What Went Wrong With This Flop Season of ‘Real Housewives of Potomac’?

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The Real Housewives of Potomac is in a crisis. After a dire season filled with cast stalemates, an especially awful trip to Austin, and drama almost exclusively dealing with off-show encounters, it’s safe to say RHOP can’t go on like this.

While some have laid the blame on the Green Eyed Bandits (Robyn Dixon and Gizelle Bryant), and others think Twitter warriors Wendy Osefo and Candiace Dillard-Bassett are at fault, the end result is the same: The season sucked. But, what can bring RHOP back to its glory days of butter knives, press conferences, and reasonable shadiness? That’s complicated. First, we have to understand what went wrong, and that answer is multi-pronged.

A Toxic Cast Dynamic

The biggest issue is that everyone hates each other, and not in the fun, The Real Housewives of New York City Season 4 way, but in the toxic, everyone shows up to filming with a chip on their shoulder and refuses to engage way. That ripple effect is, in part, a result of Bravo’s refusal to fire anyone over the last few seasons, creating an increasingly repetitive cast dynamic, and one that has grown in animosity with each passing season. Given Dillard-Bassett has already announced her departure and Dixon announced on Monday following the reunion finale that the network also did not invite her back (“I was fired, for lack of better words,” she said), change is evidently on the horizon, so next season already shows more promise than Season 8 ever did.

That’s a good thing, given Dillard-Bassett and Bryant have not had a single meaningful conversation since Season 7, Episode 2, which is not only an indictment on both of their performances, but a display of producerial incompetence. Whether or not the ladies want to sit down together, a one-on-one was desperately needed last season, and all but required to ensure this season didn’t sink into the pits of despair, as it unfortunately did.

Photo os Wendy Osefo and Robyn Dixon in 'Real Housewives of Potomac'

Wendy Osefo and Robyn Dixon

Bravo

Yes, Bryant’s claims about Dillard-Bassett’s husband Chris would be deeply upsetting, no doubt, but Dillard-Bassett relying entirely on the moral high ground to carry her home was a wasteful strategy, and one that would’ve required her to stay off Twitter (a most impossible task). The best way to tackle drama in any reality show is head on, and an all-out, no holds barred screaming match within the season itself would’ve been the cathartic release needed to keep the show from stagnating.

Lifeless Storylines (That Take Place on Twitter)

Unfortunately, Dillard-Bassett spent much of the past two seasons engaging more on social media than on the show, soaking up her newly earned fan adoration and utilizing the parasocial discourse against Bryant, and later Dixon. In Season 7, this wasn’t so bad, as Bryant clearly wronged Dillard-Bassett and it was understandable that she tweeted as such. But she reached a point of no return when she joined the social media mob, grabbed a pitchfork and began to demand the firing of Dixon—someone she had been friends with for her entire run on the show.

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The breakdown of Dillard-Bassett and Dixon’s friendship was truly the nail in the coffin for this cast dynamic, and one that reverberated through this entire season. When cameras picked up for Season 8, the two (who had been in a good place as of the Season 7 reunion) were no longer on speaking terms. Dixon was perturbed that Dillard-Bassett tried to get her fired, while Dillard-Bassett acted oblivious to why the two aren’t friends anymore. It was an excruciating plotline, one that never met a satisfying resolution. Instead, the two didn’t have their first direct conversation until halfway through the season, and neither was able to see the other’s point-of-view, leading to them ending the season in the exact place they started.

Photo of Candiace Dillard Bassett and Mia Thornton

Candiace Dillard Bassett and Mia Thornton

Bravo

That’s true for almost every cast member, really. There was no growth whatsoever, and no point of intrigue for anyone aside from Mia Thornton. Everyone largely coasted this year, making for not only a frustrating watch, but one that felt useless.

Ashley Darby started the season ambiguously getting a divorce, and she ended it exactly there, having still not filed, nor disclosing the true reasons she’s staying. Osefo pretended she was launching a talk show only to release a few YouTube videos on her channel. Karen Huger did nothing but try and keep the group moving, a necessary but not exactly satisfying role. In a better season, Huger’s performance would be admonished, so it says a lot that her role was a bright spot. And Nneka Ihim joined the cast at a disadvantage, abandoned by the cast member who was supposed to introduce her (Osefo) and immediately thrown into an incomprehensible feud.

Normally, accusations of witchcraft and backstabbing should be the kind of absurd, juicy drama Bravo fans live for (see: The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Season 4), but that was not the case here. Ihim’s role on the show was largely encapsulated by this feud, and she never found her footing.

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An Overstuffed Cast

An eight-Housewife cast is always risky, something Bravo has only done twice before (RHOBH Season 12, and RHONY Season 7). In both cases, production struggled to juggle eight full-time storylines, leading to some women falling through the cracks (Diana Jenkins in RHOBH’s case, and Kristen Taekman and Heather “Holla” Thompson, in RHONY’s). While both those seasons had their highs and lows (RHONY’s being a solid start to the show’s golden age), neither truly justified its supersized cast, and RHOP sadly failed to break the cycle.

That was made more difficult by the inclusion of two friends-of, OG Charisse Jackson-Jordan and newbie Kiearna Stewart. While Jackson-Jordan did what she does best, floating in every few episodes to give a low-energy performance and accidentally meme herself into icon status (yes, I know she’s only an icon to me and the six other Charisseanators, but that’s all she needs!), Stewart was given one of the most jarring edits in Bravo history.

