Why Vanderpump Rules Still Works After Seven Seasons

Vanderpump Rules has comfortably settled into season 7 and proved once again that regardless how fractured the friendships or how ludicrous the antics were the season before, the show's crew has never (and hopefully will never), failed at outdoing itself. These last few weeks have been just as good a reality trash opera as the show's ever been, and that’s pretty remarkable for a show that’s undergone minimal casting shakeups and revolves around a group of people you’d hope would’ve figured out how to avoid horrendous drama by now. Vanderpump Rules has lasted longer than it had any right to, at least on paper.

The Lisa Vanderpump-produced reality series about "young" "Hollywood" set against a hospitality backdrop initially started out as a spin-off of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. As the one and only direct spin-off of a Housewives franchise outside of Bethenny Ever After, the hype leading up to Vanderpump Rules' release was intense. Much of that had to do with the incredible "luck" of one of SUR's waitresses having dated then-current Housewife Brandi Glanville’s ex Eddie Cibrian while he and Glanville were still married. Much of Vanderpump Rules' success out of the gate can be credited with server Scheana Marie’s affair with a C-List actor. Real Housewives of Beverly Hills shamelessly mined the acrimony between Glanville and Marie and featured a confrontation between the two at SUR as part of the Vanderpump Rules pilot. The timing made for some reality TV lightning in a bottle considering Glanville left Real Housewives the following season after a major falling out with Lisa Vanderpump.

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Vanderpump Rules took the assist offered to them by Marie and Glanville and more than ran with it, creating a soap opera that rivals anything else on the network. Marie’s troubles with Glanville soon faded into the background as the focus shifted to the never-ending drama between her and her co-stars, and her co-stars’ and literally anyone else. But there's more to Vanderpump Rules' appeal than watching third-party drama. To give the reality soap the longevity it's currently enjoying, they’ve had to cultivate some very specific elements that the rest of Bravo’s programming should tell you aren’t easy to recreate.

Vanderpump Rules' Exciting (& Consistent) Casting

Vanderpump Rules Cast

Where casting changes and the influx of new blood can significantly boost a flagging Real Housewives franchise (see: Dorinda Medley, Dorit Kemsley, Gretchen Rossi), keeping Vanderpump Rules' cast relatively consistent has only served to make it stronger.

While there have been occasional inspired additions like Ariana Madix, Lala Kent and James Kennedy the rest of the cast remains unchanged - every main cast member from Vanderpump Rules season 1 is still a regular in season 7. That in and of itself is a reason to watch, if only to satisfy the curiosity of how this volatile a group of people has managed to remain friends after everything they've inflicted upon each other. At this point, part of the entertainment value of Vanderpump Rules is watching friendships endure - for better or for worse - season after season of putting themselves through emotional woodchippers for all the world to see.

Another benefit to having consistent casting over such a long run in terms of reality is that it’s hard to watch anything for seven seasons and not get invested in people - especially when there's something tangible to invest in. In terms of “character arcs,” for lack of a better word, Vanderpump Rules is richly satisfying, mostly because we're watching younger people settle into adulthood (successfully or otherwise) and battle for success. As goofily as their endeavor was portrayed on the show, watching Tom Sandoval and Tom Schwartz finally open Tom Tom with the Vanderpumps resonated because it represented demonstrable growth and maturity from the early seasons.

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Sure, everything is staged, but even if what we see on the show is unrecognizable in real life, we would argue that it’s a more rewarding viewing experience watching servers create sustainable careers than watching Real Housewives launch yet another swimwear line nobody asked for.

Vanderpump Rules' Relationships Are Real, But Not Static

It’s important to note that despite how much more organic Vanderpump Rules can feel compared to more manufactured shows, it is still manufactured. The cast is just that - a cast complete with call times - and sometimes the narratives season-to-season feel a little too perfect and heavy-handed. But because so much of the conflict is mined from actual, real-life relationships, the action might be staged, but at least in comparison to its cultural predecessor, The HillsVanderpump Rules isn’t produced in the ways that count. By the time The Hills finally ended, how much the show was staged was such common knowledge that MTV doubled down on it by pulling back the camera on the final goodbye between Brodi Jenner and Kristen Cavallari. Ultimately the coastal sunset shot was revealed to have taken place on a studio lot, and The Hills went out with a surprisingly meta bang. Conversely, all the in-fighting on Vanderpump Rules might not be aspirational, but the fighting is happening between real friends, partners and at this point, spouses. That’s interesting.

But while the Vanderpump Rules' brand is very much the conflict between cast, it's important to note that that conflict rotates. While Vanderpump Rules still boasts its fair share of people who can’t seem to break free of bad habits, on the whole, people, friendships and relationships have evolved considerably over time, at least on TV. Stassi Schroeder has learned that her birthday is not, in fact, a national holiday and therefore not an excuse to have a perennial meltdown when people don't treat it as such. Katie Maloney finally stopped calling Lala Kent a prostitute after Kent and her boyfriend producer Randall Emmett took Maloney for a ride on a private jet. And when it comes to work nights, Tom Schwartz only takes half shots, nowadays.

Across Vanderpump Rules, people have broken up, gotten married, left the restaurant, left LA, returned to LA, lost parents and in general had lives that were anything but stagnant and formulaic. If all we were watching was the same people make the same mistakes over and over again, Vanderpump Rules would be a bloody train wreck and not the drunken joyride we’ve all fallen in love with. Very few of these people are the same people they were when they started, and that could be a big part of what keeps the relationships intact, the series fresh and turns us from people watching reality stars and rooting for them to fail to people watching humans and hoping they succeed.

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Page 2 of 3: What Vanderpump Rules Does Better Than Other Shows

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