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Did The Real Housewives of Atlanta Need NeNe Back?

Here are some signs that pointed to this not so surprising return.

-by Michael Arceneaux

NeNe Leakes returned to The Real Housewives of Atlanta exactly how I expected her to. With audaciousness: “Yes, bitches. I am back.” With bravado: “The Queen is back.” With contempt for the cast mates that she never truly meshed with: “I can see Kandi face now: face stuck.”

With additional disdain for whoever might else not fancy her: “Pick your faces off the floor. She’s back.” Still, one wonders why did she choose to return?

Last June, when she announced that she would not return for the show’s eighth season, she told People: “This was definitely a hard decision for me. Me and my husband have been going back and forth on it for weeks now. But my contract is up and I just think this is the right time. This is my opportunity to spread my wings and do different things.”

A month after that announcement, she was already rumored to remain on the show in some capacity. Four months after it, she was confirmed to be shooting with the ladies who round out the cast. All that thinking and eight weeks later, it’s, “Oh, well, never mind. I’m back.”

One assumes Leakes was offered a lot of money to go back, but it’s not like she didn’t have other things going on. She recently she ended her four-week run in the Broadway production of Chicago as Matron “Mama” Morton. This marked the second time she’s starred in a musical following her role in Cinderella. Leakes has also signed on to join the E! Network show Fashion Police.

Immediately after announcing that she would be leaving the reality franchise that made her a breakout star, it was reported that she would join Betty White and Black-ish actor Anderson Anderson on a reboot of the 1960s game show To Tell The Truth.

She’s not Bethenny Frankel, who went back to The Real Housewives of New York after her talk show tanked. Leakes made it all too clear that she didn’t necessarily need The Real Housewives of Atlanta anymore. Everything she’s done since leaving the show proved that point. For someone who made a big deal about leaving the show, and for quite some time, expressed exasperation with the show that made her popular, it’s interesting to see her back already. She didn’t give much time for us to miss her.

That said, while I’m not so sure Leakes needed to be back on the show this soon, the show definitely needs her. When NeNe Leakes decided she was ready to leave, my immediate reaction was, “Bye, girl.” Now I’m finding myself saying “Thank God.”

I’ve always felt with these kind of shows, most folks are replaceable. However, while this season of RHOA hasn’t been a complete dud, there are some obvious problems here. One, the addition of Kim Fields has not done wonders. Yes, she offers balance to the ridiculousness of the other women, but she only talks about her children and her husband to the point that she bursts into tears at the sight of her cast mates having fun at a day party. Social anxiety is not that entertaining.

Then there is the matter of Kenya Moore, who I used to think was doing performance art and paying tribute to Valerie Cherish from HBO’s The Comeback. Unfortunately, Kenya is just being a pity week after week as she recycles past women’s storylines. Don’t believe me? Let’s run it down: a song, a fitness video, and now, a new home. I’m surprised she didn’t go out and buy new TV just to compete with NeNe.

Kandi Burruss and her passive aggressiveness provide conflict, but I’m really sick of her staff members doing the absolute most for even a smidgen of attention. They are LaTavia Roberson shooting for Beyoncé’s leads, enough with them already.

Phaedra Parks is amusing to me as a cross between some shady Baptist Black woman and Morticia Addams, but we have got to get this woman on a date or something. I don’t want to hear anything about her and Todd’s business affairs.

God bless Porsha Williams because I know she really wanted that peach back, but I don’t watch this show to see people brawl. The same goes for Cynthia Bailey, who by the way, I truly hope finds a resolution in her marriage one way or the other. I’m tired of watching them serve as television’s answer to the intro to an R&B breakup song.

As for those random “friends” that have been added: hard pass.

The only welcomed addition is the return of Sheree Whitfield. I’d rather never hear about Chateau Sheree again until it’s finished, but at least she knows how to entertain when the camera’s on.

To that end, I’ll take NeNe for no other reason than she’ll at least work for whatever big payday that got her back on here. Whether or not it is worth it will differ among the show’s fans. One thing is for certain, however, until this show finds a new, more engaging cast of characters, they’ll have no choice but to continue holding on to old faithful.