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By Jodi Walker
April 14, 2020 at 11:24 PM EDT
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Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills
Credit: Kathy Boos/Bravo

There are a few instances where it's wise to keep your expectations low: first dates, work happy hours, TV shows about teenagers played by 30-year-old actors, meeting a friend's new significant other whose job she's conveniently never mentioned, and in its more recent seasons, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Season 9 — which, you may recall, revolved around a small dog with four names who shall now remain nameless — was a franchise low in terms of engaging drama. And in RHOBH's season 10 premiere, the producers, editors, and cast seem to have banded together to do anything and everything possible to make us forget that season ever happened. The women are in New York for Fashion Week and it is pure chaos: there's a quick trip to New Jersey to go to a windowless go-go bar, the new Housewife Garcelle is introduced via a lengthy narrative on her vibrator preferences, there's a woman wearing jacquard Bermuda shorts attempting to hate on Rihanna, Paris and Nicky Hilton pop up at one point, Kyle has bangs and a new fashion line that she had the nerve not to call Kyle by Alene Too Part Deux…

And then, only after we've been well and fully drawn into the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink flow of this new season…

They drop that flash-forward. You know the flash-forward — the one with the headline about Denise Richards and Brandi Glanville carrying on an affair that's exposed by the rest of the cast. Yeah, that flash-forward.

It's a bold move, and oh baby, does it work. At least for this recapper, who can now barely even remember the Kyle by Alene Too 4 No One by Kyle fashion show that preceded it. When season 9 opened with a flash-forward of Kyle being booted from Lisa Vanderpump's house, it felt — even at the time — like we were attending the season's funeral before we'd even gotten a chance to see it live. Like the producers were saying, I promise something juicy is coming if you just stick with it. But nothing juicy ever came (well, except for — no, we're NOT saying her name!). Everyone just got big mad at Lisa Vanderpump and Lisa Vanderpump got big mad back and left the show, and it was all a slow, shiny form of Housewives torture.

But a flash-forward at the end of the premiere that features no less than three meals from which Denise Richards storms away from, declaring that she's "not doing this," plus lots of ominous voiceovers from Lisa Rinna declaring that they'll never see Denise again, only for Denise to show back up, sitting down to film her testimonials in the dress we've seen her talking to camera in all episode with a deranged smirk on her face … oh, that promises something very different indeed.

Because this season doesn’t just have conflict — it has a secret.

And even if it's a secret we've already technically been tipped off on because it made its headline debut months ago, watching it unfold certainly has the potential to be a wild ride. But it's still a wild ride we've got to get warmed up for, and that means heading to New York Fashion Week for the season 10 premiere.

When the women of RHOBH are in New York, it always reminds me of that scene from The Office where Michael jogs across tragic to his favorite NYC pizza joint, Sbarro — each one of them waxes nostalgic about their love for the hustle and bustle of New York City, but then never takes more than two steps outside the chauffeured van that sweeps them from place to place. However, I must admit: Erika taking Rinna, Teddi, and Denise to New Jersey to see the go-go club she used to perform in as an 18-year-old who was trying to make it big in the city, but also had to pay her rent, was not a field trip I saw coming. Erika says that they've all grown a lot closer as a group of friends over the summer, so she's been slowly opening up more, but she's nervous about how they'll react to this part of her past.

Indeed, it's an appropriate concern given the way Lisa Rinna gasps that she can't imagine Erika dancing in a bikini at this bar when she was the same young age as her own daughter Amelia. And it's like, naw lady — you need look no further than Instagram to imagine it, your girls just have the privilege of making a lot more money for their bikini performances. Rinna does at least point out that dancing in a bikini is no flashier than what she does every day on her Instagram, Denise points out that she prefers full nudity when she goes to see dancers, and I can only assume that Teddi was in the bathroom performing Hail Marys and/or burpees while this conversation was going down.

Kyle and Dorit are otherwise occupied during the voyage to Shakers because, you see, Kyle has decided to create a fashion line and debut it at New York Fashion Week. It's kind of like when Elle Woods decides to go to Harvard, except without the montage of her working hard to make it happen. Of the longtime clothing designer she's collaborating with, Kyle says, "I love animals, and I love color, and I love nature, so I will take a bunch of snapshots and send them to Shahida, and poof — it shows up in my mailbox with a sample." Basically, Kyle seems to think of herself as a Pinterest board, and Shahida a 3D printer, and as they say in the business: that's fashion, baby!

