When Vanderpump Rules premiered in 2013, it launched what would become a powerful web of interconnected Bravo shows centered on a younger contingent of stars. While ostensibly focused on longtime The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast member Lisa Vanderpump, the show’s real draw was the romances, friendships, and feuds playing out between the young, wannabe-rich-and-famous employees of Vanderpump’s West Hollywood restaurant SUR (Sexy Unique Restaurant). By the end of the show’s second season—a 14-episode arc fueled by controversy over whether resident villain Jax Taylor had slept with Kristen Doute, the girlfriend of his best friend (Tom Sandoval) and best friend of his then-recent-ex-girlfriend (Stassi Schroeder)—it had eclipsed its Real Housewives predecessor in ratings.
Bravo took the Vanderpump blueprint and ran with it, debuting subsequent hits like Southern Charm, Summer House, and more recently, Winter House, all of which rely on drama between the members of a close group of 20-30-somethings for success and feature crossover appearances from linked cast members. Netflix has since duped the Vanderpump formula with reality offerings like Selling Sunset and spin-off Selling the O.C., while Issa Rae has said Vanderpump directly influenced her Sweet Life: Los Angeles series on HBO Max. Now coming up on its 10th season, the show, once the crown jewel of the coming-of-age Bravoverse, is facing firings over racist misconduct, toxic behavior, and played-out storylines (hardly anyone has worked at SUR in years) leaving a sour taste in the mouths of many Vanderpump fans. But Schroeder slapping Doute across the face in season 2’s penultimate episode will live on in the annals of reality TV infamy forever. —Megan McCluskey
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