I get it: Tuning into a show you've never seen before for its 11th season sounds a little strange. “Vanderpump Rules” has aired for a decade and you've never paid it much mind, so why start now? For starters, the Jan. 30 premiere is quite possibly the most anticipated in the history of the series thanks to everything that went down last season and since then.
I'm referring, of course, to “Scandoval,” the nickname given to the real-life scandal that unfolded onscreen and off after it was revealed “Vanderpump Rules” cast member Tom Sandoval was cheating on his longtime live-in partner, Ariana Madix, with fellow cast mate Rachel (Raquel) Leviss. The unexpected love triangle scored headlines and dominated social media conversation far beyond the reality TV world. Now the new season is set to showcase the continuing fallout.
Even if you've never seen an episode of “Vanderpump Rules” before and can't tell the difference between Sandoval and his similarly named BFF Tom Schwartz, there are plenty of reasons why this is the perfect time to start watching the Bravo series.
There’s No Time Like the Present
The prospect of watching a show in its 11th season without seeing the prior 10 installments may seem daunting, but you absolutely do not need to watch all the previous episodes to get in on the “Vanderpump Rules” conversation and be ready for the Season 11 premiere. The well-oiled machine that is Bravo knows many people first heard of the series last year when the Scandoval scandal broke and ratings rose accordingly. Producers are expecting plenty of first-time viewers to tune in this year for the same reason, and I'm expecting them to produce the show accordingly so newbies who’re watching because they're curious about all the hullabaloo won't be lost.
Besides, there are already plenty of ways to get caught up on what you need to know, from my own guide to “Vanderpump Rules” to the 28-minute “A Decade of Rumors and Lies” special currently streaming on Peacock. Plus, Bravo's commercials and “previously on” segments are for the benefit of both the versed and unversed and will inform even “Vanderpump Rules” novices with enough background information to allow them to confidently start watching with at least a basic idea of the dynamics and conflicts. Trust that Bravo is going to make it as easy as possible for you to get hooked so you can join in on all the water cooler gossip the show will surely provide in 2024. Now you'll finally understand what your colleagues — and everyone on social media — are talking about!
There’s Something About Ariana Madix
Even if you didn’t know the name Ariana Madix a year ago, I bet you do now! Madix easily emerged as the winner of Scandoval last spring, as people everywhere empathized with her after she was so brutally betrayed by her boyfriend, Sandoval, and her best friend, Leviss. I can't blame her for seizing the spotlight. Madix started popping up in ads for self-referential products (like T-shirts, because Sandoval disgustingly made fun of her for wearing one during an intimate moment), in media interviews, and on “Dancing with the Stars,” where she finished in third place in December. Simply put, Madix has the “it” factor right now and is captivating to watch.
Season 11 of “Vanderpump Rules” is sure to be a redemption season for Madix, who is now dating fitness influencer Daniel Wai, and there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the success of a woman scorned — or is there? Promos for the new episodes indicate other cast members are starting to become resentful of all the attention Madix is getting. But in my estimation, she's handled this disgrace with grace and has served as a fairly positive female role model, at least among the many dramatic women swimming in the Bravo sea. I'm excited to tune in to see how she (hopefully) rises above the fray and if she and co-star Katie Maloney ever open their long-awaited sandwich shop, There’s Something About Her.
Surely Tom Sandoval Will Suffer the Consequences of His Affair
You don’t have to be a longtime “Vanderpump Rules” viewer to know Sandoval deserves some sort of comeuppance. A man cheating on his significant other of nine years is bad enough; Sandoval cheated with his significant other’s best friend and carried on the affair knowing reality TV cameras follow all their lives! Bravo has certainly been known to embrace men behaving badly (see the Peter Pan-syndromed men of “Southern Charm”), but Sandoval has fallen from grace like few others.
We already saw him face the wrath of the understandably pissed Madix and their pals in the Season 10 finale and three-part reunion show, but all signs suggest Sandoval isn't being let off the hook just yet. He gets into it with several people in the Season 11 trailer of “Vanderpump Rules,” and I'm eager to see how his friendships and businesses, which he co-owns with Schwartz, are faring now. While the guys' friendship will probably survive in the long run, his relationships with the women of the cast (Lala Kent, Sheana Shay, Maloney, etc.) likely won’t. Women supporting women — and people getting their just desserts — is a lovely thing to watch!
It's a Case Study in How People and Perceptions Change in the Wake of a Scandal
Once upon a time, DJ James Kennedy, who joined the “Vanderpump Rules” cast in Season 3, was considered all-around despicable — a body-shaming, out-of-control, often-drunk terror. Amidst people's changing views of Sandoval for his cheating with Leviss, and of Schwartz for his role in helping his BFF hide the affair, Kennedy emerged at the end of Season 10 as the show's male voice of reason, and a highly comedic one at that. What was so striking was the fact that he was more or less the same person, but now other cast members seeming worse made him look better. Still, I can't help but wonder if Kennedy is turning a corner and finally growing up. Perhaps girlfriend Ally Lewber, who was introduced last season, is a good influence on him?
Way back in Season 4, Sandoval and former cast member Jax Taylor (who makes a return appearance in Season 11) infamously discussed which one of them should be considered “The No. 1 Guy in the Group.” For the moment, that seems to be Kennedy, but we have a long season ahead of us. If nothing else, “Vanderpump Rules” is fascinating to watch to see how people do and don't change over time, especially in light of bad behavior.
We Could All Use Some of Lisa’s Rules
Lisa Vanderpump serves as a mentor and mother figure to the relatively young cast of “Vanderpump Rules.” She has known many of them since they were in their early 20s, when they were working as servers, bartenders, hosts, and DJs in her West Hollywood restaurant, SUR. Every season, Vanderpump keeps a (relatively) cool head during all the drama and never hesitates to call things as she sees them. With group dynamics completely upended thanks to Scandoval, her perspective and wisdom are more needed than ever. She's the glamorous, maternal calm in the eye of the storm.
Vanderpump, of course, isn't perfect (just watch her nine seasons on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” for proof of that), but she's done a lot of good for the world: She champions LGBTQ+ causes, is an advocate for animal rescue (and the co-founder of The Vanderpump Dog Foundation), and has been recognized by numerous organizations for her philanthropic and entrepreneurial work. In other words, there are far worse mentors to have. The “Vanderpump Rules” cast, and we as the viewing audience, need her centering voice. The fact that she delivers her mentorship covered in diamonds just makes watching “Vanderpump Rules” all the more delicious!
Season 11 of “Vanderpump Rules” will premiere Jan. 30 on Bravo, with weekly episodes streaming the next day on Peacock.