Ariana Madix in Vanderpump Rules.

Are Celebrity Podcasts Ruining Reality TV?

If we focus on the aftermath of Scandoval on Vanderpump Rules and all the subsequent castmates’ podcasts, Amazon live streams, and social media posts, plenty was spread out in the off-season between filming, which left the show in a strange position.

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This got to the point that when Bravo picked up production in the early summer of 2023, following the viral cheating scandal, much of what had made for great TV had already played out online, leaving season 11 of Vanderpump Rules to become an overproduced mess, and it hasn’t been the only show to suffer from this phenomenon.

What fans expected to be Tom Sandoval’s reckoning ended up being a redemption tour. Between filming seasons, many of the cast members went wild on podcasts and social media, talking through the scandal with all the details and primarily hating the instigator, Tom Sandoval, and the woman he cheated with, Rachel Leviss. With fans hanging on every word and learning the details of the affair, what was left to investigate on the show itself?

Instead of backtracking and running through an investigation themselves or referencing social media and podcasts throughout the show to pad the continuation of these storylines, the producers of Bravo’s Vanderpump Rules pushed the cast to reconcile with Tom Sandoval—a step that scorned ex-girlfriend Ariana Madix was (and rightfully so) not ready to take.

And now, yet again, in the off-season of Vanderpump Rules, more drama is unfolding on podcasts and social media. Billie Lee, a recurring cast member and good friend of Tom Sandoval, took to her podcast Billie and the Kid to talk about Tom and his new girlfriend’s actions in recent months. In response, Tom’s girlfriend, Victoria Lee Robinson, and Tom’s friend, Kyle Chan, went on Up and Adam to refute all allegations.

I may not be a story producer for Bravo, but if I were, I’d pull together all the camera crew I could to pick up production and follow the fallout between friends. Alas, that can’t be the case with Vanderpump Rules on indefinite hiatus.

The point is that squabbles between frenemies used to be left to fester in the off-season, and conflict would naturally present itself on camera, when the cast was finally made to face one another again. Now that nearly every significant player in reality TV has social media, podcasts, guest appearances, and more, there is no downtime for drama.

In another instance, Bravo’s new show, The Valley, was upstaged in its first weeks when cast members Jesse and Michelle Lally announced their divorce before the show premiered. Later, Jax Taylor and Brittany Cartwright were forced to confirm their separation during the TV show’s run on their podcast, When Reality Hits.

Though both couples explored the issues in their relationships through storylines on The Valley, their premature announcements upended the shock value. Fan speculation about season 2 has increased, with deep dives into season one drama from multiple cast members. Janet Caperna tours from podcast to podcast, discussing her distaste for co-stars Kristen Doute and Zack Wickham.

Compared to Vanderpump Rules, The Valley may have more to show in its upcoming season due to the Lally family keeping to themselves at this time. Yet, on the flip side, Jax Taylor and Britany Cartwright have been airing their grievances on podcast tours and social media, with multiple leaks about cheating allegations and new relationships.

Other instances of personalities spoiling their shows via social media or podcasts include The Bachelor’s Jason Tartick, who leaked the ending to his own season via a podcast preview, and Jersey Shore Family Vacation’s Angelina Pivarnick, who took to Instagram live to bash castmate Sammi “Sweetheart” Giancola while their drama simultaneously aired on TV.

What these instances have in common is that TV personalities use all the tools at their disposal to gain traction and possible revenue outside of their shows—which isn’t a bad thing. Money is money; get that bread! However, when their drive for engagement directly affects the value and ingenuity of their network show, where do you draw the line? The solution is simple with competition shows: production has a contract gag order on contestants to stop them from revealing spoilers. On a reality show centered around the daily lives of personalities, how do you stop people from discussing spoilers when the spoilers are their lives?

Perhaps celebrity podcasts aren’t ruining reality TV, but they are changing it, as reality TV has evolved since its invention. It seems successful reality shows will have more interactions between production and personalities, and the way forward may well be to dissolve the fourth wall. However, another concern is whether having podcasts, social media, press tours, etc. and being a star on a reality show overexposes people.

Rather than the issue being that production is missing key drama in the offseason, the problem may be that there isn’t enough conflict in these celebrities’ lives to warrant 3–4 months of filming for a TV show. Perhaps all the interesting dynamics we see online are so enticing because we, the audience, must assemble the missing pieces ourselves, which adds to the mystery. Maybe we’ve seen too much, know too much, and when their lives are filmed, it all seems repetitive, as they’ve learned too well how to act “appropriately” on-camera and everything interesting now happens in their “private” lives.

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Isobel Grieve
Isobel Grieve is a Freelance Writer for The Mary Sue. She scours the internet for culture, controversies, and celebrity News, and when she isn't writing about that, she's deep-diving into books, TV and movies for meaning and hidden lore. Isobel has a BAH in English, Cinema and Media Studies, and she has over two years of professional writing experience in the Entertainment industry on the Toronto Guardian, TV Obsessive, Film Obsessive, and InBetweenDrafts. You can read her unfiltered thoughts on Twitter @isobelgrieve