Photo Credit: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic
The suicide of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills husband Russell Armstrong on Aug. 15 has raised some serious ethical questions about reality TV, and the Housewives franchise in particular. Fans of the popular Bravo series have been anxiously wondering whether the shows will go on -- and whether, in fact, they should. Now, the network announced that they'll be making some changes to The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' second season.
"Contrary to what is being reported, we have not made a decision to change our original premiere date," the Bravo president Frances Berwick tells Variety, "but we are in the process of re-editing the show."
If Bravo is re-editing, that would appear to mean that season 2, which is slated to premiere Sept. 5, is continuing as planned. However, it's unclear what exactly the new edits will entail. Variety's sources say that Russell's fights with wife Taylor Armstrong, 40, were intended to be a "prominent storyline" this season. That could make it difficult to edit Russell entirely from the show -- although that would certainly be one solution.
People's TV critic has another solution: Cancel the show outright. In a new editorial, self-proclaimed fan Tom Gliatto argues that Bravo simply can't ignore the tragic elephant in the room.
"The death of Russell can't be treated merely as an act of God or some incidental tragedy. His suicide by hanging weeks before the premiere was intimately connected with Taylor's public and personal life," writes the critic. "It may very well be that his death would have happened without press scrutiny, without Taylor's overnight fame and the disturbing revelations about his abusive behavior, but the possibility can't be eliminated."
Gliatto points out that even if Taylor quit the show, Camille Grammer and the other housewives would need to address the issue at some point. And if she stayed on for a third and fourth season, then how could she and her family be expected to deal with her estranged husband's death?
"These aren't things that can be properly handled in a reunion show or on Watch What Happens Live," he concludes.
It's a good argument, and there's precedent: VH1 yanked not one, but two reality shows off the air after Megan Wants a Millionaire and I Love Money 3 cast member Ryan Jenkins committed murder, then suicide. It would be the most respectful route for Armstrong's grieving family. The counter-argument, of course, is that it's a popular show -- and the entire season has already been filmed.
And that's not even addressing the issue of the other Housewives shows. Right now, Bravo appears to be stalling: They've postponed filming on the next season of Real Housewives of New York. To borrow the network's slogan, we'll just have to watch what happens.