In the “Real Housewives” universe, things often don’t go as originally planned.
I signed on to be part of this weekend’s sold-out BravoCon and host a panel at the three-day Javits Center event called “The Jersey Boys,” featuring the husbands from “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.” The panel would be a testerone-rich companion to a panel starring the Garden State’s housewives.
But, as infidelity rumors swirled around New Jersey housewife Melissa Gorga and the longstanding feud between Gorga and sister-in-law Teresa Giudice reignited, Bravo execs had to come up with a new plan. Gorga, 43 and Giudice, 50, could not share a stage.
So, on Saturday afternoon, I’ll moderate “Jersey Ladies & Their Men: Part 1” with Gorga, Jackie Goldschneider, Margaret Josephs and their respective spouses. Hours later, Giudice, Jennifer Aydin, Dolores Catania and their men will sit down for Part 2.
“It’s heavy,” Sezin Cavusoglu, Vice President of Production at Bravo and a former producer on “RHONJ” producer, told The Post of the behind-the-scenes drama. She noted that the panel shakeup did not come at the behest of either Gorga or Giudice.
“We’re just very aware that they’re not getting along right now, so we made the collective decision to keep them apart,” she said. “We want our talent to enjoy their time here as much as the fans.”
Such is the challenge for what Bravo hopes will be a memorable but peaceful weekend. One hundred forty-five of the network’s reality stars will be in attendance, along with 35,000 fans, but it’s not intended to be a large-scale reunion special — the acrimonious extravaganzas that are known for shrill screaming, dramatic exits and pained reaction shots from mastermind Andy Cohen. BravoCon is supposed to be lighter and brighter.
“This isn’t a tense reunion taping,” Cavusoglu, said. “It’s meant to make you laugh.”
But keeping things from getting heated isn’t easy.
“There is a lot of drama among our casts,” Cavusoglu admitted.
“Real Housewives of Potomac” star Dr. Wendy Osefo told The Post she hopes to maintain plenty of distance from her onscreen adversary Mia Thornton at Sunday’s “Potomac Takes Manhattan” panel.
“Make sure we’re seated far apart,” Osefo, 38, says of Thornton, 37, who threw a drink in the professor’s face while filming Season 7. “Because I may give y’all a show at BravoCon. Don’t sit her by me!”
Meanwhile, “Real Housewives Salt Lake City” foes Meredith Marks and Lisa Barlow and “Beverly Hills” former besties Lisa Rinna and Kyle Richards will be sitting on panels together, despite mounting discord playing out on their shows and social media.
The conflict between Rinna, 59, and Richards, 53, notably involves the latter’s sister, Kathy Hilton. Rinna has alleged that a tirade Hilton went on in Aspen was “abuse,” while Hilton has called Rinna the “biggest bully in Hollywood.”
Hilton, 63, a socialite and mother of Paris and Nicky Hilton, is skipping out on the group panel, but nonetheless interacting with fans during a Friday photo op.
“It’s a big win for us that each of those ladies agreed to attend, considering the circumstances,” Cavusoglu said.
She even holds out hope that BravoCon could be a healing moment.
“Maybe some of these women will make up here,” Cavusoglu said. “No matter what, I trust our stars and I know that nobody is coming here to make a scene. All we know is that our talent and the fans are coming here to have fun.”
But, for many, making — or watching — an ugly argument unfold is what’s fun. Jersey “Housewife” Margaret Josephs is eager to see how things play out between Rinna and Richards.
“I know this sounds crazy, but I have to see the ‘Beverly Hills’ ladies because I’ve been watching all the craziness on the show,” she said. “I’ve got to see what goes down.”