- Below Deck -'Watch What Crappens' Hosts Ben Mandelker and Ronnie Karam On Bravo Cast Shake-Ups And 2021 Changes
Watch What Crappens is, in the words of its co-hosts Ben Mandelker and Ronnie Karam, "a podcast about all that crap on Bravo that we just love to watch." Crappens, as it's known to its hyper-loyal audience of 3.5 million listeners a month, recaps Bravo's major shows, including the network’s flagship Real Housewives franchise and newer juggernauts like Below Deck. Launched in 2012, Mandelker and Karam crank out five new episodes each week, a number of which are recorded at boisterous live shows in cities across North America — during non-pandemic years, that is; 2020 brought changes for the quarantined podcast, just as it did for the shows and personalities it covers.
Cast shakeups on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Consequences for racist behavior, with the firings of Real Housewives Of Dallas’ LeeAnne Locken and Vanderpump Rules’ Stassi Schroeder and Kristen Doute. The passing of the OG guard on Real Housewives of Orange County and Real Housewives of New York. And then, of course, the coronavirus pandemic looming behind it all, disrupting production and providing an unfolding storyline. There’s a lot of Bravo to discuss in 2020, and perhaps no one better to discuss it with than Mandelker and Karam.
As we head into 2021 — the year Bravo is nipping and tucking the face of the network into one that's more diverse, with cast additions to Dallas and a racial justice storyline on the upcoming season of Real Housewives of Atlanta — there is a lot of cause for optimism. And while the fate of perennial fan favorite Vanderpump Rules is up in the air, newcomer Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, which features a surprisingly diverse cast both in terms of race and religion, has already inspired a passionate reaction from viewers. "I'm looking forward to being in a completely different political chapter. As a country, we're going through a big change, so it's going to be interesting to see how that's reflected on these stupid shows," Karam told us.
As for what fans should see on Bravo in 2021? Crappens has thoughts. We talked to Mandelker and Karam about the year in Bravo, what’s ahead, how they feel about the network's newest franchise, and which Bravolebrities have blocked them on social media. (Jax. Of course one is Jax.)
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
The Dipp: 2020 has been a wild year for Bravo — and for literally everyone in the world, but we're here to talk Bravo, so: Looking back, what do you think were the biggest stories with the biggest repercussions?
Ronnie Karam: Well, a bunch of them are coming up [on future episodes]! Southern Charm has the Kathryn Dennis [monkey] emojis storyline coming up, which is going to be pretty big. That's already had some repercussions, but I imagine we'll see some more from that.
Ben Mandelker: The Vanderpump Rules cast shake-up — the firings — that was pretty major. I mean, that was kind of national news! I think if you were to sit back and say, “What is the big takeaway from 2020?” it was that the old guard was not necessarily safe. We saw a lot of really big foundational Bravo personalities get the axe or quit. It was sort of a bloodbath this year on Bravo.
Karam: Lots of Bravo heads rolled. Bravo royalty heads rolled. It's been, like, huge changes of heads of state — can they still exist without Bravo? Will the country continue? [Laughs]
Mandelker: There was also the stuff that really got the fans riled up, like the situation with Denise Richards [on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills] and the situation with Hannah Ferrier, Captain Sandy, and Malia White [on Below Deck Med] had listeners just losing their minds. People were enraged.
What was behind that rage, do you think?
Mandelker: Some of the rage with Below Deck Med, to me, represented that it was actually a little too real for a lot of people. It was like a triggering thing. At this time when people are so on edge from coronavirus and the election, it's like, "I don't need this stress! This reminds me of the worst day I ever had at my job."
Karam: You know, we're so loud in our own respective rooms and our room happens to be Bravo, and reality TV. It's projecting a lot of anger about things we feel in the real world.
Mandelker: With Beverly Hills, it seems like the dominant rage was centered around calling the women mean girls. People felt like it was just a bunch of mean girls who saw that Denise Richards was popular, and did what they could to take her down.
Karam: It's a clique of popular rich people. They're mean, they're never right and it's getting old. I think that as we're learning to stand up for people in the world who might not get that chance, we're seeing mean people and we're like, Why are we cheering for the people who would've kicked our asses in school? Why are we here for that? Screw those ladies.
