I can't say I'm looking forward to the second season premiere of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills." It is, of course, the first episode of the show since the suicide of "Housewives" husband Russell Armstrong, and the idea that the show is kicking off with a post-death powwow sets my teeth on edge. Bravo certainly didn't have a lot of choices in how to deal with Armstrong's death, but I have a sinking feeling that plunking the housewives into a room together to share their feelings about the death of a man none of them seemed to like very much is going to set a dismal tone that simply can't mesh with a show that is, for the most part, a breezy, guilty pleasure.
As suitably somber mood music plays, the housewives and their husbands gather at Adrienne's house for the Big Meeting. Mauricio tries to share his feelings, but when he mentions feeling angry (a pretty normal response), Kyle is quick to steer him onto a more PC path by reminding him no one could know the depths of depression Russell was feeling. As weepy and earnest as everyone is, there's a feeling of restraint as well. For once the housewives seem very aware of the cameras and are on their best behavior, which may be wise but is never particularly watchable. Though Kyle makes a good point about Beverly Hills being so money-obsessed that finding himself broke might have just been too much for Russell, he's not really the focus for the housewives. For the most part, their sympathies are squarely with Taylor. Even Lisa, who has never been much of a fan, tells the group that Taylor will need their support now more than ever. Everyone nods, teary-eyed. Even in death, Russell is quickly shoved into the background.
The powwow is not as terrible as I thought it might be, but there's not much time for anyone to say much of anything, either. In less than four minutes, the program cuts to a screen informing us that the show was filmed before Russell's suicide and we're quickly moving on. I wasn't hoping for a Very Special Episode dedicated to Russell, but I am surprised that he's dispensed with so quickly.
Still, it's jarring when we move on to Lisa and her daughter Pandora joking around at the hair salon, Lisa gently pressuring her daughter to go ahead and get hitched to her boyfriend Jason. But as Kyle mentioned earlier, life goes on, and apparently so does reality TV.
Back at Lisa's house, Jason pops in to ask Ken for permission to marry Pandora. Well, I guess that means we get a big wedding episode at some point. I can't say I'd be too excited about this in any case, as Pandora hasn't really been much of a character on the show, but the post-suicide meeting has had exactly the jarring, discordant effect I suspected it might.
Meanwhile, Kyle is packing up her house as the family prepares to move to new digs. It gives her a chance to moon over baby pictures and tell Mauricio he better not throw out any of her stuff. It seems we're easing into the "RHoBH" storylines at a glacial pace this season. It just makes me wonder if these scenes were quickly tossed in so that producers could cut out scenes featuring Taylor early in the episode.
Kyle and Kim cry about how unhappy their relationship has been since the blow-out in the back of the limo last season. Kim can't forgive Kyle, though Kyle keeps calling her. Man, this is shaping up to be a really depressing episode overall.
In other bummer news, Camille unpacks a shipment of stuff that her ex, Kelsey Grammer, has sent to her. She's donating the designer shoes and baby gear he's sent her, and she reveals that she and Kelsey don't communicate except through a mediator. But she's adjusting to being alone and starting to like it, and she's looking forward to downsizing. With only two kids and herself, she doesn't need five acres of land! Did she really need five acres of land when it was her, her husband and two kids? Did Kelsey require a great deal of grassland or something? Did he graze and we just didn't know that about him?
We're quickly moving on to Adrienne. Adrienne and her husband Paul have always had a cute-bicker kind of relationship, but it doesn't seem so cute anymore. She's ticked off at him for not helping her set up the dinner party she's planning that evening. Plus, she can only take Paul in small doses. In fact, though she'd like to spend more time with him, she doesn't think she could handle it. This does not bode well for Adrienne and Paul. If any more marriages break up on this franchise, I really think they'll need to retitle the series "Divorcees of..."
While Kyle is shopping for an outfit to wear to Adrienne's dinner party, Taylor rushes in to tell her she just saw Cedric, Lisa's deposed houseguest. She's terrified to say something to Lisa! She's worried Lisa will be mad at her! Suddenly Taylor's fun piece of gossip about seeing Cedric devolves into a therapy session. Taylor thinks Lisa doesn't like her. Taylor thinks Lisa judges her because she doesn't have as much money as Lisa. Wow, is that horribly, sadly true, given what we now know. Kyle tells her she needs to speak her mind and not worry about Lisa or anyone else. And she needs to get rid of anyone in her life who doesn't let her speak her mind. Oh, oh no. This is true, of course, but this comment could easily be applied to Russell, and it seemingly was at some point. I'm finding it a little difficult not to look at Taylor and think of tragedy.
