- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 7, 2010

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Bravo is cleaning house.

The network announced Monday that Danielle Staub, the firestarter on “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” would not be returning to the show. Throughout the tumultuous second season, Staub enraged Caroline Manzo, her sister-in-law Jacqueline Laurita and family friend Teresa Giudice, though Staub seemed to make amends at the end of Monday’s reunion episode.

“The reunion was Danielle’s last appearance on “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” said Andy Cohen, Bravo’s senior vice president of original programming and development who also hosts “The Real Housewives” reunion shows. “We thought the hugs were a great way to end two seasons of bitterness between the women.”

It’s the latest in a series of “Real Housewives” departures. Sarcastic chef Bethenny Frankel, who starred earlier this year in the spin-off “Bethenny Getting Married?” about her nuptials and pregnancy, told Us Weekly magazine last week that she did not want to return for the New York edition’s fourth outing because last season was “scary and painful.”

“Do I expect her to be holding an apple at the beginning of the show? Probably not,” said Cohen. “She’s had great success with her own show. On the flip side, I do hope to see her in the ‘Housewives’ universe in some way.”

Last month, energetic entrepreneur Lisa Wu Hartwell was also officially revealed to not be among the Atlanta ladies’ third season, premiering Oct. 4. Cohen said it’s because she “moved far, far, far outside of Atlanta.” NeNe Lekes, Kim Zolciak, Sheree Whitfield and Kandi Burruss will instead be joined by model Cynthia Bailey and lawyer Phaedra Parks.

“This is a fairly smooth transition,” said Cohen, “though I can’t say Phaedra is NeNe’s favorite from the get-go.”

Lynne Curtain, the spacy mother of two rowdy teenage daughters introduced at the beginning of Orange County’s fourth season, posted on her Facebook profile last month that she would not be returning to the show. Cohen wouldn’t comment on the most recent cast changes with the Orange County entourage because the sixth season is currently in production.

It’s a hefty amount of turnover for the Bravo franchise. Only brash original housewife Vicki Gunvalson remains on the Orange County edition, while the New York, Atlanta and New Jersey chapters have all experienced cast changes. (“The Real Housewives of D.C.,” starring alleged White House partycrasher Michaele Salahi, is currently airing its first season.)

Cohen said when he seeks out new “Real Housewives, he looks for independent, strong, attractive and wealthy women who are typically mothers that are married, divorced or engaged. He said new cast members should have a connection to the existing “Real Housewives.” Atlanta additions Parks and Bailey, for example, were friends of Burruss and Lekes.

While several women are moving on from the 4-year-old franchise, an entirely new group of “Real Housewives” in Beverly Hills are preparing for their close-up , debuting Oct. 14. Cohen promised a return to over-the-top opulence and a family dynamic similar to the New Jersey series with a pair sisters who happen to be connected to the Hilton family.

The Beverly Hills cast includes: Adrienne Maloof, whose family owns the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas; Camille Grammer, ex-wife of “Frasier” star Kelsey Grammer; Lisa Vanderpump, a transplanted British restaurateur; Taylor Armstrong, wife of venture capitalist Russell Armstrong and Kim and Kyle Richards, former child stars and aunts of Paris Hilton.

“There’s big, big, big drama and big, big, big tension,” said Cohen. “They all live near each other, and it’s amazing. You’ll see what it means to be someone’s neighbor in Beverly Hills. You have to walk a mile to get to your next door neighbor’s house. Adrienne and Lisa live across the street from each other. I’ve never seen wealth on that scale.”

Bravo is constantly searching for new cast members, both in existing and potential locales, according to Cohen. That means interviewing and filming test footage of possible “Real Housewives” with their friends and families. Cohen said the network has attempted to wrangle a Texas edition for the past two years but “never hit it” with the right group of women.

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Bravo is owned by General Electric Co.’s NBC cable unit.

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