I’m sure by now many of you have checked out the Hulu documentary The Housewife and the Shah Shocker, about Jen Shah’s arrest and the criminal allegations against her. From one angle, it was lovely, entertaining, and humorous. From another angle, it was a disgusting miscarriage of justice that needs to be investigated by the authorities immediately. Of course what I mean is the camera angles used to film yours truly, Dame Brian Moylan, president and founder of the Housewives Institute. There was a wide angle that captured my ascot, my brooch, and my very handsome face quite well. Then there was a close-up that did me absolutely no favors. It’s official, people: I have a face made for newsletters.
Between this new doc, the premiere of Porsha Williams’s new spinoff, the new season of RHOC, Nicki Minaj hosting the RHOP reunion, the RHOM trailer, and the finale of Winter House, the Institute is busier than Andy Cohen’s houseboy during a holiday weekend. We are going to touch on all of those subjects in this week’s missive, but before that, let us return to Jen Shah in the news!
Mention It All
Not all the news, but all the news you actually care about.
GUILTY & NOT SHAH-MAZING: On November 19, just after we pressed send on the last Housewives Institute Bulletin, Jen Shah’s “first assistant” Stuart Smith changed his plea from “not guilty” to “guilty” for three charges that were filed against both him and Shah. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and obstructing an official proceeding. The judge in the case told him that he would face a maximum of 70 years in prison when he is sentenced in early March. Others involved in the investigation who took a plea deal were only put in the slammer for five to seven years.
“I knowingly and intentionally discussed and engaged with other individuals to develop a plan or operation to obtain money by false representation by offering and inducing individuals, many of whom were over 50 years of age or older, to provide money to entities that I and others were involved with,” he told the court in a statement.
How does this look for Jen? Not fucking good. Both Jen and the show have painted these two as totally in cahoots and the best of friends and business partners. If Stuart says that he knew the companies were selling services of “no value,” which he said later in the same statement, there is almost no way Jen didn’t know either.
So far, Jen has not changed her plea in response. Actually, her lawyers filed to have the case thrown out because of the Hulu documentary The Housewife and the Shah Shocker, starring one Brian J. Moylan, Ph.D. The lawyers say that two federal agents who were interviewed in the doc made prejudicial statements against Jen, including that she first came to their attention when they were investigating a drug-smuggling ring.
I’m no lawyer, but I don’t think this defense is going to work. The doc goes into not only what we’ve seen on the show, but also more details of how Jen allegedly committed the crimes she’s accused of, and talks to a few of the victims in the case about how their lives have been negatively impacted. This may be news, but there is certainly no good news here for Jen.
CHAT-NO SHEREÉ: While Jen Shah is worried about going to prison, Shereé Whitfield’s boyfriend Tyrone Gilliams is worried about staying out of it. According to TMZ, he and Shereé broke up and aren’t on speaking terms, all because of the show. On November 6, Shereé told Tyrone she was coming from New York to Philadelphia, where he is under house arrest after being released from prison. She and the producers wanted him to film a scene with her at a restaurant, which would have landed him back in the clink because he’s not allowed to leave the house. He claims that, instead, they filmed her in Philadelphia without him and made it look like he stood her up.
In retaliation, Tyrone had his lawyers send Bravo a cease and desist from using his name and likeness in the past seasons of the show where Shereé talked about him, their relationship, and his being convicted. Tyrone is not playing around, but the reason that Bravo keeps hiring and rehiring and rehiring Shereé is because she knows how to bring the drama.
BROADWAY BABY: This item is about Ramona Singer and how awful she is. Would it be a Bulletin without at least one of those? But first we have to start with Heather Thomson, the former Real Housewife of New York City who loves to trash the show whenever she’s not on it. She did a whole spread with “Page Six” recently where she talks about how fake and forced the stories are on the show. Um, then why did you come back? (She also doubles down on seeing lit cigarettes in Sonja Morgan’s vagina while also saying the show pits women against each other, but didn’t she start this fight with Sonja?)
