After nearly eight years and seven seasons, the NY Housewives finally got their 100th episode special! This was something I actively stressed about when Bravo aired the special for RHOA reaching the same milestone but billed one of the Turks and Caicos episodes as RHONY's 100th. The RHONY special was formatted the same way as the Atlanta ladies' but was actually a half hour longer, which I was more than happy about. It turned out to be a fantastic and surprisingly emotional look back on the first 100 episodes in the Big Apple.
In the Beginning
The Real Housewives of New York City debuted on Bravo almost eight years ago on March 4, 2008. When it was in development, the show was originally titled Manhattan Moms, and Ramona actually found out about it through her doctor, Sharon Giese, whom we've seen multiple times on the show. Many of the other 'Wives were cast through OG Jill Zarin including Bethenny Frankel, Luann de Lesseps and Sonja Morgan. (Interestingly, Sonja was offered a spot on the show during Season 1, but turned it down, eventually joining two years later.) One of the most fascinating parts of these specials is getting to see clips from the women's original casting tapes and NYC didn't disappoint. The Season 1 casting took place in 2007 and was filled with memorable soundbite - from Alex and Simon calling themselves "label junkies" to Luann referring to herself as "five different women." (Sonja's narcissism was evident from the beginning as she told the camera that glamour was a well-used word in her vocabulary and her lifestyle was incomparable to many plebeians in the U.S.)
Unfortunately, two original Housewives are missing from the special. Bravo reached out to Jill, who apparently declined the invitation to be interviewed, while Alex and Simon moved to Australia last year which provided obvious logistical challenges. Jill did offer a short written statement in which she said she was "proud to be a founding member of such an exclusive group of talented women" - which certainly did nothing to carry on the rumors of bad blood between her and Bravo ever since her last one-on-one with Andy (where she secretly recorded the interview to 'protect' herself from bad editing).
The ladies first impressions of each other were as different as their personalities. Ramona thought Bethenny was a "tough a**" while B understandably thought all the women were cuckoo. The most polarizing cast members for viewers and Housewives alike that first season were obviously Alex and Simon. Ramona admits she wasn't welcoming to them because she resented their codependent relationship and found them "very awkward and strange." Bethenny didn't understand them - cut to her iconic line about Simon being in the midst of a deep homosexual panic, while Sonja says that Alex took her a while to understand, but that she loved her "bohemian ways and Brooklyn style." The Countess is by far the most diplomatic, saying that certain parts of Alex were very sophisticated, the couple's relationship was a special kind that seemed to work for them and she hopes they're happy in Australia. Love them or hate them, and I'm an unapologetic Alex fan, I've always thought Alex and Simon made for great TV.
The other Housewife who got quite a bit of backlash in the show's early days was Luann, whose haughty Countess persona didn't go over too well with some of the women. Luann refuses to make excuses for it, because she was simply used to a different life. However, Bethenny is quick to point out that Luann was very non-Countess-y in her off-camera life, but came on the show to let all the women know how aristocratic she was. One of the most ingratiating moments during Season 1 was when Luann corrected Bethenny for introducing her to a driver using her first name. It's, like, Mrs. de Lesseps, darling. Luann claims she wasn't used to being addressed by her first name; that's not the way they roll in Europe, but Bethenny thought she was just being a "pretentious bi***." Ugh, I'm with you B.
The first new cast member to join the show was Kelly Killoren Bensimon in Season 2. Jelly Bean Kelly tells Andy that she actually didn't watch the show before joining because she wanted the world to see the real her. She also surprisingly says that the first cast member she clicked with was Ramona, who was the only one to ask her about herself or her kids. The Ramonacoaster, however, sees it much differently - if the only thing you can talk about are kids, makeup and clothes, it's not going to be a deep connection.
