The Real Housewives franchise is no stranger to cast shakeups. Season to season, ladies come and go, but rarely is there a shakeup as drastic (and course-correcting) as the one that happened between The Real Housewives of New York City season four and five—until now.
On Friday, Jan. 24, Vicki Gunvalson, an original cast member, announced her departure from The Real Housewives of Orange County. This wasn't really a surprise, considering the OG of the OC was demoted to "friend" status in season 14, had rough reunion and made it known she would not return to the series unless she was holding an orange as a series regular. Tamra Judge, who had been with the show since season three, followed with her exit announcement on Saturday, Jan. 25.
"It's been a wild 12 years. But it's time for me to move on," Tamra posted on Instagram.
Tamra said she was sad to go, but excited for her future. Sources told E! News she was offered a "friend" role but declined.
The departure of these mainstays is shocking for viewers, yes, but necessary.
The Real Housewives of Orange County is the show that started Bravo's juggernaut of a franchise. Vicki is perhaps one of the most-recognizable reality shows around, but as is bound to happen with long running cast members on the Real Housewives shows, she became too much for the show to balance. "You know what? They made me wait. And every hour I waited while they're out there filming makes me feel like a has-been," Vicki told her fiancé Steve Lodge backstage at the season 14 reunion. Cameras captured her tantrums as she took credit for the show's success. Once she took her spot on the couch, which was next to Housewives executive producer and reunion host Andy Cohen, she told him, "I waited back there. My temperature is at like 150. Don't f—king do that to me. No, not good."
It was clear her time on the show ran its course. The end of season 14 featured Tamra explaining away her pot-stirring behavior. Aside from that, she didn't have much of a story. Vicki and Tamra have given audiences so much, from their many fights and makeups to that whole Brooks Ayers cancer saga, and it's time for them—and the show—to move on. Vicki has always been resistant to change and new additions to the show, but new women are necessary to carry the show forward. The last few seasons of RHOC relied too much on cyclical drama, the feuds grew stale and the friendship repairs seemed insincere.
When RHONY dropped Jill Zarin, Kelly Killoren Bensimon, Cindy Barshop and Alex McCord between seasons four and five, viewers were shocked, but the addition of Heather Thomson, Carole Radziwill and Aviva Drescher breathed new life into the franchise. It was a necessary course correction. Orange County needed this. What Tamra and Vicki did for the show, for years, is a triumph and a legacy that can't be taken away. Theirs years of whooping it up got the show to where it is now and will be there in reruns (and if you haven't gone back to watch old Real Housewives seasons, you should, it's quite an enjoyable trip).
How The Real Housewives of Orange County moves forward will be a fascinating ride, one we're ready to go on.
No premiere date or official cast for The Real Housewives of Orange County season 15 has been set by Bravo.
(E! and Bravo are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)