Also in the article, Heather says that she heard the racially insensitive comment Ramona made during filming about Eboni K. Williams. During the incident when Luann de Lesseps kicked Eboni out of her home, Ramona reportedly said, “That’s why we shouldn’t have Black people on the show.” Bravo investigated that claim, which is why the RHONY reunion was canned this year. While the investigation exonerated Ramona, Thomson says she was never contacted and she was there while they were filming.
That is not our only Ramona Behaving Badly story this week. “Page Six” had a spy spot her at the premiere of Diana: The Musical, where she sat front row and repeatedly put her drink on the stage even after being told not to and tried to get away with not wearing a mask even though it is against theater policy to go barefaced. This should come as a shock to no one. The musical is also notoriously horrendous, so at least that is one thing Ramona has in common with it.
THE $2 MILLION WOMAN: According to at least one tabloid, Kathy Hilton still isn’t filming this season of RHOBH because she’s holding out for more money. Life & Style puts the figure at $2 million, which is absolutely absurd. Kandi Burruss, currently the highest-paid Housewife, only makes slightly more than that, so the idea that Kathy could command that kind of loot is ludicrous. Also, she’s a “friend of,” so her contract would be a little bit different and it would be hard for her to command a certain sum with the way the contracts are laid out. This is Life & Style, so that should be taken with a grain of salt as big as the polyps on PK’s pink tushy. That said, whatever she asks for, they should probably just give it to her.
LOST YOUR SWAGG: NeNe Leakes has been in the press a lot lately, talking returning to RHOA and settling her feud with Andy Cohen (even though Andy has made it clear she won’t be back for the next season). What she might want to focus on instead is her business. Employees for her only Swagg Boutique, which is at a casino in Maryland, emailed photos of the emptied-out store to All About the Real Housewives and said that NeNe closed the store without telling anyone who worked there what was going on. When they arrived at work to find the door locked, they called and texted NeNe, and she left them on read.
THE LORD IS MY SHEPARD: In this TikTok by @DrewLausch that made the Housewives social-media rounds this week, he talks about a spectacular run-in with Sonja Tremont Morgan of the LGBTQ Morgans. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so just check it out.
THE HOUSEWIVES INSTITUTE SOCIAL PAGES
• Braunwyn Windham-Burke, the first lesbian on earth, has another new girlfriend. She called the paparazzi to have them photographed … I mean, she was spotted making out with “model and dancer” Victoria Brito in Miami. Brito has 1.8 million Instagram followers, which is coincidentally the number of women Braunwyn has dated since coming out of the closet.
• Bethenny Frankel’s divorce was finalized last year, but nearly a decade after breaking up, she and the ex are still fighting over custody.
• Much like RHOC newbie Noella Bergener, who filed for divorce after filming but before the show’s premiere, RHONJ’s newest Housewife, Caroline Rauseo, filed for divorce from her husband this week. Did they renew their vows or something?
• An official Institute “get well soon” to Vicki Gunvalson, who just casually dropped on a radio show that she had uterine cancer and a hysterectomy. Let’s hope she didn’t use Brooks’s cancer doctor.
• The sale on Teresa Giudice’s onyx palace fell through, so she’s relisted the house for $2.2 million. Does that mean that awful realtor has to come back on the show?
• Congratulations to Kyle Richards’s oldest daughter, Farrah Aldjufrie, who just got engaged to Alex Manos, the owner of the Beverly Hills Car Club. If you have someone in your life who enjoys watching attractive gentlemen hang out in cars, he has the Instagram for you.
• The RHOM trailer is here and she looks good, honey. Bienvenidos a Miami, indeed.
• You know how much I hate getting self-promotional (buy my book, please), but since it’s Christmastime, I just wanted you to know about a non-Housewives project I did called The 12 Gays of Christmas, where I interviewed gays about their favorite Christmas movies. There’s already episodes up with Adam Rippon and Dan Savage, and there are future episodes where I talk to Danny Pellegrino and the boys from Watch What Crappens about the upcoming Real Housewives of the North Pole. It’s free for Institute members wherever you get your podcasts. Yes, I promise I made it nice.
