There have been seven divorces that have occurred on The Real Housewives franchise in the five years since its premiere. The most recent casualty of this “divorce curse,” Vicki Gunvalson, blames reality TV for her marital troubles telling CNN recently, “We didn’t have 90 percent of the problems that we have now and I truly believe it is the show.” But can a television show really be at fault, or does it merely shine a spotlight on the cracks that were already present in the foundation of a marriage? Whatever the case, divorce and reality TV have gone hand-in-hand since the very first show in the genre in 1973, when PBS’ An American Family, which featured the breakup of the Loud family.
Bill & Pat Loud
It’s ironic that something as intellectually highbrow as PBS and expensive reels of 16mm film birthed what’s considered by many to be the dregs of our beer-bottle culture: Reality TV. Producer Craig Gilbert’s vision of conducting an anthropological “experiment” is something that’s still debated when discussing the genre today. With the invasion of cameras into people’s lives, are we seeing the worst of humanity or are we seeing how things really are? When the Louds were first approached about the project, they were made to believe that they were chosen because they were the “perfect” American family, which seemed to set the reasoning behind agreeing to being filmed for all reality TV families to come—an inflated sense of self and conceit in their own camera-readiness. But when filming commenced for the Louds, a mirror was held up to their lives without even seeing a single frame of their show. Perhaps it was the meddling of producers or the pointed questions they asked that helped illuminate the problems that the Louds realized they could no longer pretend did not exist. In the middle of the project, Pat filed for divorce and the drama that Gilbert had been hoping to capture on film became, well, a reality. The Louds blamed much of their problems on the series and its editing after the fact (perhaps the only people in history who could rightfully say that they didn’t know what they were signing up for with such a project). The behind-the-scenes story of the Louds’ experience with the project was dramatized for the recent HBO film Cinema Verite, at the end of which the audience learned that Pat and Bill have reconciled and at 84 and 90, respectively, are once again a couple.
Jessica Simpson & Nick Lachey
Perhaps because of the cautionary tale that the Louds provided in the early ’70s, reality TV took a break from families for a while to focus on partying twentysomethings (The Real World) and competition-based series (Survivor, Big Brother), but eventually returned its focus on the institution of marriage with MTV’s Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica in 2003. Unlike the Louds, who were vilified, Simpson and Lachey were celebrated way more than they had been in their original careers as pop singers. But after three years of marriage, the couple announced they were divorcing in 2005, just months after the last episode of their show had aired. Simpson doesn’t blame reality TV for their breakup, telling Vanity Fair, “In all honesty, I believe it did not affect our marriage because we enjoyed watching those episodes.” Lachey, however, sees it differently, telling David Letterman, “It was just so invasive that it became a problem.”
Carmen Electra & Dave Navarro
Riding on the coattails of Newlyweds success, MTV aired ‘Til Death Do Us Part: Carmen and Dave, a one-season reality show about the famous couple’s preparations for their wedding. Although they broke up less than three years after they were married, the couple agreed on one thing—reality TV was not to blame. Navarro didn’t even consider the show very realistic “because you’re not gonna be real with an eight-man crew in your house,” adding that “It’s the most realistic portrayal of…life with eight guys with cameras around.”
Shanna Moakler & Travis Barker
Desperate for more married couples, MTV recruited Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker and former beauty queen Shanna Moakler. The two seasons of their show Meet the Barkers chronicled their wedding and the birth of their second child. Barker filed for divorce just months after the final episode of their show had aired. But even though Meet the Barkers was no longer on the air, their relationship was still very much a show. Moakler infamously hosted a divorce party, featuring a tiered cake with a murdered, mohawked groom. The couple were then very publicly off-again-on-again for a few years until they finally divorced for good in 2008.
