by Marc Malkin | Wed., Aug. 17, 2011 6:55 AM
It was just over a week ago that Taylor Armstrong told us she wasn't exactly excited about the new season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Knowing millions of people would be watching her marriage to Russell crumble on national television is "going to be tough," she said.
"It's what I signed up for," she added. "But it doesn't make it any easier."
Taylor, of course, couldn't predict the tragedy that was to come. Russell was found dead on Monday in his Los Angeles home after an apparent suicide. According to several reports, it was Taylor who discovered him.
The second season of Beverly Hills Housewives is set to premiere on Sept. 5. The first episode not only includes Taylor shopping for lingerie because she was hoping to improve things in the bedroom with Russell, but she's also shown getting upset at a dinner party when Lisa Vanderpump's husband, Ken, criticizes them for seeing a marriage counselor.
"I'm trying to keep my family together," Taylor cries to fellow Housewife Kyle Richards.
Bravo hasn't commented on how Russell's death will be addressed on the show. Will they postpone the season premiere? Is extensive reediting of episodes a possibility?
A source says executives haven't made any decisions. "All of us at Bravo are deeply saddened by this tragic news," a rep for the cable network said in a statement. "Our sympathy and thoughts are with the Armstrong family at this difficult time."
While death, sickness and divorce have been a part of reality television, a tragedy of this magnitude is unprecedented.
"The ideal scenario of reality television is to let these kinds of things play out," said Robert Thompson, a professor of pop culture at Syracuse University. "I suppose the greatest example would have been Jon & Kate Plus 8, which starts out as this kind of innocent, family friendly, 'let's watch a show where they're trying to raise a bunch of adorably cute children,' but then real life begins to impinge, and than of course it became a very different kind of show."
The difference translated into much higher ratings and newfound fame for the Gosselins.
Russell had been worrying about about how he would be portrayed in the upcoming season, according to his attorney Ronald Richards. "He was unhappy with some of the comments he knew were going to be aired this season regarding him being abusive," Richards told E! News. "That troubled him frequently."
And so did his financial situation. "Basically the show had left him without a lot of assets and he had spent all of their money kind of supporting the show and the lifestyle and now he has nothing to show for it," Richards said.
Russell's suicide probably won't hurt the Housewives franchise, Thompson said.
"I certainly don't think people are going to go, 'Oh, this was horrible. We should quit doing this kind of stuff and pull back,' " he said. "It's kind of like a bad accident in a racing event. Nobody wants that to happen. Nobody hopes somebody is going to die in a fiery crash, but one of the things that gives racing its charge is the fact that it really is dangerous. You can really die. And every now and again, somebody does."
But the Housewives doesn't happen in real time. "I have to say there are questions as to the ethics of even airing something like this," Thompson said. "I'm glad I'm not the one who has to make that decision."
—Additional reporting by Claudia Rosenbaum
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