The grotesque 'Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' season premiere: Suicide and a very awkward dinner

The last thing one expects from any of the Real Housewives series is sincerity. Thus the four-minute mourning segment tacked onto the start of the second-season premiere of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills to address the recent suicide of Russell Armstrong was as hopeless an attempt at good taste as suggesting to Taylor, Camille, Kyle, Kim, and Lisa that they might want to go easier on the surgical enhancement and the ostentatious jewelry.

All of the women except for widow Taylor were gathered together. They said Russell’s death was “heartbreaking,” that they never saw “any sign of this,” and Kim offered generously that Taylor “wasn’t aware of the financial mess [Russell] was in.” Kyle added helpfully, “It was his choice,” and then, “For me, it’s very hard to move forward.” Then The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills moved forward anyway.

Mercifully snipped from the hour was a segment sent out to reviewers before Russell’s suicide: a girls’ trip to the depressing Los Angeles fixture Trashy Lingerie, a store where synthetic fabric goes to prostitute itself. There, Taylor said she was making some purchases “to spice up my love life,” to “increase the intimacy.” You were lucky you were spared this.

Did the suicide of Russell Armstrong, husband of Real Housewife of Beverly Hills Taylor, hang heavily over this episode? Of course; that was inevitable. What wasn’t was the fact that Russell’s death was the only thing that made the hour remotely bearable. When, at a dinner party thrown by Adrienne, Lisa’s husband Ken told Taylor, “If I had to go to a therapist to make my marriage better, I’d feel weak,” it was finally possible to watch this show and think something other than “Well, that was an idiotic comment.” Watching how upset Taylor became, you could wonder how much of that was genuine emotion and how much was worked up for the camera crew. You could wonder if Ken, looking at this footage now, feels any remorse for his dismissal of “weak” people, since that group now includes a dead man. You could wonder whether Russell had seen any of this as rough footage before he took his life. What I’m getting at here is that Russell Armstrong’s death had at least one effect upon the world: It brought this reality show into the real world, for a few seconds at least.

After Russell Armstrong’s suicide, there was talk in the press about canceling the new season before it started. Of course it shouldn’t be canceled. I wish I could say that the Real Housewives franchise is played out — every time I check out one of these city brands, it doesn’t matter, they’re all doing the same amount of shrieking and spending, trumping up arguments and behaving like brats. But there’s still a large audience for these shows. Fine; neither you nor I have to watch them every week. But we also shouldn’t expect that these women who behave so nonstop selfishly are going to change, even in the face of tragedy. (Lack of change: It’s one reason why for all the “drama,” there’s no real — i.e., Aristotelian — drama in this genre.)

As Regis Philbin asked so succinctly this morning on Live With Regis & Kelly, addressing Camille, Lisa, and Kyle:

“What is good about appearing on this show?”

Twitter: @kentucker

Comments (101 total) Add your comment
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  • Rupert

    Some of the housewives shows are fun to watch – this one is just sad and exasperating.

    • LOL

      TV for idiots.

      • Lucy32

        My best friend has just announced her wedding with a great man who is a cele+brity!
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      • LOL

        America loves crap.

      • quan

        i love what people said here ,I am a 28-years lady ,beautiful and mature . Now I am seeking a good man who can give me real love , my friends told me a nice place …
        —–Wealthybar.C óM ——it’s the most effective site in the world to connect with, date and marry successful, beautiful people.-Meanwhile, . It’s worthy a try. You do not have to be rich or famous.———-

    • TorontoTom

      TRASH

      • xinami1dsd

        oh amazing , Nice Holiday!!!
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        So i uploaded my h’ot photos on ~~ H0Tβlαckwhitе. ℃○M~ ~ under the n’ame of lovvvelychristy55. It’s where you have the opportunity dreaming about d’ating compatiable singles and make it true! you can have a try!
        …@@@@

        And they choose to use it to their own advantage. I hope decancy cancels all of the franchise.

      • Dionysus

        I like watching some of the real housewives episodes, they can be entertaining. I can’t watch the Beverly Hills one at all. From what I am reading about this last episode, I am glad I don’t. Lol, some of these comments are funny, next I am expecting someone to say…..”I like the sex, I am to party. You and me, we marry, no? It is worthy a try. We go to club and mate, beautiful, wealthy people, rich, and celebrities. You like, yes?” LMAO!