Does Porsha’s Family Matter?
Bravo has a spotty record with Real Housewives spinoffs. Bethenny Ever After Question Mark, the network’s second spinoff after some stupid Jo & Slade dating show, ran for only a few seasons before Bethenny was no long happy and there was no ever after (except in divorce court). We’ve seen wedding specials with NeNe Leakes, Tamra Judge, and Kandi Burruss, but none of them led to a stand-alone show. The most successful was Don’t Be Tardy, the Zolciak-Biermann clan sitcom and lip-injection infomercial that ran for a shocking eight seasons. The network’s latest attempt, Real Housewives of Atlanta: Porsha’s Family Matters, doesn’t fare any better than these other misfires.
The biggest problems are expertly delineated by my archnemesis Louis Peitzman in the Cut. He is totally right when he says the special is really damage control for her quickie engagement to Simon Guobadia, whom she first met when he was married to also-ran “friend of” Falynn Guobadia on RHOA. He’s also correct that she dipped out of RHOA in favor of this show so that she wouldn’t have to deal with her juiciest story line in years alongside the shade-meisters that are on her cast.
The whole thing seems like a rare miscalculation by Porsha, who went from not knowing that the Underground Railroad wasn’t an actual train to glowing New York Times profiles about her social-justice work with Black Lives Matter. She tries to explain the timeline of her and Simon’s relationship, claiming they didn’t get together until after he and Falynn were finished and that she and her daughter’s father Dennis were also kaput. The timeline is spelled out in various and sundried fashions, but what it boils down to is that the two were engaged either two weeks or a month after they first started dating.
Porsha says at one point, “This doesn’t look that great because people don’t have all the facts.” She thinks the hang-up is that she and Simon got together before the “judge stamped the papers” on his last divorce. Oh, no. That’s not it. We have the facts, and it still doesn’t look good. Even after Porsha and her various family members give us the facts and make the case, it still looks like they’re rushing into it way faster than they should.
Because this is a stand-alone show instead of a story line on RHOA, there is no one around to challenge Porsha to her face, so instead we see her sister Lauren and Dennis talking about how she looks like “the man-stealer of the century” behind her back. We also don’t get anyone who is Porsha’s equal on the show, no one for her to clown around with. Even though the title hints at classic sitcom Family Matters, it leaves out the most important ingredient to Porsha’s success: that she’s funnier than most Netflix stand-up specials while just standing around her kitchen.
This first episode also perfectly illustrates something that’s been concerning me about late-state Housewifery for a long time: It is entirely about social media. Porsha and her family are mad about the public’s reaction to her and Simon’s engagement online. Porsha frets that the pictures Simon puts on Insta for her birthday are too personal. Dennis and Lauren talk about whether or not Dennis should have posed for a picture with the happy couple. Porsha talks about Dennis commenting on the pictures she posted for her birthday and if Simon would be jealous. Nothing in this episode happens without being filtered through the lens of Instagram (pun intended, but I am not especially proud of it). The central drama of whether Simon should have posted the picture of Porsha’s tattoo of his middle name is resolved when she sees the comments that people made on the post and they’re happy about it.
I know that the name of the game for many Housewives is to get big on the socials so that they can make their real money through endorsements, ads, and other revenue streams, but this is a legacy media show about the primacy of new media. This is basically a making-of documentary about Porsha’s content. If that’s so important, why should we even bother watching? And why do the opinions of those online matter so much to Porsha when it seems she doesn’t even care about the opinions of those around her telling her that she got engaged to Simon way too fast? This whole spinoff, much like the engagement that inspired it, seems like something that was rushed into with hardly any substance behind it.
The Cast of Winter House Ranked From Worst to Kyle
Winter House was a little bit of an experiment to see if Bravo could chuck a bunch of people from two different franchises into a free house in Vermont for two weeks and turn it into six episodes. I think the experiment was a success, with some romantic sparks, fun partying, lots of out-of-work models, and even a few sessions on the slopes to keep us entertained. Since we didn’t get to do recaps this season, I thought we’d just go over the cast and see who we liked and who we didn’t, starting with the worst and ending with the best. (Duh, it’s Kyle.)
