Queen for an Episode: Orange County is cancelled indefinitely until this show gets its shit together. As of this moment, I don’t know how it’s going to happen. The beautiful methed out paradise of Orange County has turned into an unliveable hell. Lynne Curtin didn’t die for this.
The Real Housewives of Orange County is currently in the middle of one of the most agonizing seasons I’ve ever seen of any franchise. It breaks my heart to admit it. I am a staunch fan of RHOC, in all of its incarnations. People deride it for its grimy ethos and lack of true heroes, but I think that’s the charm of it. RHOC is the Housewives answer to It’s Always Sunny…, a pitch black comedy about the moral depravity of human garbage. I loved Naked Wasted. I loved when Tamra blinded Jeana Keough with red wine. I loved when Brooks lied about his cancer. I loved when they all night-vision gutted each other in that Irish airport van. I am here for each successive new low.
But now we’ve got a two-part problem. The first part is named Vicki Gunvalson. In OC’s race to the bottom of humanity, Vicki has been the steady leader since day one. This has now presented a complication. Vicki lied about Brooks having cancer and then, in a delusional fit of impotent rage born of that humiliation, spread gay rumours about Tamra’s husband and abuse rumours about Shannon’s. Tamra and Shannon are justifiably over the entire enterprise of Vicki Gunvalson and will probably never speak to her again. This week, in episode 14 (!), Vicki and Tamra finally attempted to sit down one on one and discuss their issues. This lasted five agonizing minutes before they both stormed away from the table. This relationship, formerly the beating heart of RHOC, is toast. And you can’t make toast back into bread.
I don’t see any way this show can continue with all three of Vicki, Tamra and Shannon onboard. That sucks. All three of them at their best are top tier Housewives performers. Any of them leaving would be a real blow to the franchise. But someone has to go, and sadly, I think it’s probably Vicki. I see room for debate on this. There’s a real value in having someone who’s been with the franchise since day one, like Vicki has. She’s probably “winning” the season by conventional metrics, since most of the cast is (inexplicably!) on her side. Tamra and Shannon are being more difficult in a professional sense (I think Vicki would suck it up to make television, but Tamra and Shannon are done filming with Vicki), and Tamra especially has generated zero airable content this season.
But I think it’s unreasonable to fire Tamra/Shannon for not wanting to play ball with Vicki when that would be the reaction of any sensible human being. The shit Vicki has done is so foul that anyone refusing to work with her would be completely natural, let alone the two people most intimately affected by her betrayal. It’s certainly on the same level as Phaedra’s actions on the last season of Atlanta, for which she was instantly fired out of a fucking cannon. I think, just from an HR standpoint, Vicki kinda needs to be the one to go. That devastates me, because Vicki is basically a John Waters villain, one of the most absolutely wretched and wasteful creatures I’ve ever encountered on my television. Every Housewives city deserves one of those.
I said this was a two-part problem, and I meant it. While Housewives refusing to film together is a serious issue, it would not be so glaringly the downfall of the show with a decent sideshow to throw up a competent distraction. As it stands, there is no one in the RHOC supporting cast whose contract is worth renewing. I could maybe see a case for Kelly Dodd, who’s been boring but has done some solid image rehab and performed reliably in the past. As for the rest? Peggy is a strange combination of shifty, enigmatic, bizarre and unlikeable; her contradictions alone might make her a decent addition if not for her total inability to read as compelling on camera. Meghan grows more irrelevant by the episode. Lydia has been a colossal disappointment, brought on as some combination of peacemaker/producer tool/audience surrogate but ending up as an aggravating hypocritical bore. It’s hard to imagine they won’t gut this cast of its substantial fodder, which presents a problem when they’re already going to have to make some tough decisions about their real stars.
I don’t know what note to leave this on because I don’t have a solution for these problems. As things stand now, I would probably keep Tamra, Shannon and Kelly (not because I’m in love with her but for some sort of continuity) and rebuild the entire cast from there, but I’ll probably change my mind on that. I’m glad it’s not my decision, and equally glad I’m not the poor producer who will probably have to fire Vicki Gunvalson somewhere down the line.
Parting words: the answer to these problems is not to bring back Gretchen Rossi. I just want that recorded for posterity.