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Scott D. Pierce: Jen Shah is a ‘Real Housewives of SLC’ star, and her legal woes will take center stage in Season 2

Controversial cast member faces decades in prison on charges she bilked ‘vulnerable, often elderly, working-class people.’

(Photo courtesy of Heidi Gutman/Bravo) Jen Shah at the "Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" reunion.

For most TV stars, getting arrested for cheating little old ladies out of their life savings would be the end of their careers. Even before the case went to trial, it would, in all likelihood, force the cancellation of their shows.

That’s true even in an age when it’s become standard practice for politicians to tell us that what we saw happen on TV didn’t actually happen.

But that’s not true if you’re one of “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City.” Jen Shah’s arrest and impending trial is potentially the greatest thing that could happen for the Bravo series.

Are you kidding? “Real Housewives” is train-wreck TV — we can’t help looking at the carnage — and this has potential to turn into one of the biggest pileups in the history of the franchise. And there have been almost 1,500 “Real Housewives” episodes to date, what with all the different casts in all the different cities.

“Real Housewives” is all about the drama, and what better drama than when — in the midst of filming — your most controversial cast member is handcuffed and taken into custody, facing allegations that she and her assistant “flaunted their lavish lifestyle to the public as a symbol of their success” while they ran a fraudulent telemarketing scheme that took advantage of hundreds of “vulnerable, often elderly, working-class people”?

(Photo courtesy of Fred Hayes/Bravo) The fallout from the fight at the surprise birthday party two episodes ago continues to plague Whitney Rose, Meredith Marks, Jen Shah and Lisa Barlow on "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City."

Sounds like ratings gold for Bravo! Can’t you just see executive producer Andy Cohen and Bravo execs jumping up and down and clapping their hands wildly when they got the news?

To be clear, neither the show’s producers nor Bravo executives have commented on any of this. (That’s nothing new. Bravo’s has a longstanding policy not to release any info about the cable channel’s reality shows until shortly before a new batch of episodes airs.) Officially, they haven’t even confirmed which Housewives will be featured in Season 2 of “RHOSLC.” Unofficially, word is that the six first-season cast members are all back, along with at least one newcomer.

(I’d have predicted that Lisa Barlow, Heather Gay, Meredith Marks and Whitney Rose would be likely to return. But, if it’s true that Mary Cosby is back, I’m a bit surprised after she all but disappeared from several episodes in Season 1 — and looked like a fairly terrible person when she did appear, more often than not.)

(Photo courtesy of Fred Hayes/Bravo) Jen Shah and Mary Cosby in “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City.”

As for Shah, it’s an open secret that she returned to filming after her arrest in March.

The latest development in the legal case is that Shah’s lawyers have asked to have the case dismissed. That’s not an unusual move, and it usually doesn’t work. And it’s worth pointing out that Shah did plead not guilty.

Shah’s lawyers maintain that the indictment “is not at all clear” about how a crime was committed, and the prosecution has mostly refused to clarify. And they’re not happy that prosecutors have dumped more than 1.3 million documents — as well as hundreds of electronic devices — into the mix. “This information cannot be adequately reviewed in a lifetime,” they argue.

I’m no lawyer, but that seems like a valid point.

The 57-page filing contains a lot of legalese that won’t make it onto the show. It boils down to this: Shah’s lawyers maintain she hasn’t committed a crime — and they want the charges dropped.

But the filing does, perhaps, offer us a peek into what we’ll see happening when “RHOSLC” returns for Season 2 — including that Shah wants her post-arrest statements suppressed because detectives allegedly lied to her and she was “in a very emotional state due to the combination of strange phone calls she received the morning of her arrest and her history with a convicted felon who had victimized her in New York.”

And waiving her rights to stay silent shouldn’t be counted, her lawyers contend, because her contacts had dried out, her vision was blurry and she didn’t know what she was signing.

Now THAT’S the Jen Shah we came to know and love (or loathe) in Season 1!

Don’t get me wrong. This is serious stuff. If she’s convicted, Shah could be sentenced to decades of prison time.

But, clearly, this is going to be Big News in Season 2 of “RHOSLC.” Which is, like it or not, Bravo continues to shape into cleverly constructed entertainment. This is the really juicy stuff, and it’s happening to the most compelling of the Utah housewives.

Jen Shah is a lot of things, but boring she is not. Her often temperamental behavior — followed by the inevitable excuses and explanations, sometimes accompanied by abject apologies — drove the show’s narrative more than any of the other women in Season 1. She appears absolutely charming one minute and angry, spiteful and vindictive in the next.

On a recent edition of the “So Bad It’s Good With Ryan Bailey” podcast, fellow Housewife Heather Gay — who’s had an up-and-down relationship with Shah, said, “She is a star. When you are in the room with her, she is magnetic and charismatic.”

For the record, my few contacts with Shah left me liking her. And, more often than not, sympathizing with her.

(Photo courtesy of Bravo) Sharrieff and Jen Shah in Episode 10 of "Real Housewives of Salt Lake City."

Jen is a lot to deal with, but watching her husband, University of Utah assistant football coach Sharrieff Shah, do just that was a surprisingly charming aspect of the show.

Again, I have no legal training and no idea how this is going to turn out. I have no way to know whether Shah is guilty of anything. For her family’s sake, I hope she’s not.

And, to complicate things even more, what about the little old ladies (and men) she’s accused of bilking?

It will be interesting to see how the producers play this out. They like to build suspense, but it’s not going to come as a surprise when Shah gets arrested. And, assuming this goes to trial in mid-October, as scheduled, that’ll be well after production ends on Season 2. (And perhaps even before it starts airing.)

There’s no word on when that will be. Season 1 premiered in November 2020, but we’ll have to see whether Season 2 follows that same timeline.

Whenever it comes, Season 2 will show us how the other Housewives react to Shah’s arrest and its aftermath. In true Bravo fashion, this will be their chance to rise above — or sink down into — the gutter.

The high road might be a more noble choice for all concerned; sinking into the muck will be more entertaining.

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