Scott D. Pierce: ‘Real Housewives of SLC is supposed to be fun. Criminal behavior and racism aren’t fun.

Bravo and the show’s producers are responsible for Mary Cosby’s return.

“The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” are about to return for their fourth season on Bravo, and they’re dealing with the aftermath of a criminal cast member and the return of a racist.

That’s unsettling, because this is a show none of us should take too seriously.

That’s not meant to belittle the women featured on the show, but this is supposed to be entertainment. Remember, Bravo launched the first series in the franchise, “The Real Housewives of Orange County, 17 years ago because it couldn’t afford scripted shows. It was a way to mimic “Desperate Housewives” without having to pay actors and writers.

A lot of people find all the fighting, yelling and childish behavior on “Real Housewives” entertaining. Not everyone, clearly, but then there’s no show that everyone watches. Almost 220 million Americans did NOT watch the Super Bowl earlier this year, and it’s the single most popular thing on TV.

That said, there are a couple of things deeply disturbing about “RHOSLC”: The fandom that continues to cling to convicted criminal Jen Shah, and the return of Mary Cosby, who repeatedly said racist things when she was on the show the first two seasons.

Bravo and the show’s producers have no control over the former, but they have complete control over the latter.

The cult of Jen Shah

The biggest personality on Seasons 1-3 of “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” is in prison. Jen Shah pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges and was sentenced to 6½ years.

There’s no question she was guilty, even though she denied it repeatedly on the show. Faced with the evidence against her, she admitted her crimes. Yet there are fans who continue to argue she is innocent. Worse yet, there are fans who continue to idolize her — proclaiming their undying devotion on social media.

Maybe they believed Jen the multitude of times she swore she was innocent on the show, but they don’t believe her confession? That’s weird and troubling.

(Andrew Peterson/Bravo) Jen Shah continually proclaimed she was innocent of the federal charges against her on "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" — right up until she pleaded guilty.

And what Jen did was awful. She swindled a lot of people — thousands, according to prosecutors. Older and vulnerable people, for the most part, many of whom lost their life savings. One 92-year-old World War II veteran who lost more than $100,000 took his own life.

And there are still people who think she’s worthy of praise?

I’m not saying people can’t change. I hope Jen serves her time, pays restitution and turns her life around. But it’s more than unsettling that there are “RHOSLC” viewers who are still on her bandwagon.

(Bravo) Mary Cosby has returned to "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" for Season 4.

The racism of Mary Cosby

It’s not at all surprising that the producers of “RHOSLC” invited Mary back. She is entertaining in an unhinged sort of way, what with the often dumb, offensive things she says, her struggles with the language, and her condescension toward just about everyone and everything.

Her return is repulsive, however, because not only did Mary repeatedly speak and act in racist ways in Seasons 1 and 2, but she’s never face a reckoning.

In Season 1, Mary admitted that Jen was telling the truth when she said Mary told her that when she goes to a 7-Eleven “‘and I see Black people, I go to a different 7-Eleven.’” Through a publicist, Mary denied saying that. On the show, she admitted it on camera.

• Also in Season 1, Mary called Jen (whose husband is Black) “ghetto” and a “hoodlum.”

In Season 2, Mary called Jen (who is of Polynesian and Asian descent) a “thug” and compared her to “those Mexican people that make all those drugs.” Later, Mary adamantly denied making the comments, which were captured on video. After the episode aired, she posted an apology on social media, then disavowed her apology and took down the post.

She also mocked members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

(Natalie Cass/Bravo) Jennie Nguyen and Jen Shan on "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City."

• Also in Season 2, Mary referred to Jennie Nguyen’s “yellow” skin tone and “slanted eyes.” When Jennie (who immigrated to America from Vietnam) told her that’s offensive and racist, Mary smirked and claimed it was intended as a “compliment.” She offered a mild apology, but quickly made it clear she didn’t mean it. And on social media, Mary posted that she would “never” apologize to Jennie.

Maybe some sort of reckoning is coming later in the season, but Mary’s racist behavior is not even mentioned in the fourth-season premiere (airing Sept. 5).

And yet Jennie was fired from “RHOSLC” when anti-Black Lives Matter posts she had made before she was cast on the show came to light. (Among other things, she referred to BLM as as “thugs” and “violent gangs,” and shared a debunked story accusing George Floyd of rape.) Unlike Mary, Jennie apologized.

I’m not disagreeing with the decision to drop Jennie, but Mary acts racist multiple times and she not only wasn’t fired for it, but she’s allowed back on the show? Clearly, Bravo and the producers believe that not all racism is equal.

(Mary was fired after Season 2 because she refused to show up for the reunion episodes, which was required under the terms of her contract. It was a cowardly move by Mary, who didn’t want to answer questions about her racism or allegations that the church she led was a cult. She’s a “friend” in Season 4 — she’ll appear in an undetermined number of episodes — and it’s unclear if “friends” are required to appear in reunion episodes.)

With any “Real Housewives” show, you want to sit back and just laugh at all the fighting and catty behavior. But it’s hard to sit back and laugh at racism.

Season 4 of “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” begins Tuesday, Sept. 5 — 7 p.m. on Dish and DirecTV; 10 p.m. on Comcast.

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