The world is terrifying. Politicians are failing their citizens, costing lives. But the new season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is juicy as hell, so at least there’s that.
If that news made you want to get on the table and dance for Andy—no judgment if it didn’t; if it did, come sit by me—then Wednesday’s Season 10 premiere is an entire pill bag’s worth of quarantine anti-depressants.
The reason is Denise Richards. Bless Denise Richards. The patron saint of saving struggling Bravo franchises. She who brings enough drama to nearly cast Lucy Lucy Apple Juicy from our minds completely. No former Bond Girl has ever brought this much joy and entertainment to white women sipping chardonnay with two ice cubes while catching up on their shows after the kids have gone to sleep. Keep your Oscar, Halle Berry.
It all stems from this Daily Mail report back in January: “EXCLUSIVE: Denise Richards stops filming RHOBH after her passionate months-long affair with Brandi Glanville was exposed by castmates on a trip to Rome.”
It’s a pretty attention-grabbing headline, and this is coming from a franchise that has made news over cast members allegedly faking diseases, getting arrested for drunkenly assaulting a police officer, going to jail, being deported, and throwing a fake leg across a New York City restaurant dining room.
Brandi Glanville is a former cast member of RHOBH, but is still friends with several of the women and just generally in the sphere of rich white ladies who go to events and things in Los Angeles. Denise Richards is married. Very much so. We all saw the wedding—it was filmed for the show last season.
Richards has spent the last few months in full denial, claiming she’s been faithful to her husband, Aaron Phypers. Glanville has said she has proof of their affair. This all plays out on the show. The other women gossip about it, accost her about it, and she refuses to engage in it, threatening the women—even getting Phypers involved. Bravo confirms that in December Richards stopped shooting with the group. (If I were you, I would read into the specifics of that wording.)
In a shocking turn of events, a Real Housewife appears to be embarrassed and angry over the way her personal life has been exploded by her participation on the show. That was sarcastic. Embarrassing and infuriating these women by upending their personal lives is, albeit sadistically, entirely the point of these shows. What is a shock, however, is that it’s Richards, of all cast members, who feels that way.
You see, Denise Richards usually can’t be bothered with your shit.
In her debut season on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills last year, that attitude—a bemused cool-girl shrugging off all the pettiness that is these shows’ lifeblood—ranked her as one of the most refreshing and exciting additions to the series. The events of this upcoming season, however, have proven it to be a lethal purview when it comes to reality TV.
Directly engaging with the messy stuff is what you sign up for as a cast member. You weather the brutality of having to scream and yell and toss drinks about it even when you really, truly don’t want to. Walking off isn’t the game. Hell, it’s not even the job.
Credit to the crack editing team at Bravo for finding a way, especially in Wednesday’s premiere—which, like The Real Housewives of New York City’s premiere two weeks ago, breaks the fourth wall and story-telling model in unprecedented ways—to cleverly address the Richards-Glanville drama, ramp up anticipation for the season to come, and build up the stakes at play here, both for Richards and the show.
The Daily Mail’s initial report alleged that Richards and Glanville had been seeing each other for a period from the beginning of 2019 until the middle of the year. According to the tabloid, Richards had apparently told Glanville she and Phypers were in an open marriage and she was allowed to hook up with women, which was not the case. Glanville was furious that she had been “lied to.”
A source said the affair had been major gossip in Beverly Hills: “It was the talk of Kathy Hilton’s Christmas party.” When the RHOBH cast members exposed the affair on the show, an infuriated Richards walked off set. Glanville ended the year by cryptically tweeting, “I just got 'Denised'... Seriously b***h???? You wanna play. 1-blackmail is illegal, 2-I have no skeletons in my closet (they're all on the internet), 3-slut shaming is soooooo last year.”
The money quote from that initial report: “The best thing was this was all done on camera and the show's fans will get to see it all go down.”
The trailer for the new season alone teased as much, from a glimpse of Lisa Rinna reacting in shock privately, to Kyle Richards and Teddi Mellencamp—“So they fucked?!”—to several intense group dinners (including the fateful one in Rome). Richards is seen at one point in tears, shouting, maybe pleading, “Don’t destroy my family!” Phypers accosts Erika Jayne at one point, and the couple storms off the shoot. It ends with a showdown between Richards and Rinna that has Rinna, in a delivery that belongs in the Reality TV Hall of Fame, whispering, “Oof. You’re so angry.”
And that’s just the teaser.
Wednesday’s premiere episode begins with Richards in her former glory. She’s good-naturedly mocking how silly her castmates’ priorities are as they prepare to fly across the country for New York Fashion Week. She’s back to oversharing about her sex life with Phypers, whose penis size and sexual appetite were frequent talking points last season. “We are still having sex every day, so that helps, too,” she says, talking about how they’re settling back in after being displaced by the Malibu fires. While curling her hair in her New York hotel room, she asks if he’s received the “naughty selfie” she sent him.
There’s legal drama with her ex-husband, Charlie Sheen, that she dismisses like an annoying fly. If that’s how she feels about Charlie Sheen-level drama, yet she walked off the show over this alleged affair drama? That should give you a sense of its magnitude.
Richards has vehemently denied the affair with Glanville, and has shot down any insinuation that she was in an open marriage, or had even told anybody she was. On Instagram three weeks ago, Richards posted a photo of her and Phypers from their wedding day, along with the hashtag #strongerthanever.
In response to a February People article about Richards denying the affair, Glanville responded, “Lies.” In a separate tweet, she wrote, “I just want to make it VERY CLEAR that IM NOT LYING about any statements I have made recently all will be revealed soon enough.” Real Housewives of Orange County star Kelly Dodd has said that Glanville told her over a phone call that she has text messages that prove everything.
But social media has been Glanville’s outlet to vent about Richards’ denials and the insinuation that she is lying.
At one point, Glanville said she was willing to prove everything: “I am not lying about ANYTHING that I said on housewives and I’m willing to take a lie detector test and let’s be clear I was not EVEN the aggressor!!!!” At another, she said it was more than an affair: “There is a huge difference between hooking up with someone a couple of times and having a romantic relationship with someone.”
Just this week, Glanville made a Cameo video for a fan, which was flagged by the Instagram account Bravo By Betches, in which she made an off-color joke about the alleged affair. (She also admitted to being “wasted” at the beginning of the video.)
After complaining about being trapped inside during the pandemic, she adopted a Valley Girl accent and ran through a fictional day she would have had if she was a ditzy L.A. girl.
“I went for a jog and then I went to the library for a while and I had coffee with friends and I went to drinks with friends and then I was like, ‘Fuck, you know what? Let’s get a kitten.’ And I got the kitten and I took the kitten back because I realized I was allergic to pussy. Don’t tell Denise,” Glanville said.
The joke escalated: “I’m not allergic to pussy. I’m allergic to bad pussy. I think we all are.”
Meanwhile, in the lead-up to the premiere, the other women from the series have pretty much admitted that this affair drama is real and is the source of their falling-out with Richards. Then they all did what they do best, which is take sides in the press.
There is a sequence at the end of the episode that will have you screaming.
If the goal of these shows is to manifest some sort of Dynasty meets The Real World mash-up of melodrama and voyeurism, then the editing of that last two minutes might be a new crowning achievement. It would be cruel to elaborate on what exactly happens, but, to repeat one the franchise’s most frequently employed and just-as-often retooled catchphrases, the crown is heavy, darling. And Denise Richards hasn’t exactly given up hers. Yet.