Real Housewives of Beverly Hills: Bittersweet Beginning, Without Russell Armstrong

We may as well start by acknowledging the massive elephant in the room, since that's exactly what Bravo did.

There was no way to kick off this second season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills without first addressing the recent suicide of Russell Armstrong, estranged husband of Taylor, one of the show's stars. The death rocked the reality TV world, and some claimed Russell's presence on the show may have played a part in his depression, forcing the question of whether these conflict-based shows have passed the point of responsibility.

Rumors swirled for weeks as to how Bravo would handle the crisis. Initially they announced they'd delay the premiere, but instead opted to keep the timeline as planned, but edit the series with a sensitivity to the Armstrongs' situation.

On August 29, Bravo gathered the entire cast of the show, sans Taylor, for a roundtable discussion of the suicide -- the footage of which was used to introduce the new season. Everyone expressed condolences to Taylor and her daughter, and a few shed tears.

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Yet within just those first few minutes of the show, Bravo, which has been criticized by some for even airing this season, made its stance clear. Towards the end of the segment, we hear fellow Real Housewife Kyle Richards express that no matter what, Taylor shouldn't blame herself. "It was his choice," she says, then repeats the sentence again. In other words, not the fault of Bravo. Kyle then adds "Life goes on. It has to." And apparently, so must the show.

And that was it. Beverly Hills was back on.

Is that exactly how things should have been handled? Considering the circumstances, what else, really, could Bravo have done? Had they chosen not to air the season, they may has well just closed shop on the whole Housewives franchise. And delaying the premiere wouldn't really have changed anything. If they believe they're in no way to blame, and the intro would lead us to believe they do, on with the madness. So there we went.

Just like last season, Kyle's got beef. Already. But its target has changed. Apparently she and Camille are now chummy chummy, if for no other reason than that they both know they looked like bitches last year. As this episode opens, though, Kyle and Kim have still not reconciled from the big "You're an alcoholic!" declaration Kyle snipped at her sister last year.

The two haven't been speaking much, but were forced to see each other at Adrienne's "comfort food" dinner party, which of course, featured the down-home cookin' of her personal chef.

Adrienne made a toast and quite literally extended an olive branch (from her backyard olive tree) as a way to hopefully kick off a peaceful dinner. Apparently this gesture didn't include husband Paul, though, since the two spent the 10 minutes preceding the speech bickering about who was more rude.

Don't you dare.
Don't you dare.

Awkward as it was, frankly, we were relieved. This is more sass than we'd seen out of Adrienne than the entirety of season one. In all honesty, we were surprised she made it back this year.

One more major snag hit the dinner party by way of Lisa Vanderpump's husband Ken. Upon Taylor's admission that she and Russell were seeing a therapist, Ken responded that, "If I had to go see a therapist to make my marriage better, I would feel weak." Quite naturally, this sent a misty-eyed Taylor to the powder room, where she was comforted by Kyle. When she returned, Ken seemed unapologetic and, in the following interview shot, Lisa defended him, making the pair look a bit like bullies.

Which led us to wonder, with cringe-worthy scenes like this still remaining in episode one, just how much was edited? Even the previews for upcoming shows didn't seem to coddle Taylor all that much. It remains to be seen just how much we'll discover about the last few months of Russell and Taylor's marriage.

Follow Ali Trachta on Twitter at @MySo_CalLife and for more arts news follow @LAWeeklyArts.


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