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Real Housewives

Kim Richards: A Housewives Retrospective

Glenn Rowley

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Currently in rehab and with her future on the show in question, I'll be looking back at original Housewife Kim Richards' five seasons on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills for today's Feature Friday. 

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When RHOBH premiered in 2010, Kim Richards was arguably one of the more well-known names in the cast. A former Disney child star and the aunt of socialites Paris and Nicky Hilton, she came to reality TV with a celebrity pedigree and a long list of IMDB credits. As a kid, I watched Escape from Witch Mountain endlessly at my grandparents' house, with no idea that I'd be watching this little girl with magical powers star in my favorite reality show two decades later. Throughout Season 1, we watched quirky Kim navigate a tense relationship with her sister Kyle and tangle with Taylor "Don't make me go Oklahoma on your ass" Armstrong. She also seemed to lead the least glamorous life of the Beverly Hills ladies, living in a smaller house - by relative standards, of course - as a single mom with four grown kids and no husband. By all accounts, Kim Richards was the series' underdog. She refused to jump into the middle of Kyle's instantly iconic feud with Camille Grammer 1.0 (the villain version), but wasn't afraid to tell Taylor to "go blow up your lips some more" during the original and equally-as-iconic Dinner Party from Hell with chain-smoking medium Allison DuBois. (Season 1 had a lot of iconic moments). However, by season's end, a dark truth behind the quirky facade was exposed. In the closing minutes of the Season 1 finale, years of pent-up tension and frustration between the Richards sisters escalated into a screaming match in the back of a limousine, with Kim cryptically accusing Kyle of "stealing" her house and Kyle firing back that Kim was "a liar and an alcoholic." However, at the reunion, the two sisters refused to address the allegations of alcoholism, putting up a somewhat united front of silence and sweeping the problem back under the proverbial rug.

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For a branch of the Housewives universe that was supposed to be the most extravagant, glamorous and aspirational to viewers, Beverly Hills also hid the darkest scandals of abuse, suicide and paralyzing addiction. During Season 2, Kim hit rock bottom. While concerns over Taylor Armstrong's abusive marriage and her estranged husband's eventual suicide became a primary focus for the cameras, Kim was fighting an equally dangerous, yet hidden, inner demon. After starting a clandestine relationship with the shady and controlling Ken Blumenfeld, viewers watched her spiral into a cycle of destructive behavior: missing events, arriving nearly a day late for the cast trip to Hawaii celebrating her brother-in-law Mauricio's birthday and regularly appearing under the influence during filming. An ongoing joke between the other 'Wives became counting how many times they'd all had to ask "Where's Kim?" during filming. Meanwhile, Kyle spent the majority of the season simultaneously worrying over and trying to protect her sister - most memorably during social climber Dana Wilkey's Game Night fiasco, where newcomer Brandi Glanville accused Kim of doing "crystal meth in the bathroom all night." (This, in turn, prompted the now-infamous "slut pig" comeback as the Richards sisters pulled a finger-pointing double-team to defend Kim's sobriety). However, after going AWOL for the Season 2 finale wedding of Lisa Vanderpump's daughter, Kim finally admitted she had a problem with alcohol. Voluntarily checking herself into a rehabilitation center, she was also absent during the Season 2 reunion - the first Housewife in the entire history of the franchise to miss one of the all-important sit-downs. As a result, the reunion also became an unprecedented three-part special, as Kim sat down with host Andy Cohen to give viewers some much-needed answers following her time in rehab. It was only then that she finally admitted to the world, "I'm an alcoholic."

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The arrival of Season 3 promised a fresh start for Kim. Newly sober and determined to show viewers the real her, Kim's storyline for the third season was the comeback viewers had been waiting for. As Brandi Glanville's revelation of a shocking family secret about former friend Adrienne Maloof took center stage, Kim attempted to repair her fractured relationship with Kyle, got a nose job and focused on moving forward with her life. She didn't avoid the primary drama of the season either - informing Adrienne of Brandi's betrayal (which prompted the initial blow-up between the two at an event for Mauricio's real estate firm, with the entire cast watching on in horror) and feuding with both queen bee Lisa Vanderpump and newbie Yolanda Foster at the Season 3 reunion. However, the question of Kim's sobriety once again reared its head during the cast trip to Paris, when loopy behavior brought on by a medication mixup fueled plenty of controversy over whether or not she had relapsed.

