Kelly Dodd spent the last couple of years seemingly trying to make the world hate her.
In many cases, it worked. But Heather Dubrow just feels sorry for Kelly.
Kelly didn't just alienate her own fans; her atrocious behavior prompted a boycott of Season 15.
Season 16's ratings are already improving -- and Heather isn't afraid to acknowledge her role in cleaing up Kelly's mess.
The Real Housewives of Orange County had a rough time last season, and not solely due to the pandemic.
Season 15 saw low ratings and a lot of difficulties, followed by a very necessary casting shakeup.
While Kelly was not the only Housewife not asked back, she deservedly took much of the blame.
Heather Dubrow bore no responsibility for Season 15's struggles.
While Gina Kirschenheiter was doing much of the heavy lifting to keep the show afloat, Heather was taking her fouth year in a row off.
This season, however, she made her can't-miss comeback, and it's clear that this was the right call.
Television ratings are a complicated topic, simultaneously the key to advertising revenue yet not a simple numbers game.
There are targeted, key demographics that networks consider.
They want specific age ranges and market shares. Another important factor is whether ratings are rising or falling.
Season 16 opened with a disappointing 936,000 viewers and only 0.23 percent of the 18-to-49 demo.
Just one week later, viewership had shot up nearly ten percent, to 1,024,000 viewers.
The demographic market share rose even more dramatically, going from 0.23 to 0.34.
This is not normal. In fact, most season premieres -- even of extremely popular shows -- see an "inevitable" dropoff in viewership after a season premiere.
It is not unusual for a season's highest rated episodes to be a season premiere and a season finale.
So, what was so different about Season 16?
Kelly Dodd was gone. Braunwyn Windham-Burke was gone.
Elizabeth Lyn Vargas was also gone, but while she didn't really connect with viewers right away, she gets a pass.
She was collateral damage from axing Kelly because she was hired to be on the show as Kelly's friend.
Kelly Dodd had to go. She spent most of 2020 (and 2021 as well) spreading misinformation, malice, and provable lies about COVID-19.
Racism scandals, mocking mask mandates, and more made her totally unpalatable.
There was a widespread boycott of Season 15, with viewers and also various bloggers declining to cover the season because of Kelly's bad behavior.
Fans took note of the sudden improvement in ratings, with one celebrating Heather's role in that.
“Heather Dubrow only needed two episodes to fix what Kelly Dodd spent three seasons ruining,” tweeted one fan.
Heather responded to that with five champagne bottle emojis. Mood.
There was clearly some indecision on the part of Bravo as to whether to send Kelly packing.
Clearly, there was some fear that firing her might look like a political move, even though nothing could be further from the truth.
The franchise (where most of the stars are rich white women) has multiple conservative stars. Kelly was not fired for being conservative.
Braunwyn's situation was very different, because her outspokenness was not malicious and did not get her fired.
In fact, covering the first Housewife to come out as a lesbian, particularly given her eccentricities and sobriety journey, could have been amazing.
Braunwyn has no one to blame but herself.
We'll never know why Braunwyn decided to blurt out that she has repeatedly hit her husband.
We're glad that we know that she is a domestic abuser.
Domestic abusers have no place on reality television. There is no excuse for this evil act.
Keeping Emily Simpson was the right call.
Fans might not be particularly fond of her husband, but Emily has resonated with viewers.
Also, she has close ties with castmate Gina Kirschenheiter, who is one of the best-liked Housewives on the show.
Keeping Gina was of course correct, as her common sense attitude and personal growth endeared her to fans.
Even if RHOC had been shut down for good, Twitter fans hoped that Bravo would send her to RHONY to keep her on their screens.
For different reasons, keeping Shannon around made sense, because she's part of the "old guard" and Bravo did not want viewers to think that they were firing off older stars.
But the real key move to this season was the return of Heather.
Like Heather or dislike her, she is entertaining and alters the vibe of the show just with her presence.
Her return, the absence of Kelly, and a somewhat easier time navigating COVID-19 have enabled Bravo to bring back fans. That's a good thing.