NBCUniversal Entertainment chairperson Frances Berwick reacted to Bethenny Frankel’s ‘reality reckoning,’ and she shared what shows Bethenny previously pitched to the network as the Real Housewives of New York alum clapped back.
In the past few months, Bethenny has called for a reality star union, suggesting many of Bravo’s cast members are mistreated and underpaid. She also addressed allegations of castmates being pressured to drink while filming.
When asked to share her thoughts about Bethenny’s ‘reality reckoning,’ the NBCU boss told Variety, “I think that we have had a mutually beneficial relationship with Bethenny. We have stayed in touch, including when she pitched us three shows, and the three shows were all around our Bravo IP.”
Frances then explained what shows Bethenny pitched. “There was one about a ‘Real Housewives’ camp that she wanted to run for ‘Real Housewives’ kids,” said Frances. “There was one that was around her podcast that is called ‘Rewives,’ because it’s about ‘Housewives.’ We found that to be too similar to another show that we have on the network — one on every night! And the other one was a spinoff of a cast she wanted to recommend for the ‘Housewives’ in another town.
She went on to say, “Yes — I’m just generally disappointed. I mean, we care very much about our talent … We’re incredibly empathetic when they sometimes make mistakes, that then they get repercussions from. Sometimes we don’t agree with what they’ve done. But we can be empathetic.”
Frances also addressed the social media backlash against stars. “[The talent] go on the shows, and they know that they’re going to be judged on social. We give them a lot of guidance: ‘Please don’t take to heart, and pay attention, to social.’ But that’s sort of a bit of human nature. Social is anonymous, and can be very punishing, I think that that’s part of the equation that we try and really lean into, and steer them. I think it’s sort of safe to say it’s just generally disappointing.”
Bethenny then shared her comment to the outlet: “Me pitching shows to Bravo months before opening my eyes isn’t the smoking gun they think they have…and if that’s their biggest argument against the reality reckoning, they better get back to the drawing board.”
Regarding the alcohol allegations from a recent Vanity Fair article, Frances stated in her interview, “I think that’s actually a little inaccurate. We constantly look at the ways that we’re doing things. We had already been working on a revised look at how we control and how we monitor alcohol consumption on our shows. And each show is different. There are sort of maximum amounts — that does not work for every show that we have, because people are living their own lives, and they’re in their own homes, and they’re holding parties in their summer rentals, or whatever it is.”
She continued, “But we were already working on a plan to monitor that, and have people on the production be much more closely focused. Partly because we care about the people — but it also doesn’t make good TV. Nobody wants to see that. Maybe we accelerated the rollout of it, as a result.”
When asked how Bravo’s business would be affected by a reality star union, the exec expressed, “We pay [stars] currently on a buyout basis, obviously, so there’s going to be a recalibration. We’re taking more of the risk, up front, so there would be a whole recalibration on the fees … There’s not an infinite amount of money, and the monetization on the traditional side is going down.”
Frances added, “I don’t think that any of the conditions would be improved, because I think — and actually pretty much know — that the conditions that we aim for on all our sets are absolutely in line, if not beyond, what they could expect if they were unionized. So if we’re just talking about residuals, I think it would be a recalibration. And we’d have to look at how we let them launch businesses.”