Andrea: Much like Paige, I was blinded by the abs, but this weak-willed caprese salad tried to show up and play everyone’s favorite influencer and then not even commit to her. Bad move, loverboy.
Gabrielle: In the finale, she says she was proud of herself for getting out of her room and meeting some new people. I don’t think she got to meet the audience at all. Not her fault, I just don’t think she’s of this world (reality TV).
Luke: It was sad enough when he dissed available and gorgeous Gabrielle in favor of very taken Julia (remember when he did that to Hannah too?), but then he pushed it way beyond comfortable. It got even worse when he decided to build half an igloo and tap some maple trees that I think might have been elms. But the worst part is that he kept shouting, “Yeah, buddy!” all season like a 2011 DJ Pauly D.
Julia: Big mistake showing up with a boyfriend. Big mistake. Huge.
Craig: Craig’s low ranking is mostly for saying he would choose cheese over oral sex. The dumbest hunk on Bravo acquitted himself nicely this season, even ending on an MCU-style extra scene teasing his future with Paige.
Amanda: I love Amanda, my rival for Kyle’s heart, but she should have spent less time meddling in everyone’s relationships and more time learning how to ski so she can fit into the Cooke family.
Jason: If the newbies were brought on as an audition for the upcoming season of Summer House, give this man a contract. A lovely voice of reason who also keeps the house in order and cooks for everyone, Jason even took on the hardest role of them all: trying to keep Lindsay satisfied.
Austen: I am not usually a fan of Mr. Kroll, but he handled his situations with Ciara and Lindsay quite well, being honest and upfront about his intentions with both. Yeah, he could have let Ciara down more easily, but his behavior was significantly better than we’ve seen on Southern Charm.
Ciara: When she can blame her messy bedroom on Paige, there’s nothing not to love about her. She can do better than Austen, for sure, but it was great to see her happier and more engaged than she was this summer in the Hamptons.
Lindsay: I don’t know how she did it, but Lindsay avoided any major activations during this whole trip. Put that together with her disastrous pass at Austen and her successful pass at Jason, and this fun and carefree Lindsay is one I would actually be friends with.
Paige: I mean, she’s funny, gorgeous, confident, and I want to be besties with her. When she said she was talking to like five hot guys in New York but not broadcasting it like Andrea, I snapped at the TV so hard I lost my index finger.
Kyle: In my mind we’re already married, so this is sort of obvious. With this trip, Kyle really solidified his place at the center of this crew. Him crying because he couldn’t find Amanda because he wants to party with her and passing out on the couch just adds to his messy charm.
My Andy-Conda Don’t Want None
Recapping parts three and four of the RHOP reunion.
Many people think that “jumping the shark” means a show going from good to bad, but actually (this is the universal symbol that mansplaining is about to begin), it’s inspired by an episode of Happy Days when Fonzie jumps over a shark tank on his motorcycle. It means a show is trying silly stunts in a desperate plea for relevance, and having Nicki Minaj serve as the host of part four of the RHOP reunion feels the closest to a jump-the-shark moment that the franchise has seen yet.
Of all the famous fans the franchise has, why Nicki? Why now, particularly when she has seen so much controversy lately? Would she really add anything to the proceedings? When Andy was talking to her backstage, he told her that, unlike him, she’s allowed to have opinions, she’s allowed to take sides. That, to me, seemed like an interesting premise, someone questioning the women who could actually hold them accountable. But once she finally got to the stage, it seemed like more of a failed experiment. She reminded me of Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globes, talking so much about how mean he was going to be that he forgot to actually do his job. Nicki came out there like she was going to be tough, but the toughest thing she said was that Ashley didn’t have a story line this season. I mean, yeah, we all knew that. It got so bad that when Nicki questioned why Ashley went on the group trip rather than staying home with her kids, even Ashley’s archnemesis Candiace defended her.