Then there's Kelly's Season 2 clash with Bethenny. The model claims she didn't even notice the Skinnygirl until Bethenny made the infamous "Madonna" dig at the meeting for the charity event the Housewives were throwing together. The tiff ultimately led to the "I'm up here, you're down here" sit-down at the Brass Monkey, which Bethenny describes as watching this person in front of her saying something she had no idea would be hurtful to every put-down nerd who wasn't cool in Kelly's high school cafeteria. However, Kelly claims she was merely trying to say she was an adult who wouldn't put up with any of Bethenny's "childish" behavior. I don't think that's how it came across, Kells.
Much like Vicki in the OC, Ramona admits that she has a hard time when new cast members join the show. Surprisingly, out of all the women over the years, she had the hardest time connecting with Season 4 addition Cindy Barshop, whom she was friendly with off-camera but became her arch-enemy once she joined the show. And that, ladies and gents, is the first and last time Cindy will be mentioned during this special. As for the Season 5 shakeup, Ramona found Heather to be less than genuine while describing Carole as "quiet and surreal" and Aviva as a "fun, sophisticated Uptown chick."
The Season 5 Reboot & Beyond
Interestingly, Andy was the one who personally cast Carole on the show after discovering she was a real-life princess at a dinner party thrown by Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos. I love that in her 2012 casting tape, Carole describes NYC as being her lover because the Big Apple has everything she could want in a lover: glamour and elegance mixed with a naughty, seedy side. Kristen may have the style aspect on lock, but Radzi is the living, breathing embodiment of a real-life Carrie Bradshaw. Heather actually got a cold call from producers at her desk at work. In her casting tape from 2011, she looks very serious and intense while talking about how tough you have to be to get to the top.
I for one was surprised to learn that Aviva had originally auditioned for the show back in 2010, which would've been for either Season 3 or 4, but didn't get cast the first time around. (Also, her insensitive Sonja/Anna Nicole Smith comparison originally came from that casting tape as well.) It was actually Bethenny who got Aviva on the show by convincing Andy that a woman with one leg and an ex-husband who'd slept with two other Housewives would be a good fit. Beverly Hills lightning rod Brandi Glanville was responsible for getting her friend Kristen cast for Season 6, while Ramona tirelessly recruited Dorinda for Season 7.
Jill vs. Bethenny
Next, Andy asks which argument was most shocking in the history of the show and the collective answer is Jill and Bethenny's friendship-destroying feud during Season 3. Bethenny explains that the fight went deeper and wider than anyone could've expected, and points out that even Andy and the network were worried about its implications. However, the show went with what really happened. If it was scripted, fans would've gotten the happily ever after where the two became BFFs again. Bethenny explains that the turning point in their friendship occurred when she was asked to guest host the Today show, which at the time was the biggest deal in the world for a reality star. When she arrived at the studio, she was told by producers that Jill had called and angrily demanded to know why she hadn't been offered the gig, saying she would've been much better than Bethenny. Then, the show started filming Season 3 and Jill immediately went for the jugular, attacking Bethenny for not visiting her husband Bobby when he was in the hospital.
At this point, a lightbulb went on in Bethenny's head: this was "one cunning bi***." Jill had waited until cameras had started rolling to deliberately go after her and try to take her down. Bethenny posits that it was Jill's plan to get America to hate her, and it completely backfired in her face - Jill became the villain everyone hated and Bethenny came out on top in the feud. The Skinnygirl points out that it must be hard for Jill to know that she was the one responsible for getting Bethenny cast on the show and now B's become unequivocally the most successful Housewife in the history of the franchise. Jill could've been along for the ride, but as Bethenny says, pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered and that's just the way it goes. Andy asks if there was a chance for reconciliation between the two at the emotional Season 3 reunion, but Bethenny says she knew all of Jill's tears were just theatrics. Today, Bethenny doesn't hold any animosity (could the same be said for Jill?) but Jill still isn't someone she would want in her life. That chapter is officially closed.
