‘Summer House’ Lindsay & Carl’s Breakup Is Good for Business – The Cut

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Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: NBC

On last night’s highly anticipated Summer House reunion, host Andy Cohen spoke for all of us, telling cast members turned exes Lindsay Hubbard and Carl Radke, “I want to say on behalf of America, I am so glad you’re not getting married.” As Bravo-heads know, after spending all summer alternating between planning their wedding and screaming at each other so loud that their neighbors filed noise complaints, Hubbard and Radke called off their engagement in the tense season finale. So, he’s right, a lifelong commitment would have been a mistake, and breaking up, in this case epically, was the right thing to do. Most important, though, it was excellent television. Because these days, viewers want to see a big blowup more than they want to see a wedding.

Getting married on TV used to be the biggest, starriest accomplishment for a Bravo reality-TV star. Over the years, we’ve watched Housewife after Housewife grit their teeth through absolutely horrendous relationships just to get to wear a white dress on TV (see Bethenny Frankel, Teresa Giudice, Nene Leakes, Cynthia Bailey — twice, Kim Zolciak … and that’s before all the additional vow renewals). Just two seasons ago on Summer House, long-suffering partners Amanda Batula and Kyle Cooke fought and overdrank their way to a grand season-finale wedding, despite most of their fellow cast members gingerly telling them it would really be okay if they wanted to cancel. Calling off a wedding is hard, and calling off a TV wedding used to be unthinkable.

“Scandoval,” I think, changed everything. When the Vanderpump Rules cheating scandal hit the airwaves last year, it turned the once-flailing show into a ratings juggernaut and showed cast members on competing shows that breakups — especially dramatic, life-shattering separations — were perhaps better TV than even the happiest of endings. Since Pump Rules’ record-setting tenth season, there has been a mini-breakup wave across the rest of the Bravo ocean: Southern Charm aired a similar cheating scandal that ended with onetime partners Austen Kroll and Olivia Flowers screaming at each other, and Pump Rules spinoff The Valley just ended with not one but two televised separations and was swiftly renewed for a second season.

But Radke and Hubbard’s split is perhaps the most dramatic of all. This season was supposed to be all about their wedding, but the ex-couple instead let the cameras catch the major cracks in their relationship. On the very first episode, Hubbard baselessly accused Radke, who is sober and has documented his struggles with alcoholism and addiction on the show, of breaking his sobriety. And somehow things got worse from there: Radke brought cameras to his parents’ vacation house, where they pointedly told him he should not go through with the marriage, shortly before Hubbard endured the most awkward bridal shower of all time with her would-be mother-in-law, Hubbard talked openly about their absent sex life, and both parties screamed at each other throughout every single inane themed party. When Radke finally called off the wedding three days after leaving the house — with cameras present, of course — it felt like a relief.

If the season had ended with their wedding, last night’s reunion probably would have been filled with a boring recap of the couple’s special day and multiple exhortations from everyone that, really, they were happy now. Instead, we got the truth about Hubbard and Radke’s relationship, which is that it sucked. “Who thinks Carl was afraid of Lindsay?” Cohen asked halfway through the program. Every single cast member, including both Hubbard and Radke, raised their hand.

The exes also freely revealed the financial details of their canceled nuptials and breakup, which was fascinating. Radke said he had to pay $125,000 in fees for calling off their Mexican destination wedding, to which Hubbard said “good,” basically. He also claimed to have paid half the rent on their Manhattan apartment for nine months after he moved out (real fans will remember from last season that they initially rented the place for a stunning $13,000 a month, so this breakup really cost him).

Luckily, the split has been good for business. Both parties got sympathetic profiles in major outlets — she in Glamour, he in the New York Times — and post-breakup spon-con deals. In recent weeks, they have even engaged in somewhat of a cheesy-snack-influencer war: Radke first promoted Old Bay Goldfish (and perhaps a set of new teeth?) on Instagram, and Hubbard retaliated with an ad deal for Cheez-It Snap’d. They are both, it’s safe to assume, getting paid.

Later in the reunion, Hubbard gave insight into their wedding planning, claiming that Radke never wanted Cooke, his best friend in the house, to be a groomsman — a detail that caused Cooke to look down at his shoes in absolute sorrow. I am starting to get scared about what these scorned exes will reveal in part two of the reunion next week. Nothing, it seems, is off-limits.

I also wonder what Cooke and Batula have been thinking as all of this has played out in real life and on the show. Their relationship seems as troubled as ever — Cooke had several drunken meltdowns about Batula working on a project that’s not his beloved hard sparkling iced-tea brand throughout the summer — and they certainly had just as many people telling them not to get married two years ago as did Hubbard and Radke. At the time, Cooke and Batula must have felt that the only way out was through. But now? Perhaps they’ll see that divorce, if they’d like to get one, would not ruin their lives or the show. It could even buy them another season.

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A Reality-TV Breakup Is Worth More Than a Reality-TV Wedding

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