Twitter are ideal for sharing a podcast link or one to an article. It does frighten me to see how fans blur the lines between reality and reality TV on Twitter though. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed in my life. It’s also quite the phenomenon that Real Housewives franchises specifically are the ones to garner this much negative attention and breed such a level of hostility between fans who simply want to opine on a silly TV show.

Why do you think the Real Housewives inspire such a reaction in the Twitterverse?

Would you steer clear of social media if you were personally attacked?

If not, what measures would you take to protect yourself?

I would love to hear from you readers and get your individual takes. For now, try to remember that television viewing is typically described as “leisure time.” It is an experience you are supposed to enjoy and do while you’re relaxing. Perhaps it is best to limit yourself to one screen and ensure that you screen out the rest!

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