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RHONY is now the fourth Housewives franchise to air after filming during the pandemic. Each alternately triggers, mystifies, fascinates, or comforts viewers based on how production and the cast members have reacted to safety protocols.
There was the enraging experience of watching certain Orange County cast members argue against shutdowns, calling COVID a hoax. Atlanta’s baffling inconsistencies with mask-wearing and social distancing was at least counterbalanced by the cast’s acceptance of the guidelines as a reality—at least until Cynthia Bailey’s lavish and large in-person wedding ceremony in October.
The women of New Jersey, who filmed a large chunk of their season over the summer when most shoots could happen outdoors, seem to have a resigned, matter-of-fact attitude about it all. They’ve allowed that season thus far to function as a more traditional Bravoverse distraction, one that’s less connected to the trauma of the world’s circumstances.
There’s a bit of poignancy to RHONY’s return to TV this week, as news of reopenings and the loosening of mask mandates make headlines and raise spirits in New York City. The show’s previous season premiered on April 2 of last year in the first soul-crushing, simultaneously listless and terror-inducing weeks of stay-at-home mandates. It was a dark, uncertain time, with cases rising alongside body counts.
The diversion of Bravo’s zaniest series was like manna from heaven—or, maybe more appropriately, Pinot Grigio bottles from the Upper East Side. Amidst all the bleakness, getting to watch these women so crudely and fabulously galavant about Manhattan was a treat. A Ramona Singer high-pitched meltdown at a hotel bar? I felt a single tear drip from my eye.
We spoke with the cast ahead of that premiere when they were all miring through quarantine like the rest of us.
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Luann de Lesseps was in the Hamptons with her children, using the time to clean out her basement and hone her TikTok skills. Ramona Singer set off a mass wave of eyes emojis in Bravo fans’ group texts when she revealed that she was quarantining with her ex-husband, Mario, in Boca Raton. Sonja Morgan had booked a stay at a spa in the California desert and, once travel restrictions hit, found herself stuck juicing and doing colonics indefinitely, telling me, “I haven’t had hard food in 10 days.”