Jill Zarin Reveals How She Manufactured Drama for Real Housewives Ratings


A year after she was fired from The Real Housewives of New York City, Jill Zarin sat down for a one-on-one taped interview with Andy Cohen for Watch What Happens Live, where she confronted her former boss about why she got the ax, accused him of playing favorites among the Housewives, and divulged how she orchestrated dramatic events on the show to “make great TV.”

Jill admitted that the sit-down was very cathartic for her, as she felt like she never got to say goodbye to her fans, but as she was airing her resentments to Andy (which included how he slighted her dog Ginger by flaunting his relationship with Giggy, a dog belonging to a Housewife of another cast) it seemed clear that at some point along the way, her investment in her reality television career had created a disconnect with her actual reality.

Reading off a laundry list of why she felt that Andy took Bethenny Frankel’s side in the former friends’ feud—and then Tweeting more examples later—Jill said that she partially blamed Bravo for how it negatively affected her own public persona, while it only served to heighten Bethenny’s profile. However, her logic didn’t make much sense, as she admitted to being the one who essentially scripted the drama between herself and Bethenny as a ploy for ratings, despite Andy advising her against it.

Jill said that she thought it would be a good idea to make the season focus on her rift with Bethenny thinking it would “surprise the fans.” Her plan, that she had worked out with producers, was that she would fight with Bethenny and then she would surprise the cast while they were on vacation for a big reconciliation scene. Only, what she didn’t take into account were the variables of reality TV—the cast. She could make plans with producers on storyline trajectory all she wanted, but at the end of the day, the other women on the show would have to go along with it, which they didn’t.

When talking about the whole affair, Jill doesn’t seem to regret her attempt to manipulate a personal relationship for ratings, but instead, how she went about doing it. She believes, now, that she should have clued Bethenny in on her plan. Ultimately, though, Jill says she “miscalculated [the] friendship,” saying she thought their relationship was real, while accusing Bethenny of viewing it as a “business relationship.” Even though Jill was the one who wanted to use the relationship as content for her job.

Despite—or probably because of—her numerous contradictions, the interview, and its dramatic behind-the-scenes revelations about production-and-cast politics and how they affect the outcome of the show, was really compelling. And if nothing else, it really illuminated how the business of reality TV affects the reality of its subjects.

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