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The series' ill-fated fourth season didn't do much good for any of the 'Wives, and Kim was no exception. Still proudly sober, her storyline during Season 4 focused almost solely on her new pit bull puppy, Kingsley, and his dire need for training. The dog would create major problems in the future for Kim, with lawsuits and press reports over multiple dog bites and attacks on both neighbors and family members becoming public knowledge. But in Season 4, Kingsley was just a rambunctious puppy who hadn't yet caused a weeklong stay at Cedars-Sinai Hospital for Kyle's daughter Alexia or contributed to the giant rift in Kim and Kyle's once-fixed relationship. While the other women were fighting over racism, religion and magic spells (seriously), Kim drove around in a race car and attended a slightly creepy fan convention where aging cult enthusiasts asked her to sign autographs and pose with a life-sized "werepuppy". Basically, Season 4 is best left forgotten in the minds of fans and Housewives alike. Let's be honest, Andy Cohen probably wants it that way.

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During the just-concluded fifth season, the series reset itself with Kim playing a central role as an unwilling villain. Her close friendship with Brandi Glanville caused major friction with Kyle, and Kim's wildly questionable behavior at the now-infamous Poker Night at Eileen Davidson's had the rest of the women worrying about her sobriety yet again. Kim spent the season trying to protect her reputation, insisting the ladies were making a problem out of nothing by throwing around words like "relapse" and "intervention". After constant concern from the other 'Wives about her health and commitment to sobriety, Kim exploded during the cast's first night in Amsterdam, verbally attacking newcomers Lisa Rinna and Eileen, as well as her sister Kyle. Insinuating that Lisa Rinna's husband was hiding a dark secret and calling the ever-elegant Eileen a "beast", the night ended in chaos with Lisa R. reacting to Kim's provocations and shattering a wine glass in rage. Amster-damn indeed! As the other 'Wives scrambled away in tears, Kim turned on Kyle, accusing her of being a bad sister and not defending her like Brandi supposedly would have. By the season finale party hosted by former Housewife Adrienne Maloof, nothing was resolved between Kim and the other ladies. At the brutal Season 5 reunion, the fracture between Kim and Kyle got painfully worse, as the sisters revealed they hadn't spoken in months. As the story behind Kingsley sending Kyle's daughter to the hospital was explained, the rift between the two seemed nearly irreparable. Kim spent the rest of the reunion on the defensive, continually emphasizing her sobriety and insisting a 'slip' from Poker Night - caused by taking an unprescribed pain pill from her terminally ill ex-husband - was different than a relapse. 

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However, in the early hours of Thursday, April 16, just over 24 hours after the reunion's final installment aired, Kim was arrested at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Charged with public intoxication, trespassing, battery of and resisting a police officer, the arrest confirmed many fans' fears that the underdog of Beverly Hills had indeed relapsed in her alcoholism. While her sister and co-stars stayed largely quiet following the arrest, Kim agreed to sit down for an exclusive interview with Dr. Phil. During the interview, Kim admitted to relapsing more than once during filming, but insisted on keeping the matter a secret from her family and co-stars. She claimed the debacle at the Beverly Hills Hotel, while unfortunate, was once again the wake-up call she needed to get her life back on track. As the talk show host pummeled her with harsh judgements and unrelenting questions, I felt sorry for and defensive of Kim. Though I'd spent the majority of the season angry at her as a fan, Dr. Phil was flat out rude, arrogant and aggressive with her in such a fragile state. Once he brought her children out to stage a quasi-intervention on a situation he had no context for, Kim bolted from the interview. Since then, she's checked into a Malibu rehab facility herself, reportedly relapsed after attending her daughter's wedding in Mexico on a leave of absence and transferred to a different rehab facility upon her return home. Additionally, Kim may be facing jail time if she's convicted of any of the charges. In the last week, reports have been circulating in the media that she's been deemed a liability to the show and won't be returning for Season 6. 

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It's hard to imagine the future of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills without Kim Richards. At turns lovable, kooky, vulnerable and broken, she has provided fans with laughter, tears and everything in between throughout the years. For five seasons, we've rooted for her to succeed and celebrated her victories. Specifically, her relationship with Kyle has been a centerpiece since the series' very first episode, and siblings around the world have related to their struggles and triumphs as they've put so much effort into fixing their strained relationship. However, leaving the show may be what's best for Kim's health and future at this time. In the past, she has credited Housewives with forcing her to get sober, but the constant glare of the spotlight is a difficult place in which to find healing from years of battling her demons. Additionally, time away from the cameras may actually help her relationship with Kyle, which is arguably at the worst place it's been during the show's entire run. It's difficult to speculate that the sisters' relationship would get any better while being forced to work things out in front of the cameras and their co-stars. Stepping away can give Kim the time she needs to figure out how to move forward without being constantly placed in the dramatic and confrontational situations on the show, and simply focus on herself. Ultimately, Kim's sobriety, health and happiness are important above all else, and fans of the show will continue cheering her on - whether she's on their television screens each week or not.