Whitney Houston & Bobby Brown
When America’s sweetheart first married R&B’s bad boy many thought it would never work. But oddly, it did—for the 14 years before they decided to open up their lives to Bravo cameras for Being Bobby Brown in 2005. In just 11 short episodes, viewers were given a very rare look into the private lives of the famous couple, and most were shocked at what they saw. Rumors had swirled about Houston’s drug addiction for years, particularly after her infamous 2002 interview with Diane Sawyer, but the reality show highlighted the couple’s loving, yet erratic behavior. Just months after the series finale, Houston checked herself into rehab and reportedly stayed separated from Brown until she had a divorce fast-tracked one year later.
Linda Thompson & David Foster
Years before they were ever on The Hills, Brody Jenner and Spencer Pratt starred in the Fox reality show The Princes of Malibu, which followed the lives of Jenner and his brother as the spoiled sons of former beauty queen Linda Thompson. The premise of the show was that Thompson’s babying of her sons caused tension in her marriage to songwriter David Foster. That tension must have been very real because Thompson filed for divorce the same month that the show premiered, causing Fox to cancel the series after airing only two episodes.
Kathy Griffin & Matt Moline
Griffin and Moline’s marriage seemed strong on My Life on the D List, but evidently, there were problems bubbling beneath the surface that caused the couple to break up after the first season of her reality show. However, they reconciled briefly and Moline was filmed for the show’s second season, but the couple divorced in May 2006, several months before Moline’s last episode aired.
Danny & Gretchen Bonaduce
If there was ever a reality show “train wreck” it was VH1’s Breaking Bonaduce. During filming, Danny fell off the wagon and began openly drinking and taking steroids. He and his wife Gretchen allowed cameras to film their couples counseling. The first episode of the second season shows Danny traveling to Mexico to promote the show, where he sees for the first time an episode featuring Gretchen getting a lap dance from a male stripper and he subsequently loses his temper. Gretchen then kicked him out of the house. The couple divorced a year later.
Linda & Hulk Hogan
The Hogans had something very rare among entertainment-industry families—a solid marriage that spanned nearly a quarter of a century. They opened up their lives for the VH1 show Hogan Knows Best in 2005 and in just two short years their 17-year-old son Nick was indicted as an adult on four criminal charges and sentenced to eight months in jail, a story surfaced in The National Enquirer in which a woman claimed to have had an affair with Hulk while he was filming his show, and Linda filed for divorce (just one month after the final episode of Hulk Knows Best aired). Hulk found out about the filing when a local newspaper called him for a comment.
Missy & Bam Margera
In 2007, Bam Margera threw caution to the wind and featured the planning and ceremony of his marriage to Missy Rothstein on Bam’s Unholy Union, despite MTV’s dismal track record with the relationships of the couples featured on its reality TV programming. In 2009, Bam was hospitalized after a four day drinking binge, which he said was sparked by his marital problems. In 2010, Bam told Howard Stern that, although they are not officially divorced, he and Missy live in separate cities and she is aware of his various girlfriends.
Jenni Pulos & Chris Elwood
Bravo’s Flipping Out is about decorator/house-flipper Jeff Lewis and his staff, who must put up with Lewis’ demanding personality due to his OCD. Two of his assistants—Pulos and Elwood—were married before they began working for Lewis. During the show’s second season, Lewis fired Elwood after a surveillance video revealed that he was shirking his responsibilities and not doing his job properly. Pulos divorced Elwood shortly after, citing the tape as “a factor in their breakup.”
Katie Price & Peter Andre
The marriage of glamor model Katie Price (aka Jordan) and pop singer Peter Andre was a match made in reality TV heaven when they met while filming I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! in 2004. Audiences watched live as the couple fell in love. It was only natural for them that they continue their relationship on television, where they had a kid, got married, and had another kid while filming several one-off reality specials and eventually a series titled Katie & Peter. After three and a half years of marriage, the couple divorced, and while their breakup was not chronicled for television, the aftermath of it was with Price’s new show What Katie Did Next.
