The wheels are in motion for filming to begin shortly on Season 6 of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. While original Housewife Kim Richards' future on the show has been in question for some time, another casting bombshell has made its rounds in the mainstream media this week. Apparently Brandi Glanville, the show's resident bad girl and self-proclaimed "Truth Cannon", won't be returning as a Housewife for Season 6. Now, I normally don't take much stock in casting rumors, but the story has been picked up by the likes of E! News, Us Weekly and People, which tends to provide a degree of legitimacy to the news. If the gossip is true (so far, it remains unconfirmed by Bravo), the biggest question is this: what in the world will Beverly Hills look like without Brandi Glanville stirring the pot? But before I can answer that question, let's look back at Brandi's last four years on the show.
Brandi can, and should, be given credit for being the entire reason the franchise has Friends of the Housewives. And rightfully so. Sure, New Jersey had Kim G. and Kim D. and NYC had Jennifer Gilbert for a hot second during Season 3, but no Friend of the Housewives had ever made as much of an impact as the former Mrs. Eddie Cibrian. Originally introduced during Season 2 as a friend of Adrienne Maloof (isn't that bizarre to think of now?), Brandi quickly found herself in hot water with the 'Wives due to her unfiltered mouth and provocative behavior. A former model and the scorned wife in the tabloid-ready cheating scandal between her husband and country singer Leann Rimes, Brandi somehow managed to unleash the ladies' inner mean girl attitudes. And at first, as she crutched her way into Kyle's charity cocktail party on a broken leg and a stiletto, it was easy to feel sympathy for her. That is, until she opened her mouth. Within just a few episodes, Brandi had managed to offend the ladies at Adrienne's barbecue by claiming they all thought she was a "super-slut", and caused the epic Game Night blow-up with the Richards sisters when she accused Kim of "doing crystal meth in the bathroom all night."
With such a polarizing introduction, it was pretty much downhill from that point onward. Brandi hosted the disastrous Beach Party from Hell in Malibu and spent the rest of Season 2 making enemies out of half the cast - namely Kyle, Taylor and Kim. Even fellow Friend of the Housewives Dana Wilkey tried to square off with her, but the social climber with the penchant for flashing her money ($25,000 sunglasses, anyone?) was no match for Brandi. At Lisa Vanderpump's party for the opening of SUR Lounge, she had one of the waitresses ejected from the party because the girl turned out to be one of her ex-husband's many mistresses. By the time the Season 2 reunion rolled around, Brandi had managed to entrench herself at the center of many of the season's conflicts, and spent much of the reunion taking Kim's absent place on the couch next to Camille.
For Season 3, Brandi essentially traded places with Camille - being the first (and only) Friend to be promoted to full-time Housewife status while the reformed fan favorite from Season 2 took a voluntary demotion. Brandi's mouth managed to get her into even more trouble when she turned on Adrienne by revealing a Maloof family secret involving the surrogacy of two of Adrienne's children. The resulting feud between the two former friends, complete with threats of litigation and Adrienne not appearing at the reunion, became the primary conflict of the season as the other 'Wives chose sides between #TeamBrandi and #TeamAdrienne. (The issue was so personal that Adrienne and Paul demanded that Bravo edit out the bombshell on-screen, so fans only discovered the surrogacy secret through the media once the season had finished airing). In addition, Brandi cozied up to Lisa Vanderpump throughout the year, and her new role as the Brit's sidekick drove a wedge between Lisa her now-replaced best friend Kyle. Falling back into her role as a scorned wife, she also confronted Scheana Marie, the SUR waitress from the previous season, regarding her affair with Brandi's husband, which officially kicked off Lisa's spinoff, Vanderpump Rules. Without the absent Adrienne to duke it out with, Brandi spent much of the Season 3 reunion defending her friendship with Lisa and attacking Kyle, going so far as to claim that the brunette would be secretly happy to see her sister Kim fail in her sobriety.
Brandi started the fourth season as a member of the self-proclaimed Dream Team with Lisa and Yolanda, but slowly turned on her British BFF for Lisa's perceived manipulation of her. The storyline provided a falling out that we hadn't seen the likes of since the days of Jill vs. Bethenny. She led the charge to villainize Lisa, rallying many of the other 'Wives to her side and accusing Vanderpump of trying to plant tabloids about Kyle's marriage in her suitcase to Puerto Rico. The drama culminated in a dinner party siege against Lisa and her husband Ken, who fled the table and the island after feeling ganged up on by the other women. Her former BFF wasn't the only person Brandi spent the season clashing with. While she bonded with newbie 'Wife Carlton Gebbia over their dirty mouths and love of sex, Brandi seemed to have it out for the season's other newcomer Joyce Giraud de Ohoven. Whether she was refusing to call Joyce by her given name ("Joyce is a big fat pig!") or making racist comments when she didn't want to swim ("Oh, so you're like a black person!"), Brandi simply kept digging herself deeper and deeper into a hole when it came to the newbie. Eventually, Joyce called Brandi out for being a bully and claimed the resident bad girl needed rehab for alcoholism. At the reunion, Brandi continued to antagonize Joyce - comparing the former Miss Puerto Rico's outfit to an Olympic figure skater ("Sochi's calling!"), while tearfully expressing her desire to make up with her former BFF Lisa.