Anyway, back to Adrienne and Paul. They're still bickering. But Adrienne is excited, because she now has her own purse dog, so Lisa and little Giggy can suck it, more or less. I am a little unnerved that these women are getting into a battle of the purse dogs. Combine that with the fact Adrienne and Paul will be serving $2,200 bottles of champagne at dinner and I think this is both enviable and one of the reasons why other nations hate America at the same time.
Finally, all the girls gather at Adrienne's. They're going to watch an episode of the now-canceled "Bleep My Dad Says" in which Camille had a small role. Kyle and Camille seem to be playing nice with one another, and (shocker!) it almost looks as if everyone is going to play nice over dinner! Yeah, it won't last.
And in fact, it doesn't, though the evening goes to the dogs rather literally when Giggy and Jackpot snarl at one another. Don't little dogs know that they're about as intimidating as coin purses?
The evening kicks off with the screening, and everyone is suitably impressed with the fact Camille can emote and open her eyes very, very wide. Then, after bitching about how she hates it when her guests can't behave themselves, Adrienne gets into it with Paul at the dinner table. Even after Lisa begs them to stop, which would shame most people into behaving themselves, they keep bickering. Anyone want to start a betting pool as to when they break up?
Adrienne finally stops berating Paul long enough to make a toast. Ahem, a toast in which she extends an olive branch from her front yard and asks her guests to be peaceful and loving. She does not seem to think this is the least bit ironic.
The olive branch gets passed around, and Kim and Kyle hit each other with it. Adrienne suspects they're sweeping their problems under the rug. Maybe Adrienne and Paul should sweep their problems under the rug, at least when they're having a DINNER PARTY.
Uh-oh. Sad music begins to play. As everyone talks about their relationships, Taylor tells the table she and Russell are in so much psychotherapy she's sick of herself. But it's been good for her. She's finding her voice. Camille thinks it's admirable that Taylor and Russell are working on their marriage through therapy, since Kelsey never gave her that option. Kyle advocates therapy. But Ken pipes up to say he would never go to therapy. Taylor looks hugely uncomfortable. Ken thinks seeing a therapist for marriage counseling is weak. Taylor is now insulted. So, Taylor does what she usually does, which is to run to the bathroom and wait for someone to console her. And by someone, I mean Kyle.
And yes, Kyle goes to find Taylor. Taylor is weepy because Ken hurt her feelings. She's trying to keep her family together. Kyle tries to be encouraging. She wants Taylor to speak up for herself!
Lisa "drops in" so that the three of them can share an awkward moment. Taylor sniffles. Lisa reapplies her lip gloss. I'm just waiting for Taylor and Lisa to get into a tug-of-war over Kyle so that one can finally be named Kyle's Official Best Friend. It hasn't happened yet, but it will.
Kyle does back to the dinner table, and she and Ken get into it. Instead of saying "You'll have to ask Taylor why she's pouting in the bathroom," Kyle tries to let Ken know that Taylor's is offended by his condemnation of marriage therapy. Ken's upset that Kyle says Taylor is "offended." Offended is a big word, according to Ken. Really? Offended? Big word? For someone who carries around a little dog that's dressed like a person, you'd think Ken would have bigger ones.
Adrienne is not thrilled when Ken lets Giggy drink out of his champagne glass. Then, Kim is grossed out when Ken drinks out of the same glass when Giggy is done. I'm with Kim and Adrienne on this one. Do what you want in your own home, but don't let your freak flag fly at your neighbor's house.
Lisa abruptly declares that she and Ken have to leave and makes a feeble excuse. But the truth is, she's not liking the whole Kyle/Taylor thing. We can expect some sort of Lisa/Taylor throwdown in the future, but because it's Lisa, it will be a very British, very polite throwdown which will, despite not being terribly loud, still cause Taylor to crumple into a wad of wet, insecure Kleenex.
To end the episode, we get a promo for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, just in case any of us had completely forgotten about Russell. Don't worry, Bravo, we don't forget that easily, even if you secretly want us to.
Although I found the hastily taped Big Meeting at the beginning of the show ineffective (although very effective in setting a depressing tone the rest of the show never completely shook), I can't say this episode was quite the mess I expected it to be. However, I'm not sure how much more I want to see of Taylor talking about her marriage. It's a sad reminder that there is no marriage to repair anymore, and I can't imagine anyone who knows her (and especially not Taylor herself) can stand to watch this footage. Unfortunately, a very grim reality has intruded on reality TV, and I'm not sure how much I (or viewers) can take.
What did you think of the episode? Do you think Bravo edited the show effectively? Has Russell's death affected how you view the show?