Kate & Jon Gosselin
The breakup of the Gosselins’ marriage dominated tabloid covers for a solid year, beginning in April 2009 when it was first reported that Jon was having an affair with a local woman. Perhaps the public was so consumed by the story because, unlike most reality TV couples, Jon and Kate were not famous before their show Jon & Kate Plus 8, a relatively mundane family show which featured the Gosselins raising their children—a set of twins and a set of sextuplets. The Gosselins’ brand, success, and entire reason for being (on television) was because of their family. Watching Jon’s misbehavior—the Ed Hardy shirts, the cigarettes, the late nights, the young women, the bikini parties in Vegas, the purchase of a two-seater car when he has eight children—play out in real-life was fascinating and completely antithetical to what TLC purported him to be. Jon blamed the media for “exploiting” his children in some kind of weird power play to get more money to appear on the reality show. Ultimately, he was kicked off the show and it was renamed Kate Plus 8. For her part, Kate never blamed reality television for any of their problems, but rather Jon, for being a selfish person.
Susie & Corey Feldman
Susie and Corey were married (by officiant MC Hammer) on the season finale of The Surreal Life in 2002. The returned to reality TV in 2007 for The Two Coreys, an A&E show which was originally intended to be a light-hearted account of Corey Haim moving in with the Feldmans, but spiraled into something completely different by the show’s second season, with Haim’s drug problem overt and out of control. Many scenes showed Haim lashing out at Susie Feldman. Corey Feldman refused to continue the project unless Haim got sober. (Sadly, Haim died of a drug overdose in March 2010.) In October 2009, Susie filed for divorce.
Jeana & Matt Keough
The Keoughs have the unfortunate privilege of being the first breakup in The Real Housewives franchise after they legally separated during the third season of The O.C. version of the show. Matt, a former major league baseball player, never liked the cameras and didn’t participate very much on the show. In interview segments, Jeana shared that Matt had a bad head injury that affected this personality, and later admitted that he struggled with alcoholism. In the summer of 2009, Matt was arrested for DUI and was later sentenced to eight months in jail. After the Keoughs’ money problems became public knowledge through the show, Jeana pulled out of the series.
The Count & Countess de Lesseps
The next Housewives couple to split were the de Lesseps, from the New York City cast, which came as a shock to viewers as there were no signs of marital problems. In fact, the Count was barely featured on the show due to the amount he had to travel for work. It turns out that the couple had been living separately for years—he in Europe and she in New York—and that he had been carrying on with an Ethiopian princess, for whom he eventually left his wife.
Tamra & Simon Barney
Although theirs was the third divorce to occur in The Real Housewives universe, the demise of Tamra and Simon’s marriage was the first to actually play out fully on the show. We watched as they suffered from financial trouble, forcing them into a short sale of their home. We watched as Simon became more controlling. We saw Tamra attempt a last-ditch effort to save their relationship by unwisely having his name tattooed on her finger. Eventually, Simon filed for divorce and (along with his children) no longer participates on the show. However, the couple’s drama is still very much playing out in the public eye, as they release statements and contact the press about their alleged bad behavior.
Cat & Charles Ommanney
As part of the ill-fated D.C. cast of The Real Housewives (the first in the franchise to not be picked up for a second season) Cat’s husband had a very impressive job as the award-winning White House photographer for Newsweek. Admittedly, Charles’ job involves a lot of political skill, so it impacted his career negatively when his new wife signed on to a tawdry reality show. Before the first episode even aired, the couple split; Cat’s involvement with the show and association with the Salahis, the infamous White House crashers, negatively impacted Charles’ career. In an interview with The New York Times, Charles blamed the show for the dissolution of his marriage saying, “In a way, I was naïve and foolish to sign off on doing this. But, at the end of the day, it was innocent. I wanted happiness for someone I was in love with. I put all my reservations aside and said: ‘Go for it. Do it if it makes you happy.’ Then I regretted it. I lost touch with everyone, and mix that with my marriage falling apart and the show taking over, it was very sad.”
