The Season 15 premiere of RHOC was actually pretty good, culminating in a tearful confession from Braunwyn Windham-Burke.
But a nosedive in ratings has Bravo scratching their heads. Do viewers miss Vicki and Tamra, or do they just hate Kelly Dodd?
Season 15 of The Real Housewives of Orange County premiered this week, and the ratings were, to put it bluntly, bad.
Since Season 6, only one episode of the show has had lower viewership than the Season 15 premiere … and it was Part 1 of the Reunion for Season 14.
Ratings and how they are compared are complicated, so we’ll lay it all out for you, with all of Season 14’s ratings for context.
The Season 14 premiere had 1.42 million viewers.
The (pre-reunion) Season 14 finale episode had 1.24 million.
The very last episode of that season, Part 3 of the Reunion, had 1.03 million viewers.
The season premiere of Season 15 had 1.05 million viewers.
If you look at the dropoff from 1.24 million to 1.05, it doesn’t look like that hefty of a loss, especially in 2020 — it’s a weird time for television.
And if you compare Part 3 of Season 14’s Reunion special to the Season 15 premiere, viewership actually goes up a little — 1.03 to 1.05.
But we don’t look at season premieres and season finales through the same lens.
With rare exceptions, you expect more people to tune in for a season premiere, conventional wisdom saying that they either lost interest or have resolved to “catch up” later.
Most of the time, when measuring the health of an ongoing series, you compare season premieres to season premiere.
Doing that with Season 14 and Season 15, you witness a drop of 370,000 viewers — the population of a large American city, vanishing from one season to the next.
There is always a chance that some of these viewers will return as the season goes on.
But at the moment, it looks like a solid percentage of people have just … lost interest in viewing one of Bravo’s flagship series. Why?
The most obvious difference between Season 14 and Season 15 is that, for the very first time, Vicki Gunvalson is not part of the cast.
She is the OG of the OC. She has been part of this franchise since its inception.
And she’s not the only one who’s gone. Tamra Judge, after 12 years on the show, also took her leave after turning down Bravo’s insulting “Friend” offer.
A lot of people have grown to actively hate Vicki and Tamra over the years, and were on social media (and even in their mentions) celebrating their departure from the show.
But it may be that even more fans are sad to see them go and aren’t invested in watching what the show is like without them.
Whether we’re talking about politics or TV ratings, it’s so important to remember that social media does not reflect how the broader world feels.
Vicki has been a mainstay on the series, and it may turn out that dropping an OG from the show was a mistake.
Few of us can imagine RHONY without Kyle Richards. And we have no idea what RHOA will look like without NeNe Leakes.
However, though there is much to be said about Vicki and Tamra, maybe this ratings slump has less to do with what’s missing … and more to do with who’s still there.
Kelly Dodd has spent 2020 lashing out at fans, followers, and countless others, signaling her malice again and again on social media.
She said that the COVID-19 pandemic was “God’s way of thinning the herd” as Americans died in hospital hallways.
She mocked the death toll, told outright lies about the virus, made false comparisons to the flu, and spread dangerous misinformation about COVID and masks that got her posts censored on Twitter.
Kelly flauted safety guidelines again and again. She also condemned heroic Black Lives Matter protests as “terrorism in America” when her Fox News fiance (now husband) showed her his network’s propaganda.
Viewers and fans expect Housewives to be over-the-top or even toxic people. They expect to see personality disorders that make people entertaining to watch.
But as calls to fire Kelly and to boycott the show while she’s on it have grown, it’s clear that fans draw the line at a genuinely evil person. Maybe we’re seeing that boycott in action with these numbers.