Photo of Mia Thornton, Ashley  Darby, and Gizelle Bryant in 'Real Housewives of Potomac'

Mia Thornton, Ashley Darby, and Gizelle Bryant

Bravo

Introduced in one of the first episodes of the season, Stewart then fell off the face of the earth before randomly respawning in time to join the ladies for their final cast trip to the Dominican Republic. The inclusion was so bizarre, a last-minute way for the show to remind us who she is so we don’t ask, “Wait, who’s this woman on the cast trip?” It was also needed so we could have context for her brawl with Darby’s friend/hanger-on, Deborah, another point of convoluted contention.

I can’t say it was the worst friend-of edit in the history of Bravo (that crown goes to Jennifer Davis on The Real Housewives of Dallas, who genuinely had no lines other than describing her vagina as a “gobbler”), but it was solidly in the Jennifer Gilbert (RHONY Season 3) tier. If you’re wondering who that is, here’s a look into the future: This is how you’ll feel about Kiearna in a few years. It’s not even her fault; she seems fun!

Photo of Karen Huger and Gizelle Bryant in 'Real Housewives of Potomac'

Karen Huger and Gizelle Bryant

Bravo

Doubling Down on Season 7’s Flaws

These nonsensical edits show just how disorganized the show was behind-the-scenes. Why did they even cast Stewart and Ihim if production had no true intention to integrate them into the group? And what was the point of adding two women to an already huge cast? While big casts can produce perfection—as is the case for the rebooted The Real Housewives of Miami—the huge cast actually worked against the show’s best interests, allowing the women to stick to their comfort zone and avoid their foes.

This was an easily preventable result, as it was abundantly clear at the conclusion of Season 7 that this cast was heading into disaster territory. Whether it was cutting Dixon, Osefo, or both, change needed to be made. Similarly, ultimatums needed to be given to Bryant and Dillard-Bassett, as both got too comfortable coasting to even try and engage in the group dynamic.

Photo of Robyn Dixon in 'Real Housewives of Potomac'

Robyn Dixon

Bravo

Rather than put out a fire or two, Bravo let the cast and crew commit arson, burning the show all the way to the ground. What could’ve been some minor, show-saving tweaks (think: re-adding Danielle Staub as a friend-of to RHONJ Season 8, while introducing Margaret Josephs, Jackie Goldschneider, and Jennifer Aydin in subsequent seasons, leading the show to a brief renaissance) is now a cause for major concern, with some fans even demanding a total reboot.

Cast changes are absolutely necessary to right this ship, but a total reboot is not (nor will it ever be) the answer. Osefo, while once a promising addition, has served her time, and should be next on the chopping block—especially given no one on the cast has a relationship with her, aside from the departed Dillard-Bassett. And, while Ms. Darby has been an iconic Housewife, it’s hard to justify giving her anything more than a friend contract next year. The last season she genuinely contributed to was Season 5, and she’s coasted for years. A pink slip may be harsh, but a demotion seems only fair. As for Ihim, a second season seems only fair, given she was thrown into one of Bravo’s worst-ever cast dynamics and never properly given a chance to swim.

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Overly Comedic Editing

But, don’t think I’m going to give the editing crew a pass, either. Perhaps the most egregiously awful aspect of modern Potomac is the slapstick, forced comedic editing that makes otherwise inoffensive scenes outright annoying. Leaning into the success of the psychedelic editing in Season 6’s fan-favorite “Reasonable or Shady” episode, the editing team has gotten just a bit high on their supply over the past two seasons.

Here’s the thing: The Real Housewives franchise has always been funny, and comedic editing is good. What’s not good is spoon-feeding your audience, slapping them in the face with a reminder that “this scene is supposed to be funny.” We are all adults, we don’t need forced cues to remind us when to laugh. And this editing distracts from the cast itself, as though the crew want to insert themselves into the show, which just ends up diluting the already hilarious cast of RHOP.

Photo of Candiace Dillard Bassett, Karen Huger, Wendy Osefo, and Edward Osefo in 'Real Housewives of Potomac'

Candiace Dillard Bassett, Karen Huger, Wendy Osefo, and Edward Osefo

Bravo

When we think of the funniest Housewives moments, we think of Porsha Williams thinking there are 265 days in the world and Nene Leakes replying “265 days? Where the hell this bitch live at?” We think of Luann DeLesseps ordering a pizza for her kids and telling the unamused employee it’s for “Countess.” We think of Vicki Gunvalson stopping in her tracks in the middle of Costa Rica to dead-pan, “What’s going to be sad is one day when one of us dies,” and all the women looking on in shock. Housewives Humor is best delivered in a dry, tongue-in-cheek form that allows the absurdity to speak for itself.

Of course, the Real Housewives franchise is a cockroach and will never die, no matter how dire it gets. There’s no point in giving up on RHOP, despite how bad things seem. Had we given up on Orange County after a rocky Seasons 15 and 16, we never would’ve witnessed the return to form that was Season 17, and the hotly anticipated Season 18 featuring the fallout of Shannon Beador’s DUI and Alexis Bellino’s return. Should Bravo make the necessary moves, RHOP can surely find itself back on track, and maybe be better than ever.

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