NeNe & Gregg Leakes
Much of season three of The Real Housewives of Atlanta focused on NeNe’s marital problems that were evidently sparked by her husband’s finances. The split seemed final, though, later in the season when NeNe learned that Gregg had given a radio interview in which he blamed his financial troubles on the amount of money that he had to spend to make NeNe appear wealthy in order to secure her a position on the show. She filed for divorce in June 2010, yet told Essence in December that she and Gregg were still legally together and living under the same roof, but hinted at the fact that they would, in fact, divorce, leading many to believe she was saving the drama for season four of the show.
Camille & Kelsey Grammer
It’s odd to think that Kelsey Grammer, a successful actor, would need or want to be involved with a reality show—particularly one that would expose his marriage, which had reportedly been sexless for many years. It’s also odd that while the show was filming, he would move to a different city and embark on an affair with a younger woman, for whom he eventually left his wife and married. But according to Camille, Kelsey had already emotionally checked out of the marriage, and pushed her into getting involved with The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills as a distraction, saying, “He thought it would be good for me to do something that was separate from us being a couple.”
Vicki & Donn Gunvalson
As the last remaining original cast member of the original incarnation of The Real Housewives, Vicki Gunvalson shocked viewers after she filed for divorce in October 2010. The news came after season five of her show, which showed Vicki and Donn’s relationship healthier than ever after the renewed their wedding vows for their 15th anniversary. Vicki blames the show for her marital problems.
Jennifer & Eric Williams
The problems that plagued the marriage of Jennifer and (former NBA player) Eric Williams—namely Eric’s infidelity and a possible love child—were broadcast on the first two seasons of VH1’s Basketball Wives. After endless talks between the couple of saving their marriage, Jennifer confirmed to Life & Style in February that she was filing for divorce, the drama of which can be expected to play out on the third season of the show, premiering later this month.
Leah Messer & Corey Simms
Messer and Simms have had a crazy two years. They became pregnant with twins after only dating for about six weeks, tried to make it work, but then broke up shortly after the birth of their daughters (one of whom is a special-needs child), all of which was chronicled on their episode of 16 & Pregnant. They reunited on Teen Mom 2, and got married in a camo-themed wedding on the season finale. However, just six months after getting married (and only three weeks after the wedding episode aired on MTV) Messer filed for divorce, making them the youngest reality show couple to break up, as well as being the shortest-lived reality show marriage.
We start with breakfast the morning after Kelly’s outrageous outbursts. Almost immediately she is back on Bethenny and calling her a COOK as though that were some kind of terrible insult. I wish ANYONE would call me a cook…I digress. Bethenny asks her what the difference is between a CHEF and a COOK. According to Kelly Chefs work in restaurants. “Just because you are catering people’s parties does not a chef make.” she tells us in her interview. Kelly then says she didn’t know and keeps talking really fast and saying things that don’t make sense. Bethenny tells her to own her comments and then assures her that everyone there is seeing that Kelly started it. I am on Team Bethenny so I was disappointed when she went that route….but Alex saved the day with a question from Simon via a text message regarding chocolate waffles.
At this route I am wondering how this episode will be. We started out at Mach4 and Bethenny is already crying. It has to get better than this. Right? Please?
The yacht pulls up in front of a huge palace that they will be staying in and they take small boats to get to the shore. They explore this place and seem to have forgotten the Ramona is supposed to have set this up. At this point there is no way that she did and only Bravo could have financed this amazing trip. I am a little jealous. Seriously.
Bethenny brought gifts for each guest; canvass bags with their initials on them packed full of goodies. I thought it was sweet. Kelly finds hers and immediately begins to complain. “It was so impersonal…” ummm…Kelly, your INITIALS are on the bag. She collapses on the bed and begins to sob. There is nothing else to do but to call JILL. Yes, JILL. She talks about nightmares where Bethenny was stabbing her and says Kelly tied to “literally claw your eyes out” and says doesn’t have double D fake tits. (but she does have a boob job so why mention that?) She breaks down crying and says it’s so gross.
