This past Sunday afternoon, on the Grammys red carpet, Kandi Burruss dropped the bombshell that she won’t be gracing the screen for the upcoming sixteenth season of Real Housewives of Atlanta. This departure marks the end of an era, as Burruss, holds the undisputed title of the longest-running housewife on both the Atlanta franchise and the entire Bravo network for 14 consecutive seasons.
Burruss’ absence is sure to leave a void that will be challenging for the show to fill. As the show’s last original housewife bids adieu, the Real Housewives of Atlanta faces the daunting task of reinventing its dynamic without the woman who has been a part of its beating heart for so long.
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The show’s producer, Andy Cohen shared his thoughts after the announcement, with nothing but positive things to say about Kandi. “Incredible run. And you think about how much she not only went through on the show, but brought to the show…She also in those early seasons, did the music and wrote ‘Tardy for the party,’ which has become canon. It’s just iconic to the moment.”
Beyond being simply a housewife, Kandi built an empire that seemingly grew even larger by being a part of RHOA. Cohen continued, “She brought us Mama Joyce, she brought us Bolo. She brought us the dungeon, Bedroom Kandi, Don Juan, The Old Lady Gang. I mean it goes on and on.” She’s been a part of some of the show’s most memorable moments, from Nene’s “Pillow Talk” debacle, the “Savann-no,” episode, the “Talls vs. Smalls,” the infamous trip to Anguilla and the trip to Africa, where she met her now husband, Todd Tucker.
As for the last few seasons however, RHOA has struggled to maintain its viewership after other key cast members departed, including Nene Leakes leaving in season 12, and Cynthia Bailey and Porsha Williams-Goubadia in season 13. Per Yahoo, Season 12 averaged 1.8 million viewers, Season 13 had 1.25 million, and Season 14 averaged 950,000. Season 15 was far worse, seeing the lowest viewership in years, with the season’s fourth episode only netting 657,000 viewers.
There have been recent rumblings about the cast shake-up following a vapid season 15, which featured Burrus along with Marlo Hampton, Drew Sidora, Shereé Whitfield, Kenya Moore, and Sanya Richards-Ross. In an interview with E! in November, the Grammy-winning songwriter hinted at what’s to come of the franchise. “I do believe that some old—I don’t want to say old—but previous cast members will be back. I don’t know how many, but I do think at least one,” Burruss said of the upcoming season.
While the franchise has undeniably been a juggernaut in pop culture, the luster that once defined its appeal seems to have dimmed over the last few seasons. This loss of its distinctive flair, the very essence we’ve come to know and love, has resulted in a shift of viewer loyalty towards other Bravo shows. Notably, Married To Medicine has emerged as a contender, stealing the spotlight, drawing in a higher viewership. Deadline reported that the Season 10 premiere of Married to Medicine, tallied 1.6 million total viewers.
Married To Medicine capitalizes on the vacuum left by its Atlanta counterpart but also sets a new standard for engaging television. As the Bravo network navigates this evolution, it’s evident that the torch of storytelling has been passed on, leaving fans to ponder the fate of the once-mighty franchise.
The new season of RHOA hasn’t begun filming yet due to current casting delays, which is perhaps what prompted Burrus-Tucker’s departure—Kandi has been active in a handful of endeavors, from shooting films like the recent, The Pass and producing the Broadway iteration of The Wiz.
“I’ve been going back and forth and I think because they gave us such a long break, I had a lot of time to do other things, and I’ve got some big announcements to make coming soon. So, yeah, I love the girls, they’re my friends, I’m still going to see them and hang out with them, and Bravo is my family. I love them as well,” Burruss told ET. “A friend of mine was like, ‘Why do you keep doing it?’ And I was like, ‘Well, I think I’ve been doing it so long it just feels weird to think not to do it,’” she continued. “So I said, ‘You know what, take a break, I’m gonna take a moment.’”
Regardless of her reasons, Burruss is leaving the show in good spirits. Cohen continued in the audio clip saying that Kandi will maintain her relationship with Bravo, and that there is still more in the works for Kandi – keep in mind that she also brought other shows to the network, including Kandi & The Gang – the RHOA offshoot about her growing ATL restaurant, The Old Lady Gang, as well as SWV & Xscape: The Queens Of R&B, the tumultuous journey about the two girl girl groups coming together to go on tour.
While Burruss may be shifting gears to new endeavors beyond the camera, the upcoming season will undoubtedly feel the impact of her departure. The feedback from fans has been polarizing – some are left wondering how the show will navigate without her, while others are happy to see her close this chapter. Nonetheless, her closing this chapter will simultaneously begin a new era for RHOA. The show’s future hangs in the balance, and the season 16 cast will likely make or break its viewership for future seasons.
Whether you love or hate Kandi, we’d be remiss to not acknowledge that Burrus carries with her the remnants of the OG Real Housewives of Atlanta. It’s not to say that other cast members haven’t made an impact, or helped to make the show, but Kandi has shown us her life from season two, which aired in 2008, all the way to now. The shoes to fill aren’t just about her absence, but also the sizable task of reigniting the spark that made RHOA a must-watch.
With the departure of Burruss, the show faces not only the challenge of rebuilding but also identifying its new key players. Production will have to navigate uncharted territory, searching for both anchors and foils to define its identity in this new era. The void left by Burruss creates a critical juncture for the show, demanding a reevaluation of its cast and a fresh approach to maintaining its relevance.