  • Christine

    I thought it was disgusting. They barely addressed this major issue. I had stopped watching all of the real housewives because they were horrible people doing and saying horrible things. While this show did not cause the sucide, they did play a MAJOR part in it. And they choose to use it to their own advantage. I hope decancy cancels all of the franchise.

    • puzzlr

      As he didn’t leave a suicide note, there is way to say that this show is the reason for it. I would surmise that it was his business dealings or lack thereof that were most likely to blame. I seem to recall that a business partner also committed suicide.

      • Abe Froman

        Come on! Would he have killed himself if he wasn’t about to be portrayed so negatively in front of millions of viewers? Of course the show had someething to do with his decision.

      • The Truth

        The ONLY person to blame for a suicide is the selfish person that commits it..

  • Adam

    So, waiting a minute – could you have possible written more and said less? You complain both about the lack of sincerity and the fact that REALITY (in the proper sense) is uncomfortable and discomfiting. For my part, I thought the show was tasteful and real. And I don’t think, to the first commenter, the show will be “sad and exasperating.” It’ll end up being fun…and real at the same time.

    • AQS

      I was shocked at how poorly written this column was, especially from Tucker. Regardless of my own opinions regarding the new cloud that inevitably hangs over the Beverly Hills Housewives, this piece is a mess. I think this incarnation of the Bravo crazytown franchise is the one that hits closest to reality, always walking the delicate balance between light and dark that we all experience daily.

      • Billie

        I agree with the writing of this article. Ken Tucker often can’t write. And his opinions are often way off the mark for me, like his recent article about The Help in EW. You are losing credibility Ken. Get it together.

      • cheryl

        I’ve asked it before and I’ll ask it again…how does tucker keep his job??

      • HJ

        This is Ken Tucker we are talking about people! They must have some type of “tenure” system going on at EW because this guy continues to doll out ridiculous crap on a regular basis but still keeps his job. Russell Armstrong is the ONLY one responsible for his actions because he was a selfish prick who put his own needs in front of his daughters. Blaming a T.V. show? Really? At what point do adults become responsible for their own actions?

    • Strepsi

      If you think RHOBH is “tasteful and real”, I have some Anna Nicole Smith underwear to sell you.

      • T

        Hahaha

    • kate middleton

      Yeah. And it says that Russell was Taylor’s wife. Um, proofread much?

  • Tawny

    Why on earth would anyone watch one of these shows? I can only fathom that only uneducated trash would do so.

    • Carrie

      Well, why on earth would you read an article about one of these shows and then write an insult aimed at the people who watch them? Rather trashy, no?

      • Tawny

        I read the article because my dog had to be put to sleep today. Now… don’t you feel terrible?

      • Carrie

        I think that’s the best non sequitur I’ve read in the comments in quite a while- congrats!

        You read an article about the Real Housewives with the word “Suicide” in the title and then chose to comment in a way that explicitly called all of the other people commenting “uneducated trash,” and your explanation for your rude and insulting comment is because your dog was put to sleep?

        So…I’m the one who is supposed to feel terrible?

      • Michele

        Tawny, very sorry for your loss. But I don’t see what that has to do with you coming on here and calling people uneducated trash. Why don’t you find a constructive way to channel your grief? – From Educated Non-Trash, in defense of “uneducated trash”

      • dee

        But just like it’s “Stars” the viewers are either trash or just plain stupid.

      • vader1013

        maybe we read it because the teaser was splashed on the home page. trust me- if this article had been more than a half a page, i wouldn’t have wasted a second of my time. but i did, and now i posted. and i’m still disgusted that anyone would dare to defend such brain garbage. maybe the people trashing the show and its viewers are doing so in hopes that a dose of *reality* will wake up everyone who seems to be under the spell of these self-destructive programs.

    • helenrfe

      That’s a really rude and offensive thing to say. Would you say that to someone’s face? If that answer is no then don’t put it on the internet and if its yes well… maybe brush up on manners.

    • puzzlr

      Anderson Cooper is neither uneducated or trash.

      • vader1013

        he is if he considers this brazenly disgusting behavior “entertainment”.

      • grammar police

        should be neither/ NOR …not OR
        “Anderson Cooper is neither uneducated NOR trash.”

