On “The Big Shot With Bethenny” on HBO Max, Bethenny Frankel — the founder and CEO of the lifestyle brand Skinnygirl, and the most successful graduate of “The Real Housewives” franchise — went searching for a No. 2 for her company. The show was first announced in Feb. 2020, then delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, during which Frankel turned her attention to helping to solve the shortage of PPE with her signature determination. Her relief work organization, B Strong, was more effective during COVID’s early days than many local governments. “It just became the biggest effort that I’ve ever worked on with my partners in Miami, Global Empowerment Mission,” Frankel said during Variety’s Virtual TV Fest presented by Amazon Advertising.
Speaking about her different approaches to business and emergency assistance, Frankel said: “I’m much tougher in relief work. There is no margin for error. It is urgent. Everything, get out of the way if you can’t help, and be effective.”
Months later, Frankel turned her attention to “The Big Shot With Bethenny” with HBO Max and MGM Television, with whom she had a production deal. It filmed in the fall in New York City, and the contestants worked on different challenges in order for Frankel to see who was the best fit for her company.
Finding a good deputy hasn’t been easy for Frankel, she said. “You’re running your business,” Frankel said. “You’re the talent. You are also the CEO. Yet you need people to help you.”
If the show’s concept sounds similar to “The Apprentice,” Frankel said she was at first “annoyed at the comparison.” (Frankel appeared on the Martha Stewart version of the show in 2005, coming in second.)
“But then I ended up saying, ‘Why am I running so far from that when that was really the only ever successful business competition show?’” Yet her company and her search for talent are very different from those of Donald Trump, she said: “I don’t believe that he has a brand, or any successful products.”
In the end, three women of color competed for the job, and Frankel selected Milokssy Resto, who’d excelled throughout the competition. As of the taping of the conversation, the day after the finale of “The Big Shot,” Resto hadn’t yet begun working for Frankel yet — because it would have been a spoiler. “If you saw her working with me, then that would be a giveaway,” Frankel said. “So as of yesterday, they were out to her with a formal offer and it’s a negotiation.”
Frankel, who has spent years on television, having joined “The Real Housewives of New York City” in 2008, isn’t sure how much more of it she wants to do at this point. She said she no longer has her deal with MGM: “I decided to be a free agent in television production.”
“I love working with HBO Max; I think they’re incredible,” she said. “I think it was such an honor to be on this caliber of a streamer and just to be a part of the future. And part of me wants to continue to focus on relief work, my daughter. I don’t know how much television is really in my future, honestly.”
Frankel said she wants to focus on her podcast, “Just B With Bethenny Frankel” on which she’s interviewed such guests as Hillary Clinton and Mark Cuban: “I’m so passionate about it because it’s a living, breathing conversation only about who this person authentically is and how they got here.”
She much prefers podcasting to hosting a talk show, which she did in the 2013-14 television season. “A talk show is directing traffic. It is jamming it all in. It is dealing with advertisers, having to do integrations,” Frankel said.
She recently signed a deal with iHeartRadio to do more “Just B.”
“I am engaged and I’m very happy,” she said, “When you turn 50, when you get engaged, you have a tween daughter, time’s going more quickly, you start to evaluate all of these things.”
Frankel said one thing she misses about being on “Real Housewives” is how funny it could be: “There’s a lot of laughing on the ‘Housewives.’ There’s a lot of satire, and it was fun to react off people. The comedy is funny. The craziness is funny.”
But she doesn’t miss the stress. “It’s a zero-sum game,” she said. “Someone’s always winning and someone’s always losing — and there’s always a gotcha moment.”
And no, she said she’s not watching any “Real Housewives” right now, but listed a number of docuseries she’s recently consumed, including HBO’s “The Vow.”
“I don’t watch the shows,” Frankel said. “And I know that will be taken as I think I’m better than, I don’t love where I came from.
“I do love where I came from.”