Jill says she likes her so much and doesn’t want her upset. Ok…stop a sec…does anyone remember last season? When did this affection begin?
Day two- another breakfast. Romano nicely asks the cook…or is he a chef?…I will have to ask Kelly…but anyway, Ramona asks him to please make her oatmeal without salt. I loved how she asked. She was very sweet. I like her today.
Kelly shows up with a pad of paper and tells everyone they can write complaints down. She mentions fourth grade and no one seems to have a clue what she is talking about. Alex tells us that Ramona accused her of channeling the devil. That got Bethenny’s attention and she demanded (ok.. ASKED) how to do that because she seems to want to know how.
Kelly then asks them to allow her to photograph them on the beach. She tells us she is not the greatest photographer but she really enjoys taking pictures. She says she wants to give them something to see how beautiful she thinks they are….she is weird. She begins pretending she is her ex-husband. The ladies look great but I wish Ramona wore a different suit.
She starts to photograph Alex and it gets very strange. Kelly is giving her strange directions and Alex is not comfortable. She keeps saying “Johan face Alex…”….I have no idea what that means.
We flash back to NYC and see Jill skating. What is she WEARING? A full costume? The professionals are there practicing in their sweats and here is Jill is a body suit with sparkly boobs. She gets yelled at by the coach that is working with the real skaters. She is embarrassed. I am embarrassed seeing it.
Jill and Luann are having dinner and talking about why they did not go to Caribbean. Jill has to reveal that Kelly has been calling her and tells Luann that Kelly is not leaving her room…which we all know is not true…but they both laugh and snark at how horrible the other women are. apparently EVERYONE has forgotten that Kelly is insane. Jill shares that she is going to ‘surprise’ everyone and show up in St. John. Luann doesn’t think it’s a good idea. Luann gets the “Level-headed Housewife of the Week” award.
Back in the Caribbean we see the girls on the patio enjoying drinks and appetizer. Humidity is not treating their hair well. They all appear to have a glaze of sweat on them.
Kelly is talking on speaker phone to her daughter. Ramona suggests that she go in the other room and Kelly freaks out. After the call she comes in to tell Ramona that when it’s about her child then it’s none of her business. Kelly announces that the woman are “all so high maintenance. They visibly swallow their words and try to move past it. She rudely turns down an offered drink.
In her personal interview she tells us that she tries so hard to be “even keeled with them”…..that must have been edited out…and then says ‘WhenI am talking to my child, don’t even come near me because I will CLAW YOUR EYES OUT!” Ok…let’s stop her a moment. Isn’t that what she said Bethenny was doing to her? Has anyone ever had their yes clawed out? Is this really a thing that happens? Who does she hang out with?
Bethenny made all the food. She goes into the kitchen to finish up and Kelly announces that she doesn’t want to sit across from Bethenny and says she is psychotic. Bethenny comes out and says ‘Kelly if you don’t want to sit across from me, then don’t. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do..” She lists a lot of things Kelly can NOT do if she chooses including eating the food that she prepared. Sonja changes seats with Kelly while she laments how “defensive” Kelly is. And this, my friends, is just the precursor for what is about to transpire. Stop reading now if you can’t take high levels of insanity.
Kelly’s hair looks crazy. Interesting.
Ramona is really sweet and doesn’t want to send a crab cake back to the kitchen. She doesn’t want to insult Bethenny. I thought that was really thoughtful. Kelly tells us that the food was not that good. Next course is the steaks and Kelly asks for a steak knife. Bethenny takes the steak away and realizes that the steak needed to be cooked more. She takes care of it and comes back to the table. Kelly feigns concern for Bethenny.
