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Something Needs To Change On RHONYC

Season 9 tiptoes to the finish line with Part 3 of a lackluster reunion; its time wasn't great.

Let's play Rose and Thorn, the "game" one of Bethenny's interns invented in Mexico so everyone would have to compliment the trip one last time. My rose this season is the aforementioned trip, for yielding three episodes of angry drunk bliss, and for adding to the rich tapestry that is Luann's traveling misfortune. My thorn is whatever this season's reunion was. More specifically, I'm frustrated by this (unnecessary) third part and how reflective it is of the timid, shapeless season it represents. More than that, I'm annoyed that the women of New York City have once again proven themselves the exception to the rule and achieved a level of comfort that betrays what we're all doing here.

To some like myself these women are misbegotten family members. (Remember how happy we were when Bethenny got engaged? Remember how shocked we were when Luann did?) So yes, there's absolutely an emotional component that keeps us invested whenever someone goes bankrupt or someone else gets divorced. Undeniable as that component is, though, our desire to see them succeed is outweighed by our desire to see them struggle, because like it or not that's when the show is at its best. The problem, at least where RHONYC is concerned, is that everyone is a little too comfortable with where they are.

(Note: Sometimes the pendulum swings too far in the opposite direction and the result is something like this season of Orange County, which has almost been almost unwatchable save whatever is going on with Shannon.)

Ramona and Dorinda bristled at moments throughout the season, resentful about where Bethenny had pigeonholed both them and the show; Dorinda, Tinsley, and Luann had problems with Sonja's version of reality. Part 3 asks us to revisit some of this material -- after a six-minute cold open of talking about dick and whether or not Sonja likes anal sex, of course -- and unfortunately, it doesn't gel. In fact it reveals just how half-assed this season really was, with no real arc ever coming to fruition for anyone; intermittently enjoyable, it lacked bite and any definitive shape, with most of the action occurring off-screen. And I would argue that, when faced with a hard choice, production took the high road more often than not. I ask again: where is the footage of Sonja, drunk, sleeping upright in a chair in the Berkshires?

Is this sympathy a result of the election? Did production take it upon itself to give everyone a break for a few weeks? Thank god for the editors then, who are constantly outdoing themselves. Really, though, what's going on? Is this why Tinsley's drinking is bolded, underlined, and italicized without ever really coming into play? Is this why Dorinda is given free rein to vacillate between sobriety and being drunk to the point that she needs subtitles? At what point did everyone decide to stop talking about everyone's stuff? When did they become so friendly and complacent?

It pains me to watch these six women orbit around Bethenny, who I think has become a serious liability for the show. Whether it's actually there or not, I feel her cold brittle hand on the shoulder of every scene, ready to yank it back if it misbehaves. Too often during this reunion someone would defer to her, apologize to her before she formally asked for the apology, agree with her assessment of their psychological profiles, etc. It's most disappointing whenever it involves Ramona, who it seems has finally accepted who's in charge. As fun as it is watching her try to grasp empathy and social cues at sixty years old, if the trade-off is that she's going to bend the knee to Bethenny and admit wrongdoing, I'm not sure I want it…any of it. The paradox of progress, I guess.

It may be time to start talking about shorter seasons and an expanded or abridged cast. The show is best when the women are on their toes and walking around carrying axes to grind. Everyone has to either be out for herself or united against some form of evil, preferably someone in the same vein as Tinsley and Jules, but who can actually follow through. (I would love if it were a coup against Bethenny, though you see how well that's working on Orange County.) I'm glad this leg of the franchise has gone as long as it has without faking a disease, but something has to change, and fast.

Maybe it's time we brought back Jill. Let's wait and see how Danielle Staub's return fares on the guinea pig known as Jersey and go from there. For now, I'm waiting see what Luann's one-on-one interview tells me about Season 10. [sigh]

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