Aviva's Leg Throw
The next topic of discussion is Aviva's infamous leg throw in the Season 6 finale. Carole says she wasn't surprised and sees the dramatic moment as Aviva's attempt to get the spotlight back on her after being absent for so much of the season. Radzi thinks she had been wanting to throw that leg for two whole seasons. Andy once again asks Aviva if she walked into the party planning to throw her prosthesis and she finally cops to the moment being contrived. Apparently, she even told a producer beforehand that she was thinking of doing it, depending on how she was received by the other women after their trip to Montana. Her cast mates don't see the leg throw in quite the same light as Aviva. Heather calls it the most cringeworthy moment of the series for being so obviously set up, while Luann remembers thinking at the time that it would be Aviva's swan song as a Housewife. If you take it that far, you're on your way out the door. After leaving the party, Aviva remembers wondering if she overdid it. Andy asks her as such, to which Aviva responds, "I think I made great TV. You're welcome."
Pirate Booty in St. Barth's
The conversation then turns to cast vacations, and while the women are split on which was their favorite trip (Morocco! Montana! Turks and Caicos!), what really needs to be discussed is the Season 5 trip to St. Barth's, a.k.a. Slutty Island. Specifically Luann and the pirate. This horse has already been beaten to death but the story goes that Luann knocked on Heather's door at 3:30 in the morning with a Pirate of the Caribbean in tow. The next morning, the Countess raced back to Heather's room before the cameras got there, asking her to perpetuate this story about Luann being with her "Italian friends." Heather promised she wouldn't say anything, but if Luann wanted to lie, that was on her. Lie she did, and like any untruth, the story snowballed and ended up being carried on for way too long.
One of the other 'Wives found out how Luann really got home that night from the driver and then invited the pirate to dinner the next night in an effort to throw her under the bus. It was then that she truly dug her own grave - getting busted on camera asking another friend in French to lie for her. In hindsight, Luann admits that she panicked, forgot she had a mic on and says the call was what really made her look guilty. Heather sees this as a "DUH!" moment. After all, Luann had been on the show for half a decade at this point. How do you forget you have a mic on? Heather also points out that French isn't that hard of a language to translate; maybe Swahili would've been better! Once she found out she'd been busted, Luann had to call her then-boyfriend Jacques off-camera to explain the story - a call she says was the pinnacle of embarrassment. When asked, Luann denies that the pirate incident was what led to the end of her relationship with Jacques the following season, but it certainly didn't help matters.
Next under the microscope is Scary Island, the Season 3 trip to St. John's that to this day goes down as possibly the most infamous trip in Housewives history. Originally, the trip was supposed to serve as a kind of bachelorette party for Ramona before she renewed her vows, but got hijacked by Kelly having a jellybean-fueled, Al Sharpton-misquoting, complete emotional breakdown. Even now, Kelly maintains that she was a victim of "systematic bullying" on the trip and Luann agrees, saying that the other girls bullied the model until she snapped. The incident was so serious that Ramona even called Jill, asking her to come meet Kelly at the airport because something was seriously wrong. Ever paranoid, Jill thought it was some type of set up for the show, which prompted Bethenny - who wasn't even speaking to Jill at the time - to grab the phone and get the gravity of the situation through Jill's head. The next day, Kelly boarded a plane with a producer and the girls were all sure she would be checking into a psych ward somewhere.
Naturally, Kelly sees the whole situation differently. While the other 'Wives say she had a breakdown, Kelly says she was just crying. She also purports that the entire situation basically ruined her reputation. It's hard to come back from crazy - it doesn't exactly brand well. Once the episode aired, Kelly found that she was suddenly toxic. No one wanted to be associated with the crazy girl from the Real Housewives of New York. Bethenny thinks that Kelly is an extremely fragile, sensitive person who wasn't cut out for the rigors of reality television. From her perspective, Kelly couldn't take the heat in the kitchen and tried to excuse her behavior by claiming that the other women ruined her reputation. I think it's safe to say that we'll never fully understand what happened on that island.