As for Candiace, I was excited for Nicki to really take her to task for her behavior this season, for how she treats the other women and all of the unnecessary and cruel remarks she makes. Instead, she just made some inquiries about the number of albums she’s sold and her use of Auto-Tune on the tracks. We’ve all seen Candiace on the show doing random phrases in a cappella like she’s possessed by the ghost of Whitney Houston. We all know she can actually sing. I’m with her husband, Chris: This line of questioning seemed not only mean-spirited but also a little beside the point. It’s not like trying to get the Countess to sing live. No one would survive that.
What I did like about Nicki, though, is that she brought a different energy to the proceedings and could get away with things Andy never could. I loved her cajoling Karen to talk about her sex life with Ray or telling Mia that she sounded crazy talking about how nice strip clubs have steak and bad ones have chicken wings. I like that she pushed on whether Michael Darby is sexually attracted to Juan Dixon (duh) and whether the ladies would have married their older husbands if they weren’t rich. Nicki approached this not as Andy — as someone trying to tie up loose ends and bring the season’s story lines to a close — but as one of the fans. She just wanted her opinions heard and her questions answered, and I thought that was a lot more valuable than any of the shade she could throw.
The other really interesting shark-jumping moment of these two episodes was when Wendy got out her huge poster of a text that Robyn sent her months before filming started. Even her ally Candiace was like, “I’m leaving,” and Gizelle expressed it perfectly: “How whack.” The “receipts” thing has been an expanding trope over the seasons, culminating in Monique’s binder from the last reunion, where she did have plenty of color-coded messages of mass destruction. What Wendy had was a nothingburger in an invisible bun with a heaping side of “no one cares.”
She was trying to explain that Robyn brought up this rumor about her husband cheating months before they filmed in Williamsburg, so she didn’t know why she was asking her on-camera what rumor they were talking about. Robyn explained she thought it was a different rumor, so Wendy’s big reveal was like Maury Povich saying that the results of a paternity test are macaroni and cheese. It just didn’t make any sense. Andy even told her that the text didn’t mean what she thinks it means.
Now that both of these things have landed with a little bit of a fizzle, let’s hope that they won’t be coming around again. We want our reunions back to normal, where the drama is coming from the women themselves and the only proof we need is what already aired on the show. The innovation fans really want is for these increasingly prolonged specials to go back to what they originally were: two action-packed specials instead of four mediocre ones.
Be still my heart for Brock Davies and the male cast of Vanderstupid Drools in their tiny little bathing suits.
Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, Season 2, Episode 11: To all my friends reading this: If I find out you spent almost a decade completely annihilating the lives of working-class elderly folks, all while also treating me like trash, I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to find your own mule to smuggle Restylane and Milanos into the slammer for you. <3.
Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip, Season 1, Episode 4: If I ever got stuck on a desert island and I could only bring two foods, they would be cannoli cream and Mario Singer’s D. Ugh, but think about all that beach sex. Okay, maybe just the cannoli cream.
Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip, Season 1, Episode 5: Ramona’s mirror monologue (“You may not like me, but I like me”) is Travis Bickle by way of Neely O’Hara. It’s honestly a little hard to watch.
Real Housewives of Orange County, Season 16 Premiere: Shannon is still mourning her house with a basketball court and twists her face up so hard on Heather’s never-ending house tour that she ends up looking like a mural that a Spanish woman failed to restore correctly.
Below Deck, Season 9, Episode 5: Fraser tells Jake he came out to his mum … after they heard a news story on the radio about someone murdering and eating people (?), and she said she’d still love him if he ate people (?!?). Sweet, I guess.
Below Deck, Season 9, Episode 6: And thus, “Sean Cody Presents: Fraser & Jake” begins.
Dean’s List for Best Comment of the Week
Highlighting the best insight from our lovely Institute members. This one is from last week’s Salt Lake City recap.
Triplej.Ferro: There’s no way Mary is a fully evolved human being. She’s more like God’s practical joke.
I Said What I Said
“You left this group of women, come back with a butt as big as Kim Kardashian’s trying to become the new Kim Kardashian, which you’re never going to be.” — Adriana de Moura to Larsa Pippen in the RHOM trailer