        (Sorry. Couldn’t help it…pet peeve)

  • Gary

    I kept worrying about Paul and that hideous shrew of a wife he is stuck with. I’m sure in some way he must envy Russell Armstrong who now is at least free of his dreadul companion.

    • mama

      The couple you complain about is probably the only couple of means on the show. At least that part is not fake…

    • amydee

      And Paul isn’t hideous??? Oh please. Besides he’s a plastic surgeon. No doubt he made her look that way and he probably likes it. That said, she has the most class out of anyone in the entire franchise.

      • The Truth

        She’s ridiculous with that tinsel in her extensions. Lisa is the only one with any class.

  • henry

    Wow. “Did the suicide hang heavily” over the episode? Can’t decide if this was intentional or not. Must have been! And yes, IMO it did hang heavily. And my god, the new faces. What have they done??? (Camille and Adrienne in particular just look monstrous to me.) I guess we can assume that adrienne did not have her husband perform his miracles on her? NOT a good walking advertisement!!

    • bia

      You actually watched it?

    • Maggie

      Are you sure you were watching the right show? What were you drinking or do you need glasses!!!!

      • Natsu

        Hi Nadia, Are you looking eccsifipally for the like box? Facebook has changed a lot since this post went live. It’s a lot harder to find the link to add the like box. Try this link:

  • puzzlr

    I didn’t want to be reminded of the suicide. I wanted the women to get on with the reasons I love to watch the show.

    Adrienne and Paul arguing is not good for the show, imo. I love them as the bickering couple, but I never want to see it become nasty. It looked contrived.

    I loved the chef though. He could be the break out star this season and all he does is roll his eyes. LOL

    • Mel

      Adrienne and Paul’s stupid argument at the dinner table did seem very contrived to me also. Bickering is one thing; some couples just communicate that way. But that was rude to their guests and made everyone uncomfortable. Silly.

  • mama

    “What is good about appearing on this show?”

    What a perfect quote. The viewers who watch this fake show with women even more fake and men who are clueless, are just pawns in a game they can’t even see. The cast are made up of attention seeking whoares who are being pimped by a network for ratings. Andy Cohen is part of it too. I will never again watch one of these delusional shows with selfish and self-centered people. Reading the ridiculous comment about therapy by a man who comes from stiff upper lip England just proves a point.

    I’d love to see a show of Real Housewives who makes it work in the economy today. I am sure there are some role models out there rather than these trashy people.

    • vader1013

      my thoughts exactly. the fact that the title is “real housewives” is a direct insult to every mom who is trying to make it work in the world today.

      • KSM

        Who wants to watch a TV show about regular people? Regular life is boring and, right now, generally not fun – it’s all not enough money, too many bills, and will one of us be laid off soon. At least that’s how “real life” is for most of us. Watching some crazy super rich people act like idiots is escapism – you can look at those ladies and think, hey, they have everything and they are even worse off than I am. The reason these shows work is because people want to escape from the day to day. No one wants to watch their own life on TV.

      • Odio

        I don’t consider her a celeb and I don’t think she has any fans lol. Otherwise she woldun’t feel comfortable enough to do that. Most real’ celebs say where they were after they’ve already left or are leaving. Not while they’re still there.

    • candacetx

      Regis hit the nail on the head. If you look at the franchise: collectively, there are bankruptcies, divorces, broken relationships and now…. suicide.

      IMO, other than Maloof, Camille, and (after the fact) Bethenny, the women from these shows are upper middle class at best and pretenders to the throne at worst.

      During his life, Russell Armstrong managed to be married and divorced before and also to end an engagement — all without killing himself. I am sure that he’d also had business and financial troubles before –that he also survived.

      I think may have realized that he was married to/divorcing a woman that would sell her soul, and all of his secrets for a quick buck and a book tour.

      Plus, there is no way you can say that this show and the faux-fame/infamy that it creates was not a major factor in his decision to end his life.

      It just all doesn’t add up.

      • Huh

        Some so-called experts blame the effects of the potent cocktail of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds he was taking to control his “rage disorder”–and that he abruptly stopped taking the meds 2 weeks before his suicide. Sometimes, suicide is the ultimate expression of rage. Maybe his genetic makeup was to blame–who knows? To blame a TV show just seems a stretch–he might have killed himself even if news of his problems went no further than the town gazette, his favorite barbershop, or golf course.

