Obsessing Over 'The Real Housewives'

By Laurie Sanchez

Hi, I’m Laurie! I’ve just been invited by the wonderful Joanna D’Angelo to blog here at popculturedivas, and I’m honored to be in such fun and witty company. My own participation in pop culture ranges from romance novels to literary novels, from romantic comedies to The Godfather, and from The Office to Mad Men. (I’m all over the place with interests!) But my current obsession, which has been going on for some time now, is reality television.

Yeah, I’m one of those closet fans of Bravo TV. I don’t even want to like reality television. And yet there I am – walking up the stairs with a laundry basket on my hip, catching one small snippet of The Real Housewives of New York City, and – kerplunk! – laundry basket is on the floor, and I’m sitting, glued, through a four-hour marathon, watching Ramona mispronouncing words and The Countess behaving badly.

(It’s a wonder my kids ever have any clean T-shirts.)

The Real Housewives, in fact, is the series I’m most enjoying (although I can get sucked into Millionaire Matchmaker with similarly alarming speed). The “housewives” concept began right here in my hometown – or “homecounty,” as it were. The original concept was to film behind the gates of Coto de Caza, which is up the street from me, and focus on what it was like to live “behind the gates” of the upscale neighborhood. It took a couple of years for enough people to agree to the concept (Coto kind of rebelled) but eventually, The Real Housewives of Orange County was born. And Orange County women everywhere had to start to shade their eyes when they would go anywhere in public. (“Orange County? Who, me? No, I’m not from there. …”)

But now I’m completely smitten with the series – as well as the Real Housewives of New York, Atlanta, New Jersey, and … my heart be still … upcoming D.C.

So what’s the obsession? I mean, we all know (especially when one is filmed in your neighborhood) that these aren’t “real” housewives. “Real” housewives are the ones, like me, who are shopping at Target. Who are standing in Aisle 5 comparing various styles of Swiffer. They’re the ones worried their cars are going to run out of gas in the drive-through at Taco Bell, or the ones running to the baseball field across town to pick up their second child before they zoom home to feed the hamster.

So if we know these aren’t going to document what we know as “real” housewife-dom, why do we watch?

Here are a couple of possibilities:

Maybe we just like to watch people behaving badly. Whether it’s Teresa flipping a table or Gretchen flirting with her friend’s son, we can gawk at the television and breathe a sigh of relief that we’ve never done that at least.

Maybe we’re fascinated that people can be so clueless. Knowing the housewives are showcasing what they see as “attributes” – presenting expensive cars to ungrateful children, advising a single woman to ask her dying fiancĂ© about his will, giving young girls advice that drunken binges are bad for you only because they make you gain weight – we can all stare at the TV and let our jaws drop a little.

Maybe we enjoy having our assumption verified that money can’t buy you happiness. Sure, you can have a $1.5 million home, but that doesn’t mean your son will treat you with respect or that your daughter will graduate from high school. Sure, you can spend outrageous amounts of money on clothes and jewelry, but that doesn’t mean that your marriage won’t dissolve in front of your eyes or you won’t age. And sure, you can throw lavish parties or get invited to the most amazing social events in the stratosphere, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have true friends. Or even know who your true friends are.

What about you? Which is your favorite “Housewives” series? What is it that draws you in, and makes you sit, glued to the TV, with your laundry basket on your hip?
Laurie Sanchez lives in Southern California with her hubby and three kids and is putting the polishing touches on her first manuscript. She also blogs as Mizwrite and blogs over at Health Bistro on Fridays. She's still trying to catch up with laundry.


  1. I haven't seen any of the Housewives series - in fact, you are my first source for hearing about them. You can keep me posted!

    Welcome to Popculturedivas! Great opening post - the lure of watching outrageous behavior is perhaps more entertaining when the people should know better, don't you think?

  2. I have been sucked into watching the Housewives of New Jersey. It's like a car wreck - I don't want to watch it, but I can't stop looking at the TV screen! It's been my little secret until now :)

  3. Welcome Laurie! Wow what a claim to fame **g**. Have you ever worn diamonds and evening dresses while writing at the Starbucks? LOL! You must get that a lot. I used to watch the OC version and I loved it! The jewels, the hair, the tans, the cosmetic surgery. It's so far removed from my "real life" there is very little that is "real" about these women - other than they "really" do exist. Fun article! Looking forward to reading your contributions every month.

  4. I am totally a sucker for the New York wives and the O.C. wives but I am being pressured to watch New Jersey because supposedly they are the best! Arghh. I was mesmerized by the New York reunion show. Did Kelly not drive you nuts? I was so glad to see everyone thought she was on a different planet...I was beginning to question my own sanity. Although, it is distressing to have a guy watch these women because they are so awful sometimes. My daughter's boyfriend thinks they are poster children for staying single! Yikes.

