Evans Vestal Ward/Bravo
September 16, 2011 at 04:00 AM EDT

The last thing one expects from any of the Real Housewives series is sincerity. Thus the four-minute mourning segment tacked on to the start of the second-season premiere of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills to address the suicide of Russell Armstrong was as hopeless an attempt at good taste as suggesting to Taylor Armstrong, Camille Grammer, Kyle and Kim Richards, Adrienne Maloof, and Lisa Vanderpump that they might want to go easier on the surgical enhancement and the ostentatious jewelry.

All of the women except for widow Taylor gathered together. They said Russell’s death was ”heartbreaking” and that they never saw ”any sign of this,” and Kim offered that Taylor ”wasn’t aware of the financial mess [Russell] was in.” Kyle added helpfully, ”It was his choice,” and then ”For me, it’s very hard to move forward.” Then Housewives moved forward anyway — to a 42 percent rise in the ratings over last season’s premiere.

It’s unlikely that Russell’s memory will hover over the rest of the season. Story lines are already locking into place, such as Camille’s new dating life and Kim’s depressive clashes with Kyle. Pretty soon, the bubble in which these women exist in La-La Land will close over them, and fans can live vicariously through their posh lives. And that’s fine; I would never deny, for example, what fun it is to see Bravo king Andy Cohen host those raucous season-end reunion shows. But for a few seconds at least, Russell’s death brought this reality show into the real world. Grade for the season thus far: C+

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