Mandelker: There was also an element of fakery about it all that really pissed off people. We have lies on a daily basis from the White House, people are concerned about their health, and there's a lot of information coming from a lot of different directions, a lot of stress, and people just aren't in the mood for fakery right now. So they see a pack of what seems to be very fake women attacking Denise Richards and it triggered something.
Looking forward to 2021, there's a lot going on in the Bravoverse. What's the biggest story on your mind?
Mandelker: What's on my mind is how are they going to shoot these shows, and will they still have the same energy? So much of the Real Housewives is about going out to restaurants and having parties and going on vacation and making these ridiculous public scenes — how is Bravo going to present us with this entertainment and will it still be as good? I'm genuinely curious to see how it's going to turn out.
Karam: I'm looking forward to being in a completely different political chapter. As a country, we're going through a big change, so it's going to be interesting to see how that's reflected on these stupid shows. Like, are we going to chill and be happier? Is it going to get worse before it gets better? It's gotten pretty heavy, so I'm hoping that it returns to some light. I need some light.
Vanderpump Rules is still in a state of flux with Stassi and Kristen fired, and extreme distaste for new cast members introduced last season. With a renewal up in the air, what do you think Bravo should do with the show?
Karam: Recast completely and do a spinoff in Vegas. One of the great things about that show is that it's about waiters — it shouldn't be about anybody getting too big to be a waiter! In the last season, especially, we saw how bad that is when it's about people who think they're too good to be waiters. We need people waiting tables, dammit!
Mandelker: I think it's a risky proposition to recast. I'm a forever optimist, but I think that the audience has really turned on the show and once the audience has rejected something it's really, really, really hard to get it back. I hate to say it, but the end of last season was kind of perfect. It felt like the end. It felt like there was nothing more to say about this group of people. The show has kind of run its course.
The Dipp: Real Housewives of Salt Lake City just started and it is a banger. Give us your quick assessment of each lady, who you're most excited for, and why it's Mary.
Karam: Well, Mary is shockingly giving us what we thought everybody else was going to give us: The tawdry, Big Love side of it.
Mandelker: She sort of doesn't make sense, and what I like about Mary is she's a wild card. There's this typical Housewives milieu, and then she comes in with some crazy shit like, "Yeah, I'm married to my grandfather. I was bequeathed to him. You'll get used to it." I'm a little concerned that Mary's going to be one of those two-season wonders, and then eight years down the line, we're going to say, “Remember when Mary was on the show? God, she was so crazy. What a crazy thing that we had!”
How are you feeling about RHSLC generally?
Karam: I love it. I think it's hilarious. The women are a really good choice for it and I think doing a show there is a really smart choice — it's not just another generic city, it's got a unique personality.
Mandelker: I'm excited that it's surprisingly diverse, and I think it's going to go in a really fun direction. Some of the other Housewives franchises have started to show some wear and tear, especially as their stars have gotten used to the game and know how to produce themselves. So it's nice to have a show with a fresh new cast that's raw and makes mistakes.
Speaking of older franchises that are showing wear and tear, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills had a pretty major cast shake-up AND we've just found out that Erika Jayne/Girardi will be down a persona now that she's divorcing Tom Girardi. What do you want to see from the new season, which will be Denise Richards-less but which will feature Kathy Hilton in a friend-of role?
Mandelker: I want them to take down Kyle Richards. That's all I want.
Karam: I want to see them take down Lisa Rinna! And I like Lisa Rinna, but she's been the ringleader the past three seasons, so I'm ready to see Lisa get it.
Mandelker: That's actually what I like about Lisa Rinna! She stirs the pot and then everyone falls for it over and over again. On a higher level, what I would really look forward to from Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is the cast not being so self-produced. It's hard to describe, but the audience picks up on whatever it is.
Karam: They suck! Beverly Hills sucks. I mean, they have made no effort. Every single big pivotal fight in the past three years has been completely bogus. It's just always made up, and they've got real things going on! Like, we've known this Erika and Tom thing [has been] coming for years. Why is Harry [Hamlin] never there? Kyle's family hates her guts, where's that storyline? They're just lame. I'm over it. Can you tell? I'm yelling at my house. [Laughs]
What is your relationship with Bravo and the Bravolebrities?