After Ramona and Luann spend a segment mourning their respective divorces (don't ask me why Luann turned her chair around to cry...), it's time to talk about our favorite thing: reunions. Carole accurately describes the reunions as a "sh**show," with Andy asking a question and everyone trying to answer at once. Sonja hits the nail on the head by saying that reunions are the time when each Housewife wants to show all the other women up and get justification that the way everything happened during the season was the way SHE thought. For Carole, the toughest reunion moment was Season 6's BookGate, with Aviva's relentless, nasty attacks on her writing career. Heather claims the Season 5 reunion was her most memorable, while Dorinda says her first reunion experience during the just-completed Season 7 went better than she expected it to. Bethenny proclaims Ramona as the queen of the reunion - she was the first to walk off a reunion in Season 1 and the first to fall asleep in the middle of one six seasons later. Bethenny points out that the issue that caused Ramona to walk off in Season 1 - discussion of Alex's nude photos surfacing on the internet - seems like small change now that Housewives have broken into the White House, gone to jail and f***ed their friends' husbands. Ah, the rosy days when the biggest issue to deal with was a naked picture on the internet...
All About the Benjamins
Bethenny credits RHONY with starting the "I am woman, hear me roar" movement of the Housewives franchise. More than any other city, the New York ladies have always been the most ambitious, driven and business-minded. Andy points out that the NY Housewives promotion is often times out of control. Never before had the franchise seen fights over branding and logo placement on a step-and-repeat. More than anyone, the show has documented Bethenny's meteoric rise in the business world. A few years ago, she was driving around Montauk in a shrink-wrapped Skinnygirl car and trying to give out muffin samples in the supermarket. What a difference seven years makes. Talking about the gift Bravo has given her, the Skinnygirl breaks down in tears, grateful she's been able to inspire so many viewers around the country to believe they can accomplish anything. That's what fans talk about when she meets them: not the fight she got in with Ramona last week, but how she inspires them and is a good role model for their daughters. There's no question that Bethenny has used the Housewives platform wisely. She went for her dreams and got them, and now she's rich, bi***.
Many of the 'Wives say they don't have a single moment they regret on camera. However, Carole's biggest regret is the comment she made in her Season 5 interview about Sonja and the pirate. She won't repeat it, but Andy reminds us that she said they went up the butt in St. Barth's. Thank you Andy. Sonja is glad to hear it from Carole, and says that she even got a three-page handwritten apology note from Writer Girl after it aired. Aviva claims her biggest regret was calling Ramona and Sonja "white trash" on Slutty Island, but mostly because it gave her her first taste of the fans' wrath on social media. Poor Aviva, people were soooo mean to her. On a side note, that trip to St. Barth's was just full of regrets, wasn't it? Ramona's biggest regret was her conversation with Bethenny on the Brooklyn Bridge during Season 3. She now recognizes that Bethenny was reaching out to her for help, but she reacted in a way that didn't embrace or help her cast mate. Crazy eyes now knows that when someone is asking you for help, it's not the time to kick them when they're down. It's a good lesson to learn, Ramona.
To wrap the special up, Andy asks each of the women how they feel about the show reaching 100 episodes. Bethenny's proud to be part of something that is part of popular culture, while Ramona claims she knew the show would be a success, she just didn't realize it would go on for such a long time. Heather points out her gratitude at being part of the modern-day soap opera and Luann explains that the show works so well because it shows a "good group of very different women with different philosophies about life. Kristen thinks the show will be remembered for the genuine friendships and for having so many OGs seven seasons in, while Sonja posits that what they'll really go down for in the history books are their fighting words, depth and ability to get ahead. At the show's heart, the women really are a sisterhood, and several of them point that fact out. The show will be timeless because of those bonds and that camaraderie and because they really are all friends at the end of the day. As Ramona points out in the show's closing moments, even though they may go at each other's throats sometimes, the common thread is that the women all genuinely care about each other. To RHONY girl power!