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Bravo executives will decide the fate of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills in the coming days. According to sources, the network is waiting at least 24 hours to make a decision about whether they’ll postpone the show.
The apparent suicide of Russell Armstrong on Monday has put Bravo executives in the unenviable position of navigating sensitive waters weeks before the second season of the show – which features Armstrong’s estranged wife Taylor Armstrong – is set to premiere.
It is unclear how extensively Russell Armstrong was to be featured in Season 2, which is scheduled to bow Sept. 5. Shooting has yet to wrap. But there were no shoots planned for this week, according to a Bravo spokesperson. Producers are still editing, and sources said before the news of Armstrong’s death that the network had ordered an additional four episodes, bringing the second-season total to 18.
Bravo would not comment beyond an expression of condolence released this morning: “All of us at Bravo are deeply saddened by this tragic news. Our sympathy and thoughts are with the Armstrong family at this difficult time.”
The Armstrongs’ marital problems (they have a 5-year-old daughter) was a major story line in season one. And Taylor Armstrong confirmed in July that she had filed for divorce. The first episode of the second season includes a scene where a tearful Taylor Armstrong talks about being in marriage counseling.
As of Tuesday evening, the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills web page at BravoTV.com was status quo, featuring videos with cast members – Taylor Armstrong leads a tour through her Bel Air home – including new friends of the Housewives Brandi Glanville and Dana Wilkey. The only place on the site where Russell Armstrong’s untimely death is acknowledged is in the Bravo TV “Tweet Tracker.” Tweets about “Bravolebrities” pop up in colorful purple talk bubbles, and many of them centered on Russell Armstrong’s suicide, including: “that crazy RHOBH star killed himself”; “OMG!!! Russell Armstrong of RHOBH has been found dead”; and “… that’s so sad but it looked predictable.”
Armstrong’s death is also sure to lead to renewed scrutiny on the effects of reality television on its cast members, who can reap enormous financial rewards but also must endure the often intense and uncomfortable spotlight.
A lawyer for Russell Armstrong, Ronald Richards, told TMZ that the Armstrongs had lived beyond their means and that Russell Armstrong was buckling under the strain of financial pressures, though he professed shock that his client apparently took his own life.
In an interview in July with People magazine, Taylor Armstrong revealed that her estranged husband was verbally and physically abusive. And Russell Armstrong complained that the show had ratcheted up the tension in their marriage.
“Did I push her? Yes, maybe things happened in the heat of the moment, but it was during a time in our lives that was not characteristic of who we were,” he said. “This show has literally pushed us to the limit.”
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Portia de Rossi
James Gordon Meek