How ‘Real Housewives’ could reshape a major scandal in L.A.’s power circles

A well dressed man and woman at a dinner table.
“Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Erika Girardi (known professionally as Erika Jayne) filed for divorce from her husband, powerhouse attorney Tom Girardi, in November 2020. What has developed since is one of the biggest scandals to rock L.A.’s power circles.

If you’ve been missing “The Envelope” podcast, the home stretch of Emmy season will be a treat: Today marks the beginning of a four-episode crossover — call it a limited event series — with our daily news podcast, “The Times.”

Hosted by Gustavo Arellano, “The Times” brings you the world through the eyes of the West Coast via audio awesomeness across all subjects: sports, food, politics, culture and more. From conversations with victims of China’s police state, Sen. Katie Porter and car chase pioneers to coverage of Hollywood, drought, disasters and kink, it’s a must-follow delivered with a diversity of voices and a bunch of drama and desmadre.

In today’s episode, Arellano speaks with staff writer Yvonne Villarreal about the allure of Bravo’s flagship franchise, “The Real Housewives,” and how fans are responding to a ripped-from-the-headlines story unfolding this summer on its “Beverly Hills” edition.

In the midst of production on Season 11, Erika Girardi filed for divorce from her husband, powerhouse attorney Tom Girardi. But this wasn’t an ordinary split in the “Housewives” universe, a marriage upended by the rigors of reality TV. Instead, what emerged were mounting legal woes. Tom Girardi was hit with a lawsuit that accused them of embezzling funds intended to help the families of Lion Air Flight 610 victims.


Now, as the drama plays out onscreen and the couple’s divorce filing is under intense scrutiny, audiences are watching closely to see how the series reflects, and possibly shapes, the real-life case. (And although perennial reality competition contender “Top Chef” and super-yacht docusoap “Below Deck” were Bravo’s only titles to earn nominations from the TV academy this year, there is an awards connection: Some have declared Erika’s performance worthy of an Emmy.)

In the episode, Arellano also talks to investigative reporters Harriet Ryan and Matt Hamilton, whose reporting untangles the Girardis’ rise and fall. Tom Girardi was a legend in the legal community for representing victims in class-action lawsuits against giant corporations — one of his cases served as the basis for the Julia Roberts film “Erin Brockovich.”

But the reporters’ work revealed a troubling side. Millions of dollars in settlement money that went to Tom Girardi’s law firm never reached victims. And complaints against the firm never resulted in discipline. Did that have anything to do with the expensive favors Tom lavished on investigators? And how does Erika, who started a pop-music career under the pseudonym Erika Jayne and once boasted about employing a $40,000-per-month “glam squad,” figure into it all?

We’re getting closer to television’s biggest night, so there’s no better time to catch up on our conversations with nominees from the most talked-about TV shows of the moment. Check out our past episodes with Steven Canals for “Pose,” Kate Winslet for “Mare of Easttown,” Elizabeth Olsen for “WandaVision” and Josh O’Connor for “The Crown.”

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