As anybody who read Intel Chris and Jessica’s recaps of The Real Housewives of New York City this season knows, the show has begun to really traumatize viewers. The incessant cruelty of Jill Zarin, the skittish neuroses of Alex McCord, the steady stream of judgment from LuAnn de Lesseps, the inconsistent attacks from Ramona Singer, and the downright frightening insanity of Kelly Killoren Bensimon have combined to create this otherworldly, unpleasant version of our beloved city. In particular, watching Jill bully everyone was so evocative of middle school it actually made us, the viewers, want to eat our lunch off of a tray in the bathroom to avoid getting harassed in the cafeteria.
This could potentially wreck the show. It’s not that Bethenny is always (or even most of the time) the most likable character in a given episode. (For a scientific analysis of who does “win” each episode, check out our recaps.) It’s that she is the one whose responses are often closest to that of the audience’s. She’s the first person to call out a crazy person for acting crazy, or to make fun of herself when she does something ridiculous. She laughs when we laugh (remember when she said Kelly was “a gift from Jesus to make me laugh”?), and she gets offended when we get offended (“The problem is you don’t assume responsibility for anything you do,” she once told Jill). If it weren’t for her wisecracks, the Manhattan of the Real Housewives would permanently detach from the real world and become its own Scary Island.
All is not necessarily lost: New castmember Sonia Morgan — for all her sex talk and incessantly strange lesbian innuendo — is pretty funny and sane, too. And last season, potential new housewife Jennifer Gilbert could be frequently seen practicing her eye rolls and wisecracks from her position in the wings. But neither of them have the timing or the wit of Bethenny — nor have they ever been so charmingly the scrappy underdog.
We hope that in the second season of her own Bravo show, Bethenny will develop a cast of characters around her so that it’s not just her, put-upon Jason, Cookie the dog, and whatever assistants happen to be flitting around. Not only because we really want to believe Bethenny can make friends without employing them, co-starring with them, marrying them, or dredging them up from her deep past; it’s also because we very well may have to find a new ensemble show to watch when Real Housewives becomes simply too traumatizing.