'Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' Returns After Russell Armstrong's Suicide

Season 2 kicks off tonight despite death of star's estranged husband.

ByABC News
September 5, 2011, 11:07 AM

Sept. 5, 2011— -- "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" returns to Bravo tonight just three weeks after Russell Armstrong's suicide.

Armstrong, the estranged husband of housewife Taylor Armstrong, was found dead at his Los Angeles home Aug. 15 after apparently hanging himself. He was 47.

The tragedy whether the show's second season, taped six months ago, would air.

"When we heard about the tragedy, of course all hearts went out to Taylor," producer Douglas Ross told NBC today. "But we, with all of the network, took a hard look at the show and … we decided to make some adjustments where appropriate in light of the circumstances."

The dramatic decline of Armstrong's marriage was rumored to be a focus of season two. But after adjustments, Armstrong will not appear in the first four episodes, Ross said.

"This show is about six strong, aggressive, beautiful women and their stories. And although Taylor and Russell's story is a part of it, it's not the whole show," he told NBC.

Ross said the cast will reflect on Armstrong's death and try to put season two into perspective in tonight's premier.

"Our goal has always been to make an honest and accurate story about the ladies and what goes on in their life and we wanted to be and always are respectful and responsible and, in this case, trying to be very appropriate to the situation," he told NBC.

Ross was joined by housewives Adrienne Maloof, Kyle Richards and Lisa Vanderpump, who said Taylor Armstrong is still trying to "digest everything."

"We've tried to be as supportive as possible but her priority is her little girl," Vanderpump told NBC.

Despite their marital woes, Taylor Armstrong had said she still wanted her husband to be close to their daughter, 5-year-old Kennedy.

"I hope we can co-parent as healthy as possible," she told People Magazine in July, adding that her marriage had become abusive. "He's an amazing dad, and I want her to still think her dad is the greatest guy on the planet."

At the time of his death, Armstrong was more than $1.5 million in debt as a result of trying to keep up with expectations for the lavish lifestyle portrayed on the show, his lawyer told ABCNews.com.

"These couples join these shows, and then they keep trying to outdo each other and they end up spending all their money trying to sustain a lifestyle that's unrealistic and wasn't there prior to the show," said Ronald Richards, Armstrong's attorney. "The weekly social events, the dinners and all the BS, trying to pretend you have unlimited resources in Beverly Hills is tough. When every night is a potential sound bite or posting on a website, you end up getting addicted to it, you go out all the time."

Responding to his estranged wife's allegations of abuse, Armstrong told People, "Did I push her? Yes, maybe things happened in the heat of the moment, but it was during a time in our lives that was not characteristic of who we were… This show has literally pushed us to the limit."

Despite the couple's dramatic breakup, Armstrong's death shocked cast members.

"I always saw him as being reserved and quiet and I know that they had their issues, but no one could have ever anticipated something like this," housewife Kyle Richards told NBC today.

When asked about Armstrong knowing his failed marriage would be a plot line, Richards said, "True, but he also signed up for this season one and came back for season two."

ABC News' Sheila Marikar contributed to this report.