‘Real Housewives’: Why the Restaurant Scenes Always Seem Staged and a Little Fake

Reality TV shows are usually at least somewhat scripted. Fans have come to expect it. As long as the shows are entertaining, there aren’t usually many complaints from viewers. But reality TV producers have to do a lot of manipulating to get things just right. On the Real Housewives franchise, the ladies are famous for always meeting over lunch or dinner out. But making those scenes work takes some finesse from producers. 

(L-R) Ramona Singer, LuAnn de Lesseps, Andy Cohen, Dorinda Medley, Carole Radziwill and Tinsley Mortimer
(L-R) Ramona Singer, LuAnn de Lesseps, Andy Cohen, Dorinda Medley, Carole Radziwill and Tinsley Mortimer | Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

Restaurant scenes on ‘Real Housewives’ have to be planned far in advance

It takes a long time to get permission to film in a restaurant, so those scenes have to be planned well in advance. Public filming also means getting releases from everyone in the shot. So if producers film at a restaurant, they need to make sure all the patrons are on board or blur their faces. To make things easier, producers try to film in off-hours, when restaurants won’t be busy, according to Insider.

That means the Real Housewives gangs often eat lunch at 10 am. They need to be at the restaurant when no one else is, so their meals are never during a normal meal time. That’s also part of the reason why the restaurant scenes always seem kind of fake. Viewers are used to seeing crowded restaurants when they go out, but things always look empty on the show. It’s not that the restaurants are closed, or that the housewives are filming on a set. It’s because of the time of day they’re eating. 

‘The Real Housewives’ have no excuse to be late 

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Even though a lot of the drama on the show comes from one party being late to a meeting, producers have admitted that it’s almost always false. The housewives have no excuse to be late because the show provides transportation for them. Reality TV shows need to make sure that their cast members are where they need to be when they need to be there. So when a star is late, it’s often because the producers, and the stars themselves, planned it that way. 

According to Alex McCord via YouTube, who was on The Real Housewives of New Yorkthe producers aren’t going to let their stars take public transportation to a shoot. Likewise, producers will pay for the trips that cast members take together every season. While McCord doesn’t think that producers usually pay for the first trip, once a show has proven itself, they’ll shell out for drama-filled vacations. That’s why the reasons for going on these trips are sometimes a stretch. The cast invents excuses as to why they need to travel when usually they’re traveling for the show itself. 

‘The Real Housewives’ isn’t scripted … kind of 

Sure, producers manipulate some of the drama by making cast members late, or by paying for trips. But the show isn’t technically scripted. The stories are planned out, but not necessarily on the whole. The showrunners provide a story producer to each cast member. The story producer and the cast member work together to plan out how the season will go for that individual housewife. That means that cast members are sometimes in on the drama producers create, and they have incentive to keep things dramatic. 

By making each housewife responsible for her own storyline, the producers are creating a kind of competition between them. If a cast member has a boring storyline, chances are she’ll be edited out of most of the show. So story producers and stars work together to keep things spicy, even though they don’t actually write a script for the show.