Phew! Season 10 in the OC has finally come to an end. I for one had serious OC burnout by the end of the season, which is why it's taken me this long to write this wrap-up. But, I'm getting back in the habit of writing weekly features (I promise @john.grey150! Pinky.), so for this first one I'll be breaking down what made this season the highest-rated in the history of RHOC as well as what I think needs to change for next year. Plus, I reveal my pick for where the season ranks compared to the other recent seasons of Orange County.
WHY IT WORKED
- Controversial, real-life issues: Several cast members pointed to the success of the season being grounded in the real issues going on in the lives of the 'Wives. This season alone we watched the women grapple with birth (Tamra becoming a grandma), death (the unexpected passing of Vicki's mother) what it means to be a mother and everything in between. In stark contrast to last year's issues surrounding fighting over seating arrangements and off-camera games of Shag, Marry, Kill, it was a definite upgrade to see the women experiencing life-changing moments on camera. The controversy surrounding Brooks Ayers' cancer mystery also provided an entire season's worth of watercooler conversation and speculation as fans and 'Wives alike tried furiously to get to the bottom of the season's primary source of drama.
- Shannon Beador settles the score: Last season, newbie Shannon was far from my favorite addition to the show. However, as she opened up this season about her marital struggles, I saw a completely different side to her. Seeing her work to overcome the pain of David's affair put everything from Season 9 in context for me and, before I knew it, I was growing to like the OC's most holistic housewife. By season's end, I found myself squarely on #TeamShannon as I watched her friendship with Vicki implode and her develop real, genuine relationships with Heather and Tamra. I gleefully rooted for her as I read reports of the drama that went down when she stood up to David's former mistress at the USC game this fall. I'm so happy to see the Beadors' marriage in a happy, healthy place and can't wait to see more of this new Shannon next season. Plus, I could literally watch Shannon commiserate about the colonic getting stuck up her rear end on repeat for days and laugh out loud every time.
- The trip to Tahiti: This year's getaway to French Polynesia served as a bridge between the season's two distinct chapters before and after the death of Vicki's mother. Though it occurred earlier than usual, I found the vacation to be a great mix of cultural experience and not-too-heavy drama. Particularly in hindsight, it was entertaining to watch the women debate about the role of a stepmother, who broke girl code and swim in shark-infested waters before the season was hijacked by Brooks' fake cancer crazy train.
WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE
- Meghan King Edmonds, Crusader of Justice: I have mixed feelings about Season 10's new Housewife. Yes, she came to the show ready to play and fueled drama with both Shannon and Vicki throughout the season. However, the lengths that she went to disprove Brooks in the name of her beloved "justice" - contacting his ex-girlfriends, calling hospitals and digging online for dirt - seemed to cross all kinds of lines and veered into obsessive territory. So yes, she brought quite a bit to the show, but was it the right mix of ingredients for the long run? Jimmy's been open about wanting to leverage the platform for Meghan to become the next Bethenny. Let's be honest, this seems unlikely and I don't really want to see her start hawking products left and right next season in a bid for extending her fame. Plus, there's the simple reality that she's 15+ years younger than the rest of the cast. It was annoying for her age to be constantly brought up as a criticism by some of the other women, but to put it in context, she's younger than most of the cast of Vanderpump Rules. Honestly, Meghan just doesn't seem like the most natural fit with the current cast, and by the end of the season it seemed like Shannon/Heather/Tamra vs. Vicki with Meghan kind of stuck on her own on the outskirts of the cool clique. If one cast member has to go next season, my vote would have to be Meghan and her headband collection to get the boot by simple process of elimination.
- More than one storyline, please: The fake cancer storyline dominated the second half of the season and yes, it was controversial and buzzed-about, but by the time the season was over it was like beating the rotten corpse of a long-dead horse. I was sick of hearing about it, I was sick of writing about it, I honestly never wanted to hear the words "cancer" and "Brooks" in the same sentence ever again. However, the issue could've been been less frustrating if there had been anything else going on between the women to balance it out. But by the end of the season, it was everyone against Vicki, and it dominated every lunch, every event and every conversation. Yes, Heather was building her mansion, Shannon was fixing her marriage and Tamra was finding Jesus, but next year there needs to be more interpersonal conflict going on besides having everyone gang up on one person for literally 12 straight episodes and beyond into the press and several WWHL one-on-ones.
