The show must go on. For The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, that means even after castmember Russell Armstrong committed suicide.
Although many, including the dead man's family, criticized Bravo for featuring the story of Russell and Taylor Armstrong's failing marriage—attributed partly to domestic violence—this season, Executive Vice President of Development and Talent Andy Cohen told reporters at the TCA Winter Press Tour that the network's decision was based on the willing participation of Russell himself.
Read on for Cohen's candid comments about the suicide, how it affected the upcoming Housewives reunion, and whether Kim Richards left rehab to participate…
"We had many discussions as you can imagine for a long time about how to do this," Cohen said about the producers' editorial decision making. "I think what emerged is the story of a woman trying to extricate herself from a marriage where she was unhappy, where domestic violence was playing a part. That was a story that wound up emerging from the season."
And Russell knew what he was getting into by signing on again despite his unflattering portrayal in RHOBH's first season. "He was given the option to come back or not come back—he chose to come back," said the host. "He had spoken to producers a lot vocally about how much the show had helped his business."
And stating the tragically obvious, Cohen, who also hosts Watch What Happens Live, concluded: "I can't speak for him."
The Housewives themselves were given another opportunity to discuss this year's heartbreaking story in the show's reunion special.
"We taped it two days ago," Cohen told us. "It was emotional, it was deep, it was intense. It was sometimes funny, it was surprising, there were some alliances that had shifted, but no topic was off the table."
Unfortunately, Kyle Richards' troubled sister could not participate. Cohen confirmed: "Kim is in recovery."
(E! and Bravo are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)