Ramona brings up that she has not heard from Jill. Let the crazy begin…. Kelly announces that she has heard from her and announces that Jill is concerned about Bethenny and tells Ramona that it’s not abut her. She won’t let anyone else talk. She suddenly says “Welcome to Bethenny’s world and she wants to know who is asking about her.”….when anyone else speaks Kelly gets upset and then announces that “this is like white noise”…and she just keeps going. Ramona wants to make up with Bethenny about a former incident and Kelly starts saying the most crazy things “Are you guys going to make out- with the tongue?” Ramona want her to take a time out and Kelly tells her to ZIP IT…and then says “you made her cry”….maybe 5 or 8 times. She won’t stop talking. Ramona takes Bethenny aside and Kelly tells them to have their “intimate moment” and “with the tongue’….
Bethenny and Ramona are starting to think there is something wrong with her. Ya think? Back at the table Alex and Sonja are trying to reason with crazy. Girls, just give it up. Kelly suddenly says “This is Free to be…you and me…1979″….I have to wonder what happened in 1979 with Kelly. It’s safe to say that her brain stop maturing right around then. She must have been 7 or9 yrs old? Right? She then starts analyzing Alex and telling her what her opinion of her was. Alex tells her that she was afraid of getting in front of the camera and Kelly starts talking about nightmares. Alex tries to be calm with her. “let’s not over-dramatize”….toooo late. Kelly does the Catholic sign of the cross. I am wondering why she doesn’t melt.
Kelly announces that she has had nightmares about Bethenny trying to KILL HER like she has done so many times before! KILL HER??? Damn Bravo editing…we didn’t get to see any of the attempted killing. Can you imagine the ratings?
Bethenny and Ramona return. Kelly wants to talk. She tells Sonja to ZIP IT. Wow….social skills are lacking.
Kelly says that the night of the party where Alex was delivering a message to Jill she had white make up on and black eyeliner…she was a GABOOGIE….and I don’t know what that is…and Kelly says she was channeling a vampire or something. Alex needs a time out…so they leave Sonja with Kelly. Sonja says “that’s not fair.” She grabs her head and says to Kelly “You just told Alex she was kabookie in white make up…” She tried to reason with her and points out that she ruined the day with her comments. Kelly says “When you have a woman go after you in the press every single day..” Oh my…so she thinks Bethenny was busy going after her in the press? Why would she do that?
Flash to Bethenny having a validation victory party because finally everyone has seen the lunatic that is Kelly Bensimon…
Kelly says “She went after my little girl…” and starts crying. Sonja is trying to calm her.
The ladies return to the party.
Bethenny wants to calm Kelly and says that she will listen. Kelly starts talking about Al Sharpton. It makes no sense.
Kelly says she is excusing herself and she will come back to do shots. She announces ‘I am a woman and I have a prerogative”
She then ask Bethenny about the time when she ” Attacked my friend Gwyneth”….Paltrow that is. Yes, I am sure Gwyneth counts Kelly among her confidantes.
Kelly comes back with jelly beans and offering them. This is the most vivid example of crazy I have ever seen. She starts minimizing everything they talked about and suddenly says to Bethenny ” Your dad passed away and you’re here. It’s creepy!”‘ and she continues eating jelly beans. I will assume that they are not the processed food kind of jelly beans.
Ramona begins to share about her mother passing away and Kelly tells her not to talk about it.
Sonja says “The 4 of us are sane and she is crazy and we are picking on her..” I will agree with that. I also fault Bravo for this. They must know that this chick is a few fries short of a happy meal. Why film it an exploit it? That is kind of sick. I am wondering if Kelly will ever get a date after all this.
Kelly then tells them that she threw up before she came and had nightmares about Bethenny killing her. Bethenny freaks out and tells her to go to sleep because she is crazy. Kelly makes a strange face…like she just sucked a lemon or something…then pops another jelly bean. She looks confused.
Sonja is trying to calm her down and protect her. Ok, I like Sonja. This is tough. She is a new kid on the block and she is not afraid to stand up and do what is right. The ladies all seem to suddenly realize that Kelly is not playing with a full deck. They tried to placate her insanity and they are going to try to keep her safe….from herself.
Whew. That was intense. Next week looks worse. I hope I am wrong.