There was a moment in time when I would have said that The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City has one of the best casts of any reality TV show I’ve seen. The Housewives world is already full of colorful, bored, evil, rich people. But RHOSLC takes this to a different level, featuring women who are unwell in a way that should not be on camera. Set against the backdrop of Salt Lake City, a city made up of only the ugliest McMansions, suburban strip malls and Mormons while being surrounded by the most beautiful mountains, this series always had a certain je ne sais quoi, raring out of the gate with insanity that verged on parody. But with its second season nearing its finale, I now believe RHOSLC has gone too far in the right direction. Bravo may have a moral obligation to end this show prematurely, partly because it cannot possibly get any more entertaining, and also because these women shouldn’t have to be around each other anymore.
The allure of any Housewives franchise is the depravity. Much like recent seasons of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (what with Tom Girardi and his wife’s potential involvement in his alleged embezzlement from plane crash victims) and past seasons of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Salt Lake City deals with crime, namely the March 2021 arrest of cast member Jen Shah for conspiring to commit wire fraud and money laundering. And then there’s Mary M. Cosby, a woman possibly best known for marrying her step-grandfather, who runs a church that may actually function as a very exploitative cult. Mary skipped the season two reunion and allegedly has not filmed for season three.
These two plot points are enough to give us what may be the juiciest season of Housewives ever. Only, the second half of this season makes me believe maybe this edition of the franchise has flown too close to the sun. After reaching such high highs (low lows if you have a moral center and don’t watch reality television, but that’s not how the Gawker staff operates), how could future seasons possibly measure up? I have written about other prestige television shows facing this issue, for which there is only one solution: cancellation.
But RHOSLC shouldn’t just end because of its plot peaking too early (which it is – later seasons are going to go straight off a boring cliff, á la Vanderpump Rules). It is also getting too upsetting to watch. There is a darkness that hangs over every single one of these women, and not the normal rich people kind of darkness. It is a darkness akin to earlier seasons of RHOBH, a joyless blackness of the type that comes from being trapped at the bottom of a well. There’s something so deeply wrong with each Salt Lake City housewife that watching them on screen is at times terrifying. You could argue that this is the point of reality television, but I would say that most popular shows feature just a soupçon of sociopathic crazy, rather than an entire cast’s worth.
In addition to Shah and Cosby, there’s Jennie Nguyen, who was just fired for posting racist, anti-black memes to Facebook following the racial reckoning of 2020. She has also casually admitted that her anger issues lead to her breaking her husband’s ribs during a past fight.
Then there’s Whitney Rose, a baby-voiced ex-Mormon whose friend attended the January 6 insurrection, who has used her time on the show to relaunch her beauty brand, Wild Rose.. Of course, the hallmark of being a housewife is having a product — only Whitney has put her entire family’s savings into her “business,” and has sought out an additional million dollar line of credit. This is also paired with the news that in 2018, her husband was sued for an alleged pyramid scheme. Someone please stop these people from trying to make money. Whitney also rolls her hands around a lot to “cleanse auras.”
Other cast members include Lisa Barlow, who is basically Satan, and Meredith Marks, whose husband is genuinely the most repulsive man I have seen on any Housewives show. On the last episode she stormed out of a dinner twice, slurring and crying. It was very depressing.
I can’t stop watching the show, but the sadness is getting to me. I fear that Whitney will not be able to bounce back once her beauty brand ultimately fails and she’s used up all her family’s savings and her million dollar line of credit, that Jen Shah’s husband and children will never survive her trial, that Meredith Marks will forever be trapped into a marriage with the disgusting man alive, slurring “I love you” to him for all time. Bravo’s casting directors did just did too good of a job at finding the craziest women in Salt Lake City, and they very clearly cannot spend any more time together without committing some sort of felony. Heather is fine.
Will I continue watching this series for as long as it airs despite believing it is morally reprehensible? Absolutely. But that’s only because I want greater context for the multiple true crime documentaries that will be spawned long after this show is over.