Bethenny Frankel: Returning to The Real Housewives of New York City!

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In a surprising casting development, alleged celebrity and former Bravo reality star Bethenny Frankel is returning to The Real Housewives of New York City!

Four years after she quit the show that launched her career, Bethenny is returning to her roots and rejoining the long-running Bravo series next year.

The former natural foods chef and talk show host, whose self-titled program was canceled in February, will be on the show's upcoming Season 7.

Paul Bernon and Bethenny Frankel

Producers hope her return will help boost ratings for the maligned program, which fell to 1 million viewers (from a record 2.6 million) during Season 6.

"Bringing her back is a last-ditch effort," one source says.

Frankel will benefit, too, from promoting her Skinnygirl empire, which includes a cocktail line, shapewear, and several books, including a new children's book.

Her daughter Bryn was born just a few months before Bethenny Frankel announced that she would not be returning for Season 4 of RHONY in 2010.

Frankel had fought with former BFF Jill Zarin and longtime rival Kelly Bensimon constantly, and said that she didn't see "any reason to go back."

Indeed, Frankel had plenty of other projects to keep her busy, including the Bravo spinoffs Bethenny Getting Married? and Bethenny Ever After.

Of course, those blissful series co-starring Jason Hoppy look downright quaint now, as the two split and were tied up in an ugly custody battle for years.

Only LuAnn de Lesseps and Ramona Singer are left of the original Real Housewives of New York City cast, and both will appear just in recurring roles.

The other current stars are Sonja Morgan, Carole Radziwill, Heather Thomson, and Kristen Taekman. Bensimon and Zarin left in 2011, after Bethenny.

What do you think of Frankel's return? Will it make you more likely to watch The Real Housewives of New York City online than before? Sound off!

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