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Vanderpump Rules looks like it's headed to the reality TV graveyard

  • "Watching now, you would have no idea that Vanderpump Rules was ever must-watch reality TV," says Louis Staples. "Nine seasons in, the show’s ratings have fallen to an all-time low of 550,000—around a quarter of its peak, when 2 million people tuned into the season 2 finale to watch Schroeder backhand Doute for sleeping with her ex." What happened? The show stars went from struggling to wealthy thanks to their reality fame. "This is a common challenge that faces reality shows," says Staples. "It’s no coincidence that when the Kardashians went from rich to super-rich, their show became less enthralling. But for all their faults, the Kardashians were at least honest about the fact that the money was coming from opportunities from the show, rather than pretending it came from working at Dash (their Calabasas clothing store). As reality stars become more famous and wealthy, they tend to rely less on the show and have more agency. There isn’t the same desperation driving their behavior and, often, they become more guarded and seek more control over the parts of their lives that they film. The final season of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, for example, was dominated by arguments over Kourtney Kardashian refusing to film as much as her sisters. A similar trend is visible on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, which was no-holds-barred in its first three seasons, but got gradually less so over the years. It wasn’t until the latest season, which followed the legal scandal engulfing Tom and Erika Girardi, that the show briefly recaptured its glory days. Vanderpump Rules is no different. The on-camera humiliation of its cast, which peaked in the early seasons, became gradually less intense. After all, most had brands to protect, so drunken brawls were replaced with comparatively tame, lower-stakes disagreements. Of course, from an ethical standpoint, it’s not a bad thing that reality stars are setting these boundaries. But shifts like this change the vibe and output of a show, which viewers aren’t guaranteed to like."

    TOPICS: Vanderpump Rules, Bravo, Reality TV