Russell Armstrong: When Death Meets Reality Television

By , Contributor

The suicide of Russell Armstrong, the ex-husband of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Taylor Armstrong, is a terrible tragedy that deserves the utmost respect.  At the same time, Bravo runs a business, and with just a few weeks left until the originally scheduled season two premiere of Beverly Hills, network suits know that the ensuing media circus will only drive ratings through the roof.


Bravo must look at A&E with envy.  After watching an unprecedented amount of viewers tune in weekly to see if Shannon Tweed would ever forgive Gene Simmons’ selfish, womanizing ways, execs knows that genuine relationship strife makes for the best kind of reality television.

We love our Survivor Tribal Councils, Big Brother evictions, and filthy Jersey Shore hot tub sessions, but if you can capture a crumbling long-term relationship on camera, it’s better than the best episode of Days of Our Lives.

Last season on Beverly Hills, Taylor and Russell’s troubled relationship was a key plot point.  Who knows how Bravo planned to depict Russell this season, but airing the couple’s dirty laundry was likely priority number one.

Now, we enter the slippery slope of life, death, and reality television. 

In 2009, the death of A.J. Jewell, the fiancé of Real Housewives of Atlanta star Kandi Burruss, caused Bravo to rethink how they would showcase A.J. on-screen, if at all.

But even before his untimely passing, A.J. was always relegated to cameo status on the show, as NeNe Leakes and Kim Zolciak upstaged Kandi herself - let alone the man in her life.

Ryan Jenkins and Jasmine Fiore.jpg2009 was also the year that Ryan Jenkins, a reality TV contestant on shows like I Love Money and Megan Wants a Millionaire, reportedly killed his wife Jasmine Fiore, fled from police, and was eventually found dead in a hotel room in Hope, British Columbia, Canada.

At the time, Megan Wants a Millionaire had actually premiered weeks before, but was swiftly canceled due to Ryan’s involvement in the show.

That grisly event seemed to signal the downfall of the post-Flavor of Love era for VH1. Now living off the continued success of shows like Basketball Wives and Love and Hip Hop, the trashy dating reality show era for VH1 is a thing of the past.

For now. Everything is cyclical, especially in the business of entertainment.

Don’t expect Bravo to jump off the Real Housewives teat anytime soon. It’s too cheap to produce and too lucrative to let go. And while some anxiously await the premiere of Beverly Hills, the most interesting thing to watch in the coming weeks might just be how Bravo reacts to the evolving Russell Armstrong story.

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Michael Langston Moore is a freelance writer who aims to be both entertaining and insightful. His written work focuses on television, film, and music, and his analytical approach has landed him two columns on Michael has interviewed the likes of Donald Trump, Russell Simmons, Paris Hilton…

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