When the recently-concluded fifth season began, Brandi seemed to have turned over a new leaf. She had become good friends with Kim, was back on friendly terms with Kyle and was desperately trying everything she could think of to mend her rift from the previous season with Lisa. As fans watched the former friends tentatively dance around each other, one couldn't help but wonder if we were finally seeing a new, calmer Brandi. However, she just couldn't keep a lid on her bad behavior for long. At a dinner with Yolanda and new Housewives (and acclaimed soap stars) Lisa Rinna and Eileen Davidson, Brandi irrationally decided to throw a glass of wine in Eileen's face when the Emmy winner wouldn't reenact a scene as Kristen DiMera, her villainous character on Days of Our Lives. The childish tantrum left Eileen fighting back tears (not to mention soaked in pinot) and the other women flabbergasted at Brandi's random lashing out. Later in the same episode, she also managed to drunkenly insult R&B since Babyface with words that are better left out of this blog at a dinner party at Yolanda's. However, the real issue of the season became Brandi's close friendship with Kim, which drove yet another wedge in Kim's relationship with her sister Kyle. Following the altercation between the three at Eileen's ill-fated Poker Night, Brandi spent the rest of the season in Kim's ear, claiming to be a better support system than her sister and trashing Kyle any chance she got. Unfortunately, the manipulations worked on a vulnerable Kim and led to her choosing Brandi over Kyle, causing a seemingly irreparable rift in the sisters' once-healed relationship. At the same time, Brandi was talking out both sides of her mouth, being supportive to Kim in her presence while discussing her need for help with others when she wasn't around. Additionally, her fragile peace with former friend Lisa Vanderpump imploded when Brandi playfully slapped her during the cast trip to Amsterdam. By the season finale, all the 'Wives except Kim and Yolanda had had enough of Brandi's behavior, and she found herself in the familiar position as a villain at odds with most of the cast.
If she's really been let go, what will RHOBH look like without her? I've gotten so used to Brandi's antics over the years that it's almost difficult to remember what Beverly Hills was like without her. But there was definitely a time when the show functioned without her. Season 1, the only season without the unfiltered blonde's presence, was arguably the most successful debut in the entire Housewives franchise. The first season finale broke records with 4.2 million viewers tuning in to see how the breakout hit would end, so we know the show certainly works without her. It's impossible to speculate, but I think it's safe to say that Beverly Hills would be a more peaceful place without Brandi bringing the drama. I've also always felt that her status on the show has brought the general level of class down a notch or two. While the other ladies appeared refined, elegant and ridiculously wealthy, Brandi played the potty-mouthed misfit who seemed to have inadvertently stumbled her way into the 90210. As a struggling single parent, she simply didn't exist in the same tax bracket as the other 'Wives and couldn't conceivably live the same type of lavish lifestyle as her co-stars. (Let me pause and just say, this is not at all a criticism of Brandi's socioeconomic status. It doesn't make her less of a person or less worthy to be on the show - just that she seemed to be somewhat of a forced fit into the social circles of Beverly Hills.) There's also something to be said that the two weakest seasons of RHOBH - 3 and 4 - were also the two where Brandi was smack in the middle of the drama. Arguably, Season 3 has held up better with time but in my opinion, Season 4 is best left forgotten. So while Brandi may have infused the show with conflict, confrontation and a few other c-words, maybe it's a question of good, better, best and something even more amazing is on the horizon.
Downsides are also glaringly evident about Brandi's potential departure. Whether you loved her or hated her, there was no denying that Brandi made for good TV. While some fans may be singing from the rooftops that she's finally gone, taking her out of the equation means having to find another villain to root against. Brandi's exit would leave a vacuum in which the other 'Wives couldn't just simply exist, particularly if her two biggest allies - Kim and Yolanda, who's currently battling Lyme disease - don't return either. The reality is that the women who are confirmed to be returning so far - Kyle, Lisa V., Lisa R. and Eileen - all generally like each other and get along. They're really friends. So unless one of them turned a complete 180, producers would have to find new ladies to create conflict with the veterans, a la Shannon Beador in RHOC's Season 9. I simply don't see Kyle playing the bad guy and Lisa V. took her turn as the scapegoat of Season 4. Lisa R. may be kind of impossible to put in a bad light (I mean, the woman shattered a wine glass all over Kim and I was still rooting for her) and I genuinely don't think Eileen has a mean bone in her body. So it would have to be someone new, and whoever that person is, Brandi has left some giant stilettos to fill. All in all, a Season 6 without Brandi Glanville would be the start of a new era in Beverly Hills. And with the show coming off of its best season in years, it's a chapter I can't wait to start.