Even before the second season of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” completed its three-episode(!) reunion special, the rumors were already flying about who from the cast is in or out next season: Camille won’t have her contract renewed! Lisa is getting her own show! These casting decisions won’t be easy for Bravo; while the multi-woman wipeout the network performed on the New York edition excised that series’ most toxic cast members like a cancerous lesion, Beverly Hills will require trickier surgery. Maybe these unsolicited recommendations will help Bravo figure out who should stay and who should go.
Camille Grammer: Either Camille the Chameleon is saving her multiple-personality disorder diagnosis for next season or she decided to become a completely different person this time around. Gone was the ice queen whose steely facade was put to the test last year as Bravo cameras captured the dissolution of her marriage to Kelsey Grammer. In its place was the sympathetic martyr who was unfailingly genial all season–and totally boring. Guessing which Camille is real is besides the point; she has become so self-conscious about how she’s depicted that there’s no point to her continuing anymore. The one interesting thing that happened to her at the very end of the season–she got a boyfriend–played out entirely off camera; if not even that is fair game, she truly has nothing left to offer.
Lisa Vanderpump: She’s the show’s nucleus, but does she really have Bethenny-like breakout potential on her own? Doubtful. What makes Lisa so compelling is the way the other women in this cast orbit around her as she vacillates between regal condescension and den mother. To pull her out would be like replacing a planet with a black hole, destabilizing the entire production. That said, let’s hope Bravo finds a better storyline than the excruciating detail to which viewers had to experience the planning of Lisa’s daughter’s wedding. It was only amusing when kooky wedding planner Kevin Lee was on air–now he’s someone who should get his own show.
Adrienne Maloof: She continues to be exceptionally consistent when it comes to acting sensible, smart and grounded–so what business does she having being on a reality show? You could make the case that Maloof no longer belongs on Bravo but there’s two reasons you’re wrong: 1) Perhaps the wisest move the show made this year was to increase her husband Paul’s screen time because their Lockhorns-like dynamic is hilarious 2) The reunion made clear that her bond with Lisa is getting shaky, and watching that relationship unravel as Lisa seems to be forging an unlikely friendship with Brandi is the kind of love triangle on which you can build an entire season.
Kim Richards: This is a tough one. She was the consummate train wreck this season as she futilely tried to hide her addiction problems, acting erratic at every turn, which was highly entertaining. But now that she’s been through rehab, you could argue that she’s going to be as boring as Camille. That’s not going to happen though. As the reunion made clear, even a sober Kim is not exactly stable. Her return to the show would bring an element of suspense given there’s no way her effort to stay on the wagon is going to go smoothly no matter how hard she tries.
Kyle Richards: Kyle is essential because the story of the “Housewives” seems to be filtered more through her sarcastic observations than anyone else in the series. She also seems to cry on camera more than anyone else, but therein lies a weakness in her appeal: If for some reason the main source of her tears, sister Kim, doesn’t return, that makes Kyle about 50% less interesting. Perhaps after making Kyle out to be Ms. Perfect for the past two seasons, Bravo can find some cracks in the facade and shake things up a bit in her life.
Brandi Glanville: There’s probably a lot of people hoping she doesn’t return because of how polarizing a presence she was in her rookie season, but that would be a big mistake; her very divisiveness is the reason she needs to be upgraded to full-time status. The other women put her through hell but her inability to control the passageway from her brain to her mouth made her trial by fire endlessly enjoyable. If there was a weakness to Brandi, it’s that she wasn’t given much to do beyond being a pin cushion for the other women. What she should be doing is taking on the storyline Camille was meant to have but dodged: the search for a new man after a divorce. Not only will she be back, but she’s probably the future of the franchise.
Dana Wilkey: Yes, she provided the season’s biggest laughs between her $25,000 sunglasses proclamation and her game-night suck-up to Kyle Richards. But the fact that she barely had any screen time beyond those episodes is evidence enough that the chemistry just isn’t there with the other women the way it was for the other woman with quasi-Housewife status, Brandi. See-ya, Dana.
Taylor Armstrong: This is the toughest call of all. Her abusive relationship with husband Russell Armstrong, who went on to draw national headlines by committing suicide before the season began, might seem to make her a magnet for attention, but let’s take a closer look. Yes, you could make the case that there will be tremendous interest in seeing how Taylor manages to put her life back together. And she is a compelling character because there’s such a paradox at the core of her personality: She’s both an extremely emotionally damaged being and a fairly intelligent, articulate person. But there’s also huge risk here that Taylor is going to pull a Camille and act so guardedly going forward that it will negate her reason for being on the show. Nevertheless, let’s give this poor soul the benefit of the doubt and keep her on another season. But that’s just another reason Bravo should shelve Camille: It will send Taylor a message that nursing a victim complex isn’t the way to ensure longevity on the network.