Karam: I look at it like we're at the little kids' table at Thanksgiving, making fun of everything. We're not part of Bravo. We're just two people with an opinion. So I don't really expect to have a relationship with Bravo.
Mandelker: It's a weird position to be in because we are both fans, but at the same time, Ronnie and I will just savage them — and those are two different roles that don't always work well together. Making fun of someone on one of these shows is so fun. It's so deeply gratifying to do it, and then I meet them in real life and I go into total fan mode. How do I reconcile that? I have a hard time with that sometimes.
You were on Watch What Happens Live earlier this year. What was that whole thing like? How was Andy?
Mandelker: It felt like Bravo saying, “We know you guys exist. Like, we get it. We create these shows, you guys comment on it, and together we all are creating this ecosystem of people who just really enjoy this stuff.” And that's really cool.
Karam: We did it with a bunch of our friends, our fellow podcasters, so it was just a really fun Zoom call for me. Andy was very, very nice to us, he was like, “Thank you for your duty. Thank you for your service.” [Laughs] So it was nice — he acknowledged that we all work hard.
Mandelker: It was a surreal thing of logging on to what felt like any other Zoom call we've had through the pandemic, but then… Andy Cohen's on it.
What is your favorite franchise to watch?
Karam: Atlanta is my favorite one to watch. It's had a couple of up and down seasons, but for the most part, that's always been the funniest one to me.
Mandelker: Real Housewives of New York is hands down my favorite. I've always loved it, I will continue to love it. I think it should be in the Library of Congress.
Who is your favorite Housewife?
Karam: Lisa Vanderpump
Mandelker: Countess Luann.
Favorite Househusband? This is hard, among the Jersey Joes alone there are so many good ones to choose from.
Karam: I would go with Joe. Joe Giudice.
Mandelker: [Shocked] Giudice?!?
Karam: Well, Joe Giudice has always been hilarious. He has never given a crap about the cameras being there. Like, he's [Ed: ALLEGEDLY!] cheating on his wife right on camera, which is hilarious. He got thrown in jail and his wife thrown in jail, then his ass had to go to Italy and he still acted like an asshole on camera. And then Andy paid him to come do an interview, like a one-on-one sit down with Andy, and he told Andy off in the interview! I mean, you've got to respect that Househusband game.
Mandelker: It's gotta be Joe Gorga. Listen, no disrespect to Frank [Catania], no disrespect to Joe Giudice, no disrespect to Margaret's Joe — but Joe Gorga. He's just an adorable little muscle man who says not very bright things, but is earnest. I think it's got to be Joe Gorga.
Have any of the Housewives complained to you about your impressions of them?
Mandelker: I don't think any have actually! The only one that jumps to my mind was Ashley [Borders] from Southern Charm: Savannah. [She] was like, "Well, maybe before you make fun of someone, you should get to know them."
Karam: She said that on Twitter [Ed. with a tweet that has since been deleted] and everyone was like, “Lighten up, lady.” We've had a couple who have maybe been offended in general, but they don't really come for us. We just have to kind of guess by unfollows.
Mandelker: Well, you know, I know somebody who wasn't so happy with us — although he is not very happy with a lot of people — and that'd be Jax Taylor, who recently blocked us. When we were on Watch What Happens Live, Andy asked who's been blocked by a Bravolebrity, and Ronnie and I were the only ones who actually hadn't been blocked. So Jax gave us a courtesy block.
A true Bravo blessing upon your house! Speaking of Bravo blessings, let's end this in true Bravo style: What's your 2020 Bravo Rose and Thorn?
Karam: My Rose is Karen on Real Housewives of Potomac, who has been consistently amazing. I’m saving up to buy one of her wigs for 2021. I’m sure it will change everything. My Thorn is Below Deck Sailing — it was a tough pill to swallow. Is it too much boat cleaning? Chef Adam the douchelord coming back to passive aggressively torture the cast? The girl who wouldn’t shut up with her guitar and her terrible baby voice singer songwriter schtick? Not sure, but that was a big no from me.
Mandelker: My Thorn is that Bravo hasn’t brought back Southern Charm: New Orleans yet! Um, has there been a rose? I'll say Real Housewives of New York has been a rose for me. It's just kept me in a good place, and it's just brought me joy.
Image: Courtesy Ben Mandelker and Ronnie Karam