After Shows...They’re just like us: Embracing the ordinary with the cast of Vanderpump Rules

Curator's Note

Bravo premiered the Vanderpump Rules After Show (2016-) at the beginning of the reality show’s fourth season. What perhaps makes Vanderpump Rules (2013-) unique within the Bravo universe is that it focuses on a group of people who are “ordinary,” and are people (servers at a restaurant) that we have almost certainly encountered in our everyday lives. What also sets Vanderpump apart is that it is a quasi-spin-off from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (2010-) since it is set in housewife Lisa Vanderpump’s restaurant SUR. Lisa’s role is that of the put upon boss, constantly exhausted by the shenanigans of her employees. Yet Lisa is also an executive producer of the show, and in this role, she encourages the bad decisions of the cast. While often acting as a mentor (who likes to stir the pot), Lisa is always their superior and the one pulling the strings. Whereas struggling actors, musicians and models might wait tables while waiting for their big break, for the cast of Vanderpump Rules, waiting tables has become their big break. There is no longer talk of “making it,” rather the implicit theme is that they have now all in fact “made it,” but this success is contingent on their willingness to appear across Bravo platforms.

This ordinariness is reinforced by the choice of hosts for the after show, Julie Goldman and Brandy Howard from The People’s Couch, a show that features ordinary people watching and commenting on television in real-time. Goldman and Howard act as the audience’s surrogate, interrogating the cast about their mistakes and asking them to take responsibility for their poor decisions. The audience no longer has to wait for the reunion show to hear the cast atone for their sins. In this clip, the hosts ask Jax to explain his recent arrest on the cast’s trip to Hawaii. Jax is clearly uncomfortable with having to repeatedly discuss his mistake, but this does not stop the hosts from pushing him to discuss both the arrest and Lisa’s response to the incident. What we also see is the ways in which the cast, across Bravo platforms, are forced to relive and explain mistakes over and over again for our pleasure.


Along with the need (perhaps even an ethical one?) to explore the tensions of the producer's needs and those of talent in reality television, your post identifies Lisa Vanderpump as a specific figure in the Bravo TV landscape. This "pot-stirring" persona is a great entry point to consider the complexity with which reality television generates value. As you've demonstrated, this plays out in her need to generate exciting program content as a producer. Bravo (and Vanderpump herself?) also profits from this persona across multiple venues and contexts. For instance, Vanderpump enacts it as a character on Real Housewives and as a "real" person on aftershows--all of which seems to beget mutually reinforcing and ever-expanding content with a single (but flexible) persona.

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