How ‘Desperate Housewives’ Inspired Bravo to Produce the ‘Real Housewives’ Franchise

The Real Housewives franchise is basically synonymous with Bravo at this point. While it all started with The Real Housewives of Orange County, it has since exploded. Past and continuing series in the franchise feature housewives from New York City, Beverly Hills, Atlanta, New Jersey, D.C., Miami, Potomac, and Dallas. There are even plans of a new series focusing on Salt Lake City.

What a lot of people don’t know is that Real Housewives was actually inspired by an ABC scripted series, Desperate Housewives, which ran from 2004-2012. Today, Real Housewives... has been on almost twice as long as the original show that inspired it, but Desperate Housewives remains a classic.

So how much inspiration did Real Housewives… actually take from Desperate Housewives?

‘Real Housewives’ has been going strong since 2006

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The Real Housewives of Orange County premiered in March 2006 and remains the highest-rated installment in the franchise. O.G. Orange County housewife Vicki Gunvalson helped Bravo conceive the series when they came to her about making a show centered on upper-class women in the high-end gated community where she was living and working as a realtor.

After the success of The Real Housewives of Orange County, Bravo retooled a show they’d been working on called Manhattan Moms to make it the second series in the franchise. The Real Housewives of New York City was an immediate success, solidifying the value of the franchise and ensuring that new ensembles of housewives would be bringing their glamour and drama to television sets for years to come.

The franchise then helped ensure the long-term success of Bravo, which was listed in the top 25 highest-rated TV networks for 2019.

The franchise was directly inspired by the hit series ‘Desperate Housewives’

If you’re not familiar with Desperate Housewives, it was a dramatic comedy that premiered in 2004 on ABC. It was set on a fictional street called Wisteria Lane and centered on the dramatic lives of the women who lived there, all told from the perspective of a character who shockingly takes her own life in the pilot episode.

The series centered on about 15 years in its characters’ lives, though it sometimes flashed back as far as the 1980s or jumped to the future as far as 2019. The show received excellent ratings throughout its run, especially when it ran high-intensity episodes.

The star power of series regulars like Eva Longoria, Felicity Huffman, Teri Hatcher, and Marcia Cross also helped keep people tuning in for its entire eight-season run, which was as drama-packed as the reality show it inspired. When The Real Housewives of Orange County premiered two years later, Desperate Housewives was already a smash, so it’s no wonder Bravo wanted a piece of the magic.

The actual real housewives love to discuss the connection between the shows

THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF NEW YORK CITY — Pictured: Luann de Lesseps — (Photo by: Heidi Gutman/Bravo)

Truth be told, since Real Housewives is a reality franchise and Desperate Housewives is scripted, the only specific similarity is that both shows are centered on high-class women who live near each other. However, many Bravo housewives like Orange County’s Gretchen Rossi and New York’s Ramona Singer have claimed to be huge Desperate Housewives fans.

Luckily, the feeling is somewhat mutual, since Eva Longoria has also talked about being “addicted” to the Real Housewives too! Some housewives even identify with specific characters from Desperate Housewives.

For instance, New York housewife Sonja Morgan loves Teri Hatcher’s character, explaining: “I’m definitely Susan Delfino…That’s my life. Perfect marriage, family, and then the bottom falls out.”

Teresa Giudice of the New Jersey housewives also loves the connection, but thinks the bravo shows “[are] even more over-the-top and crazy than Desperate Housewives!” Given that Giudice famously flipped over a dinner table in her first season, she might just be right!