Reality shows need better screening processes

By Tom Comi

Nobody will ever know if Russell Armstrong would have committed suicide had he not appeared on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. But there should be a growing concern that the people appearing on such reality shows lack the stability to endure the spotlight they so desperately crave.

We won’t manufacture a cause-and-effect relationship between what happens off-air and on-air with these programs; however, something good needs to come out of Armstrong’s suicide, and I’m hoping that involves better screening and more counseling by the producers of these shows.

Doing so most likely wouldn’t have prevented Armstrong from doing what he did, but it could save somebody else from destroying their life down the road. The common denominator on these reality shows are people who desperately seek attention. They find the need to be on TV, but many are ill-prepared for the scrutiny that comes with it.

Unfortunately, Armstrong’s death did not set a precedent, as there are several other documented cases in which the lives of the participants ended with suicide (including American Idol, The Contender, Wife Swap, Big Brother and Supernanny).

In Monday’s premiere of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Bravo will air a public service announcement on suicide prevention. We applaud this decision, but it’s only a first step.

Somehow, someway, the networks need a more effective screening process that weeds out the unstable people.

I realize that will make for worse TV, but it will hopefully save a few more lives down the line.


© Bravo. Credit: Richard McLaren