‘RHOC’ Was Originally a ‘Parody of Life’ Comedy and Not a Drama

The Real Housewives franchise is a media empire that encompasses literally dozens of television shows, podcasts, product lines, and so much more. For many fans, who tune into their favorite Housewives shows on Bravo on a regular basis, it can be hard to remember a time before the iconic reality shows were on TV. Still, as showrunner and mastermind Andy Cohen recently revealed, there was a very significant period of time when Cohen and other Bravo executives were considering axing The Real Housewives of Orange County, the show that started it all. 

When did ‘The Real Housewives of Orange County’ debut on television?

Gina KIrschenhelter, Kelly Dodd, Tamra Judge, Shannon Beador, Vicki Gunvalson, Emily Simpson
Gina KIrschenhelter, Kelly Dodd, Tamra Judge, Shannon Beador, Vicki Gunvalson, Emily Simpson | Trae Patton/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

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The Real Housewives of Orange County premiered on television in 2006. The first in what would ultimately become a lengthy list of Housewives shows, The Real Housewives of Orange County focuses on the personal and professional lives of a group of wealthy women who live and work in Orange County, California.

When the series first aired, the cast included women such as Kimberly Bryant, Jo De La Rosa, Vicki Gunvalson, Jeana Keough, and Lauri Waring, with additional guests, referred to as “friends of the housewives.”

Viewers quickly gravitated to the show, reveling in the drama and humor on display. While the cast has gone through many changes over the years, the show has remained incredibly popular and is still going strong to this day. 

How many ‘Real Housewives’ shows are there?

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The Real Housewives of Orange County became so popular that showrunners at Bravo looked to Cohen to begin developing more shows in the franchise. Eventually, nine additional shows debuted, including The Real Housewives of New York, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, and The Real Housewives of Dallas. Most recently, Bravo launched The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, a show that is causing major buzz on social media. 

Additionally, each show has spawned unique spinoffs, including Tamra’s OC Wedding and Date My Ex: Jo & Slade. While the franchise, in general, has received a lot of backlash over the years, mainly from fans who slam the shows as superficial and overblown, it has amassed a huge fanbase. 

What did Andy Cohen say about the origins of ‘The Real Housewives of Orange County’?

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In the early 2000s, when The Real Housewives of Orange County was in the beginning stages of development, showrunner Cohen conceived the series as having a slightly different format. “At the beginning, it was very much an experiment in Orange County. It was a man named Scott Dunlop who brought us footage of his neighbors and said, ‘There’s something here,'” Cohen revealed in an interview with supermodel Naomi Campbell. “The original pitch was more like a Curb Your Enthusiasm parody of life in a gated community.”

Cohen also talked about how the first season of The Real Housewives of Orange County didn’t quite go as expected, and showrunners even considered axing the series: “That first season of Orange County, we had tremendous problems in the field… There was a moment in time where we considered killing the show and not actually producing the show.”

Ultimately, Cohen described how NBC Universal EVP Lauren Zalaznick decided to go “full-throttle” rather than axing the series, bringing in more people and working even harder to make The Real Housewives of Orange County a hit. Her bid worked, and the show ended up becoming a runaway hit.