But watching Dorit have to waffle between extreme resentment of Kyle so casually throwing together a New York Fashion Week debut, while also absolutely clamoring for the deference she's shown for her fashion industry expertise from Kyle is delicious enough to tolerate staring at the many, many mumus. Also, Kyle says that she doesn't just want to sell online, she wants her clothes in "big stores, hotel gift shops, everywhere." So, like … I don’t think she has any illusions that she's designed a couture collection of caftans here.

No, we'll leave the couture to Rinna's friend Sutton Stracke, who was originally supposed to be a new Housewife but has found herself in Friend-of-the-Housewives territory by the premiere. And I think I'm … okay with that. Rinna lets us know that Sutton is real-money-rich when she meets her at Domenico Dolce's home for Sutton's personal Dolce & Gabanna fitting. When briefly left by herself in the living room, Rinna sneaks on a golden crown that's sitting out, looking very much like Rihanna teasing the Anti album. That's Rihanna, whose extremely successful Fenty line later inspires Sutton to scoff that celebrity fashion collaborations don't interest her.

Rihanna disrespect? On Andy Cohen's Bravo? I won't hear it, and I won't respond to it!

Especially given what comes out of the fitting room after Rinna has marveled at the luscious coats and dresses hanging on the racks, then excuses herself so Sutton can change … into what turns out to be a sheer pussy-bow blouse with an ill-fitting satin bra underneath and — the real kicker — jacquard Bermuda-length shorts??? Again, I shan't see it, and I shan't respond to it.

No, the new Housewife we should really be focusing on is Garcelle Beauvais. She enters the cast in a whirl of glamor with her impressive acting and modeling resume, and you just know she's a cool girl — particularly from the way Erika goes full-tilt-friendly-Erika to impress her, just like she did with Denise last season. It's a match made in cool-girl heaven: they all drink tequila neat, no lime, and love to talk about sex while Teddi titters nervously nearby with the rest of her more prudish contingent of Housewives still absent from the group, trying to throw together a NYFW show.

But in the end, it seems that the team Kyle hired actually knew how to pull off a fashion show all along, even with Kyle throwing them curveballs left and right. It's a tale as old as time: if you throw enough money at something, it will usually work out. I mean, Kyle's show still features Erika dressed in an anchor-print pantsuit meant for a fancy Florida retirement home, and Dorit appears to have just worn her own clothes from home, but definitely nothing disastrous happens, and Garcelle and Sutton even say they'd compete to wear one not-awful yellow gown. Plus, Teddi tries desperately not to walk like a horse, and by golly, she gets close enough to probably not become the next infamous Housewives runway gif.

"The show was a huge success," Kyle says in her testimonial. And then, turning wistful: "We were all so happy that day — it's actually hard to even imagine how terrible things would soon become." A title card flashes on the screen: "IN DECEMBER, DENISE STOPPED SHOOTING WITH THE GROUP." A quickly cut series of clips roll: Denise blowing up at a group dinner, saying that she's been honest; Rinna telling a producer that showing your full life on TV isn't for everybody; Denise pulling Aaron away, telling him not to say a word while the cameras are still rolling; Denise blowing up at another dinner, saying, "I'm not doing this — bravo, bravo, f---ing bravo, I'm out;" some weird original song, trilling, "Heavy is the head that wears the crown, heavy is the head that wears the crown," as Rinna demures, "Denise has a secret, and no matter what the truth always comes out."

Oh it is delicious. Each Housewives franchise has a culture, a vibe, a je n'ais ce quoi that makes it unique, and it's about time RHOBH starts pulling on the fact that they are a cast made up entirely of former and/or failed actresses. And season 10 looks like it's about to go full glassy-eyed soap opera. In the flash-forward's final moments, Kyle calls Rinna and asks if she's seen all the headlines. Said headlines flash across the screen: DENISE RICHARDS STOPS FILMING RHOBH AFTER HER PASSIONATE MONTHS-LONG AFFAIR WITH BRANDI GLANVILLE WAS EXPOSED. "If you ask me, we will never see Denise Richards again," Rinna responds.

That weird song drifts in again — "I wear my crown PROUD" — as Denise sits down on her testimonial set. "So Denise, you ready to talk about this?" a producer asks her. A head-tilt from Denise; an eyebrow raise down the barrel of the camera; a devilish smirk — CUT TO BLACK.

So, what do you think? How long will we have to wait for this mess? Have I been deceived by Oscar-worthy editing to believe that a hot pile of garbage is actually soap opera gold? Or might learning Denise's secret really be worthy of a decennial RHOB season? Sound off in the comments!

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