8 Shocking Ways The Real Housewives’ Franchise Has Changed Over The Years
When the Real Housewives series first started back in 2006, before the reality television craze, it was marketed as a documentary about the families who live behind the gates of the affluent community Coto de Caza, Orange County. After a few name changes, the show was called The Real Housewives of Orange County. Today the show has grown into a full blown franchise with numerous shows covering different cities across the U.S., as well as internationally in Melbourne and Vancouver. The Real Housewives even has a few spin-off series! Viewers have seen the most change in RHOC since it began a decade ago. This list takes a look at some of the most dramatic changes in the Real Housewives series!
8. From Documentary to Franchise Series
The first season of The Real Housewives of Orange County was supposed to be called “Behind the Gates” because it was to be filmed as a documentary about the lives of families who live behind the gates of the affluent community, Coto de Caza in Orange County. Of course, when the show experienced an immense amount of success, the production team changed their format from documentary to reality television show. It wasn’t long before Bravo was creating new shows to join the franchise — both New York City and Atlanta were created in 2008. The Real Housewives of New Jersey followed suit in 2009 and Washington, D.C. and Beverly Hills came in 2010, Miami in 2011 and Potomac and Dallas in 2016. In the first season of RHOC back in 2006, the women didn’t have the signature tag lines they now do in the opening credits. Instead the producers took a clip of something they said while filming. For example, Lauri Waring’s was “Are the police involved?” to showcase the trouble with her son, Josh, and Vicki’s was “I don’t want to get old!” The show was more about the women. “At that time, it was about inspiring women, being a successful woman and managing all I did. Fast-forward 10 years later, it’s not focused on that, unfortunately — it’s more focused on drama,” said veteran O.C. Housewife, Vicki Gunvalson.
7. Cast Members Interaction
During season 1 of The Real Housewives of Orange County the women had minimal interaction with one another. Throughout the entire season they might have all been together once, but that was it! The rest of the time focused on each of the women individually and what they do in their day-to-day lives. This has changed grossly. It’s now a requirement that the women all spend time together, and if a cast member falls on the outs with the other women, she’s likely to be fired. The producers want the women to hang out with each other because it increases the likelihood of drama which equals entertainment and higher ratings. This is why they pick controversial or outspoken women to appear on the show. In the early season of RHONY or RHOC, there’s hardly any drama at all! In fact, there’s next to none. Now it’s all about the drama, and if a cast member can’t deliver she will be axed from the show. Lauri Waring, who was featured on the first three seasons of RHOC, commented on how in the beginning the women didn’t film much with one another, it was more focused on family. “I just really remember filming with my children. Filming with the ladies, the other housewives, was minimal. [But now] the focus is on the women. And, of course, conflict is always good,” she said.
6. The Children
One of the most interesting aspects of the early seasons of The Real Housewives of Orange County is watching all the different family dynamics between the women on the show. Fans became interested in not only the ladies of the O.C., but also their marriages and children! Cameras would follow them on family vacations…remember when the Gunvalson’s would go on family trips to their river house in Havasu? Those were some of the most memorable episodes! In recent seasons, the children might appear on the show, but they do not get their own one-on-one confessionals like they used to in early seasons and they aren’t typically featured on the show unless they are in a scene with the women. The only child of a Housewife who is given this kind of treatment is Briana Culberson.
The Real Housewives has definitely become all about the glitz and glamour, but many would be surprised to learn that it wasn’t always this way! Things started to change once the women saw themselves on television and began doing things to their appearance that they normally wouldn’t do. Of course, there’s also a competitive component to it. Even Andy Cohen said the women are extremely aware of their appearances and go to drastic measures to change their appearance. “Watch season one of every Housewife show, and then watch season two. They’ve all lost between five and ten pounds. They are full hair and makeup at all times…even hair pieces. It’s hilarious,” said Andy Cohen. In the first few season of RHOC the ladies are dressed in tees and jeans, but now the Housewives wouldn’t dare be caught in plain clothing. Their outfits are planned, designers send them outfits and new cast members have been known to spend more on their clothing than they make doing the show!
Reunions are a big part of each season of the Real Housewives. The reunions started out as a chance for the ladies to get together and laugh about their time on the show and update fans on their lives since the show has now become a full blown three part screaming match. Reunions are not only a chance for viewers to ask questions, but the women are able to confront one another about things that happened on the show. These reunions are no laughing matter! The women often come prepared with evidence to use against their cast members, call each other out on things said behind their backs and, in the case of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, things have even gotten physical! If we rewind back to the first season of RHOC, the reunion was held in Vicki Gunvalson’s backyard and all the women sat in a chair and simply discussed amongst themselves what happened that season. Andy Cohen was no where to be found. They didn’t dress up in fancy gowns and there were no cat fights. Even Jo and Lauri who didn’t like one another got along for the cameras! It wasn’t until season 3 that this changed.
3. Endorsing Products
In the beginning, the women on the Real Housewives were doing it not because they wanted to become famous, but rather because they thought it would be a fun opportunity and that they would be promoting a good image for women whether they stay at home to raise their families or slave away as a single mother. This has changed drastically! The cast members are now fueled by either fame or the hopes of promoting their business. Many of the Housewives have their own businesses or products that they are constantly endorsing on the show, like Lisa Vanderpump, Bethenny Frankel, Ramona Singer, Sonja Morgan, Teresa Giudice — and the list goes on! All of these women use the show to sell their products or help promote their business. There are Housewives who joined because they wanted to promote an already existing business like Vanderpump or Frankel, and then there’s Housewives like Sonja Morgan who have come across business opportunities because of their platform on the Real Housewives.
2. Celebrity Status
In the first few seasons of the early Real Housewives shows, the women were presented as kind of “every day” moms, wives or single women who lived a lifestyle that was interesting to viewers. These women were by no means celebrities or reality stars and many of them were selected simply because they lived in close quarters to the other cast members, but it wasn’t a requirement to have a prior relationship to any of the women. Today, Bravo producers cast women who are the complete opposite of the average woman — they will seek out cast members who are famous or have famous connections, prominent backgrounds, child stars and the list goes on. Carole Radziwill was scouted by Andy Cohen to appear on The Real Housewives of New York City because she has an interesting connection to the Kennedy family and is a friend of Cohen’s. Women are also commonly cast because they have a friendship with one of the current Housewives. Jules Wainstein said she was invited on the show by her friend, Dorinda Medley who was already a main cast member. “She called me up one day, and she was like, ‘Would you be interested in being a Housewife?’ For me, it was kind of perfect timing…I kind of get high off of taking risks. So I couldn’t say no,” said Wainstein.
1. Social Media
Social media is both a curse and a blessing to the women on the Real Housewives. It’s a great way for them to interact with fans and to put their own image of themselves out there that isn’t highly edited or scripted by producers. When the Real Housewives first started back in 2006, social media wasn’t around so there wasn’t as much drama behind the scenes. But now, the women are able to continue their arguments off-camera and do it in a way that fans and viewers can see! The women have been known to live tweet as their episode airs, tweet back and forth to one another (whether it’s friendly or mean) and post updates on their relationships on Instagram. Often the women will come to the reunion upset about something that didn’t even happen on camera!