- Potential cast shake-ups: Speaking of cast changes, it's one of the few inevitabilities of the Housewives universe. Rumors circulated following the reunion that Heather, Shannon, Tamra and Meghan had banded together and were refusing to film with Vicki. However, Heather claimed otherwise on the premiere episode of her podcast, while also admitting that she has no desire to film with Vicki until she gets what she feels is a real, sincere apology. However, I'll put it out there right now that I believe strongly that Vicki needs to stick around for the next season. The solution to this problem is not firing her from the show, and I think fans truly want to see reconciliation between the OG and her friends. The reality is that these friendships are real and have grown over years of time filming together. The women need to give Vicki a genuine chance at redemption - maybe not Meghan but the other three for sure. Plus, I'm a strong believer in the fact that every show in the Housewives franchise needs an OG in the cast at all times. Vicki's earned her spot in the last 10 years and shouldn't be going anywhere. If anything, I predict that the show will add one new Housewife (possibly even a returning OG) to the cast for Season 11 and keep everyone else. Also, while we're on the topic, more Lizzie please! Relegating the Sun Kitten CEO to Friend of the Housewives status just isn't enough screen time for my liking.
- Season 8: To me, the eighth season serves as the high water mark for the OC in terms of pure entertainment value. The cast was perfect and the season's storylines carried over from the previous year to give viewers a real sense of closure on the Gretchen/Alexis chapter. The addition of Lydia McLaughlin as a rare sixth Housewife was the perfect fit and the return of Lauri Peterson ushered in the new era of old Housewives returning to the franchise. Also, there's no denying that the visual of Vicki Gunvalson screaming "I HAVE NEVER BEEN WITH MULTIPLE PARTNERS IN MY LIFE!" at the top of her lungs while dressed as a snow bunny on the slopes of Whistler was pure Housewives gold worthy of being inducted into Bravo's Hall of Fame. The season also gave us what I consider to be the best, most dramatic reunion in RHOC's history - rainbow of dresses included. Plus, Malibu Country. That is all.
- Season 7: This season ushered in the Golden Age of Orange County. Heather Dubrow joining the show added the class and real wealth as well as a brunette voice of reason the show so desperately needed. It's a season I love re-watching and it gave us plenty of classic Housewives moments including the "pretentious intervention" of Alexis Bellino in Costa Rica, the 80's bunco party explosion between Vicki and Gretchen, the introduction of Brooks as the OG's shady boyfriend and what has been arguably the best season finale in OC history (#BowGate and evil eyes anyone? "YOU WERE MY FRIEND, MY SOULMATE, MY SISTER!"). The current success of RHOC can be traced back to this groundbreaking and memorable season.
- Season 9: Losing Gretchen, Alexis and Lydia was a bit of a rest for the franchise and moved the show in a new direction. However, Shannon Beador and Lizzie Rovsek were definitely the right replacements for the departing veterans and the Canadian newbie. After a slow start, the season really picked up at Shannon's Christmas party with drama between Heather and Tamra and Heather and Shannon, which eventually led to the epic "take the Beadors down" clash between Heather and Terry and Shannon and David. The scandal surrounding David's email (and affair) added real weight to the season and the trip to Bali was a gorgeous, exotic experience that left me aching to visit.
- Season 5: Three words will explain my love for this season: Loony Lynne Curtin. Plus, this year was the end of Jeana Keough's time as a Housewife, introduced Alexis to the series and featured the 'Wives running around in masks at Vicki's sleepover TP'ing Jeana's house. We watched Lynne and her family get evicted from their home, Tamra's marriage to Simon implode and the girls take a weekend getaway to San Francisco. Easily the best season of early, pre-Heather Orange County.
- Season 10: To be honest, I'm still burnt out from this season and need more time to recover from the fake cancer disaster that took over the season like an actual cancer. This low ranking is subject to change after some more time away, so don't hold your breath. The reunion certainly didn't need to be three parts, but that third and final installment had me breathless on the edge of my seat for the entire hour.
- Season 6: The sixth season was a major weak spot for the franchise. Peggy Tanous was boring and it was nausea-inducing to watch her and Alexis fight over Jimmy the Chin Bellino and one-up each other season long. Equally gross was being subjected to Tamra's naked bathtub make-out session with Eddie. That and her lesbian fling with Fernanda Rocha are both things I don't ever want to relive. Tamra throwing a glass of wine at Jeana in the finale is often cited as an epic moment in Housewives history, but I found it to be forced and inauthentic. Just my opinion.
- Seasons 1-4: At this point, the early seasons of the show all kind of run together as the series getting its feet under it. Memorable moments include Tamra and Vicki plotting to get Gretchen "naked wasted" in Season 4, Vicki's family van tirade, the Bass Lake controversy surrounding Gretchen's relationship with Jeff, the OC Angels smackdown and Lauri's fairytale wedding to George Peterson. Oh and obviously the classic moment where Vicki showed up at Michael's frat house to surprise/humiliate him in front of his college friends. Classic Vicki moment right there.