Well, season 5 of RHOBH is over, and what a roller coaster it was. From poker night and Amsterdam to gay mixers and wine tossing, the season provided an endless supply of drama, luxury and watercooler moments. In my opinion, it was the strongest season the Beverly Hills ladies have had in a number of years - possibly ever. Below I break down why the season worked so well and what needs to change for season 6:
WHY IT WORKED
- The right additions: A huge part of what made this season so successful was the addition of soap opera actresses Eileen Davidson and Lisa Rinna. After last season's trashy (looking at you, Carlton) and forced additions to the cast, Davidson and Rinna brought more class, elegance and increased visibility to the show. Before Housewives, Lisa Rinna was already a well-established face in Hollywood, with roles in everything from Days of Our Lives and Melrose Place to Veronica Mars and Celebrity Apprentice. Eileen was an Emmy-winning actress who had spent years on daytime TV playing villain Kristen DiMera on Days of Our Lives and heroine Ashley Abbott on both The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful. My mother, who has never watched an episode of Housewives in her life, knew who both ladies were from her obsession with Days of Our Lives in the '90s. (Believe me when I say that is huge coming from my mother...) Additionally, both Lisa R. and Eileen fit seamlessly into the existing group of girls. Instead of being random additions to the cast, it was nice to see genuine relationships with the veterans. (Lisa R. was a longtime friend of both Kyle Richards and Lisa Vanderpump, and Eileen was introduced to the show through her as well.) Coming into the show as friends, the new 'Wives presented a united front - backing each other up and remaining loyal through the season of drama. A yin and yang of sorts, Lisa R. was the sassy firecracker to Eileen's elegant and collected voice of reason. Thankfully, all signs point to both returning next season.
- Authentic drama: This season's storylines focused on real, authentic issues to which many viewers could relate. From Yolanda's daughter's DUI to the Richards sisters' on-going feud, the stories came out of real life as it was happening. As Lisa Vanderpump dealt with her adopted son Max wanting to find information about his birth parents, you really felt for her. As hard as it was to watch Kim and Kyle's relationship fracture yet again under the weight of Brandi's obvious influence over Kim, struggles between siblings and sobriety issues are both extremely relatable to viewers. Gone are the problems of seasons past - when the root of season 4's tabloid drama in Puerto Rico occurred entirely off-camera or when Adrienne Maloof separated herself from the cast, and even no-showed at the season 3 reunion, to avoid the conflict with Brandi Glanville that became the season's central storyline.
- Original Housewives cameos: No matter how much we love any of their replacements, there's nothing quite like seeing the original six Housewives together, and this season brought many opportunities for Camille Grammer, Adrienne Maloof and Taylor Armstrong to make an appearance. Whether reunited at Kyle's White Party, running around Beverly Hills on a scavenger hunt or Adrienne's hosting of the finale party for...something? it's always a treat to see the original gang.
- The redemption of Lisa Vanderpump: The snarky Brit considered by many viewers (but not me) to be the reigning queen bee of the show had had a rough couple of seasons prior to this year, and had been very vocal in the press and on social media that she had considered quitting the show. Now, I'll be the first to admit that my opinion of Lisa V. had soured considerably over the past couple of years, but thank goodness that didn't happen. Having spent season 4 as the show's unwilling villain, Vanderpump was left without a single ally at the start of filming. This gave her the much-needed opportunity to repair her friendship with Kyle Richards as well as make up with Yolanda Foster. Watching Vanderpump get back on the right side of the fans helped me come to an important conclusion: THE PROBLEM THE WHOLE TIME WAS BRANDI GLANVILLE! Imagine that. By aligning herself with the show's classless troublemaker, the self-proclaimed "leader of the pack" alienated viewers who sided with...pretty much any other Housewife on the show. Lesson learned, Housewives: separate yourselves from Brandi Glanville at all costs. The show's real villain is never a good choice as a sidekick.
WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE
- Kim Richards' sobriety: This is obviously a huge issue, and it's only gotten worse since the reunion. Richards was arrested at the Beverly Hills Hotel on April 16, just two days after the final installment of the reunion aired, following a drunk confrontation with police officers. Having clearly suffered a relapse in her long struggle with sobriety, Kim then sat down for a rough interview (and failed intervention) with Dr. Phil and has since checked herself into a Malibu treatment facility. Obviously, Kim's health and well-being is the top priority, so the question needs to be asked if remaining on the show is what's best for her.
- Yolanda Foster's health: For the past few years, Yolanda's struggle with Lyme disease has been heartbreaking to watch. In December, she suffered a major setback in her recovery that left her unable to read, write or articulate her thoughts. As a result, she opted out of writing her Bravo blogs during much of the season and only made a brief appearance at the reunion. While the show is an incredible platform for raising awareness about Lyme disease (Check out #TakeABiteOutOfLyme and #LymeDiseaseChallenge on Instagram), there's been no word at this point on whether Yolanda will be well enough to even participate next season.
- Cast shake-up: Every year, the cast is expected to change by one or two Housewives. Some of these changes are very welcome (buh-bye Carlton and Joyce) while others are incredibly disappointing (come back, Queen Camille!). But with Yolanda and Kim's presence on the show relatively up in the air, it's unknown whether the network will even need to replace any other cast members, as much as viewers may want certain Housewives to leave the show (ahem...Brandi).
Well that's a wrap on season 5 of RHOBH! Feel free to leave your thoughts on the season in the comments...