      • The Truth

        Regis either has dementia or Alzheimer’s.

      • Debadri

        Thanks Wouter. I noticed the laubmr part as well. I am just unsure, if it just seems like it, because of all the layers Ib4m wearing, or if Ib4m indeed a little rounded. I will keep it in mind thought. Do you have any suggestions about the head. It really bothers me, that I canb4t keep it in line.

    • Caren

      So many dead people who is next?

  • Dave

    People who watch these shows are worse than the people who appear on them. The worst of the worst. What is wrong with you? There is so much excellent television. Watch Breaking Bad. Don’t lose yourself in this parody of entertainment. Sad.

    • johnc

      I don’t watch the real or the fake housewives. I do watch breaking bad. However, I would not compare the audiences of both show. Most of the major characters in breaking bad are pretty horrible, violent people and lack moral or conscience, even skylar, the mom.

    • Michaela

      Come on, Dave, get off your high horse. The worst of the worst? I happen to watch both types of shows you referenced, and I assure you I’m quite normal. Do you happen to watch porn like most men (and many women) do? Admit you do. What’s wrong with you? You are the “worst of the worst, sad”. What a “parody of entertainment”.

      • Robert

        Big difference – men “watch” porn for one or two minutes. No marathon needed

      • HJ

        My Lord, Dave! Relax for a minute and take a breather. I watch Breaking Bad, Mad Men, All PBS mini-series(Love them!) and all the Sunday morning political shows. I also LOVE The Real Housewives, Jersey Shore and will sometimes dabble in a little VH1 trash T.V….Everything does not need to be so cerebral. Balance is a lovely thing! You do realize that you have just taken time out of your life to peruse an entertainment website trolling for the perfect opportunity to talk down to people so that you can feel better about yourself. Awww, Dave! It’s time to get a life.

    • ‘Lish

      Let people watch whatever the h3ll they want, for chri$t’s sake. Live and let live. Maybe people aren’t interested in a show about meth. Just sayin.. To each his own.

    • Maggie

      To Dave, we have to laugh at your comment “there’s so much excelllent t.v. All we can say is you’re super easy to please, most t.v. is incredibly dull witted – BORING!
      At least these are real people and that’s why we watch.

  • Bob

    How about a “in memory of” picture of Russel at the end of the show? That would have been nice.

    • TLC

      No one wants to really remember him.

  • BH

    What was up with Adrienne and Paul fighting at the dinner table? Who does that? It used to be cute but last night it was pitiful.

    • Jesus

      Hi Anne,It was great meeting you at the Woodfire event last night. We had a wrefnodul time and enjoyed the food! Thank you for inviting us out.Love the blog, be sure to let me know the next time you bake the homemade poptars! Romeo and I will be knocking on your door.Hope to run in to you at future foodie events,Amanda

  • Betsy

    The best part of last nights show? The cook. He was hilarious.

    • jt

      Agreed. I don’t care how bad this sounds, but his hatred of Lisa is hilarious!

      • The Truth

        Lisa was right. He looks like he smells and his food tastes bad. I wonder if he has a green card?

    • Nance

      I loved his facial expressions and snide comments. Totally unexpected.

  • vader1013

    disgustingly brainless television for the disgustingly brainless. leave these women and their audiences to themselves. given enough time, they’ll all eat each other.

  • johnc

    If someone talks about trashy, one should also mention Jersey Shore. It is even more tragic to see 20′s something living like that.

  • Shamrockjulie

    Ken Tucker did you even watch (or enjoy) this show before? Your too big of a curmudgeon to get the easy breezy silliness of RHOBH I think Bravo did a good thing by keeping it on and re-editing portions. I think that this is a silly fun show that was lighthearted and the definition of guilty pleasure.I enjoyed last season and really think that they don’t need to mention the suicide anymore. It is tragic that a family was affected by this but do not forget they all signed on to be involved. To blame the show and to penalize the viewers is exactly the wrong reaction to make. Suicide is a very selfish act and the only responsible party here is the man who committed it. Not his family, not acquaintances nor the viewers. just let us have our fun RHOBH back please.

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