    Have fun with the divas~!

  5. I am not a fan of reality TV, EXCEPT, for the Housewives franchise (sans Atlanta...missed that one). What I'd love to see is a blended Housewives...one show featuring Ramona, Kelly, Tamra, Vicky, Danielle, and Theresa. Now that would be a hoot!

  6. Julia -- Thanks! Yes, the lure of watching outrageous behavior is absolutely right. Maybe it makes us feel better about some of our own decisions? I dunno. All I know is that it's bizarrely addicting.

    Anonymous -- Come out of the closet. It's okay.... You're among friends here. : ) No, it's okay. I understand your secret! But your description of it being "like a car wreck" is so spot-on I just had to laugh.

    Joanna -- Thank you for inviting me! And no, I haven't written at Starbucks with any jewels on, but (conversely) we've seen the housewives there (and across the street at the grocery store) with ZERO makeup on, being their "real" selves, so it definitely lends the show even more skepticism to me. More scripted than we realize! However, the botox, tans, jeweled-at-the-bosom blouses, and hair ... that's ... um ... well, that might be sorta true around here! Embarrassing.

    Happy Hour -- Hiya! YES, I thought the same thing about Kelly!! I thought it must be so frustrating to try to carry on a normal conversation with her. But the strange thing was, all of her previous comments were on tape! So I wonder how she feels when she looks at them -- she obviously can't deny saying them. I wonder if they're often surprised at what they say and how they come across when they watch themselves on tape?

    Rita -- Wow, like "Fantasy Football" with Housewives??? Hmmm ... Fun ... You've got an all-star cast, there! Throw in Nene and maybe Simon and that would be a crazy hour of discordant conversations and drama, for sure!

  7. Ok, I have to confess that I am a huge fan of these unreal reality shows. A "closet" fan if you must know. The only ones who know my deep, dark secret are my wife, my kids, my co-workers, friends and the occasional stranger on the bus...But that's it! The "Real Housewives" franchise being up there at the top with the "Real World/Road Rules" challenges. Don't ask...
    I too love the housewives shows for all of their failings. I think the way Laurie put it was spot on. I love seeing them act like they actually know what to do with all this "new money" of theirs, and acting like it's been in their family for generations. Yet, they buy gaudy things, spend lavishly on their children who treat them like dirt and just behave poorly. They create these "Foundations" of some sort or another to make it "seem" like they are doing something but just spending their money. I have yet to hear anything further about any of these foundations after the show ends...
    My favorites are the OC versions and the NJ versions. OC because I'm from there, and NJ because they actually seem the most real; stay with me now. In the NJ version they seem to revel in the fact that this is really all new to them-having loads of money. They don't try to pretend that it's no big deal to live the way they do now. They almost
    come right out and say that they didn't always have money but they have it now and are going to have fun with it. Bravo! Wow, I didn't mean that.
    So I suppose I like the show(s) because it really proves the point that money really can ease some of life's concerns and get you nice toys, but it cannot help with the kind of person you are-at heart. Plus it keeps me from getting to all those chores I hate doing; who needs a working garage door anyway?

  8. I'm such a Bravo TV addict that it's a shame. I think my Fave series is New York since I'm a NY girl but my favorite housewife is NeNe. She just cracks me up and I love how she keeps it real. Can't wat for ATL to start. Woot!

  9. Laurie, I totally agree with you. Being that i was a stay at home mom for 2 1/2 years...my life was nothing like The Real House Wifes of Orange County...no way!
    Although, I loved watching the show. The reason? Because it was so far from real. I think the only part of that show that i remember making any sense to me is when Laurie had to leave the show to focus on her son who was battling an addiction to drugs. Poor kid.


  10. Hi, My name is MizFit (Hi MizFit!) & Im a total bravo trash tv addict.

    from the beginning.
    from the ONSET of the housewives.

    I like to pretend that it's all one big intellectual (wink) case study and Im practicing up in case I DO decide to go back and get me that PhD but HONESTLY? I just plain ole love the mind candy.

    At days end as a way to unwind.
    At days START as a way to get me on the stationary bike.

    no matter.

    I just love.

  11. Laurie,

    I'm absolutely obsessed with this show. I feel like I know these women personally! Maybe it's because every housewife on every series reminds me of someone I've known in my life, good and bad. I also love watching how the other half live. My favorite housewives have to be Bethenny, Nene, Tamara and Dina (I sense a theme here).

  12. Welcome to popculturedivas, Laurie!
    I have to admit, I'm not a reality show fan. I imagine, like Anonymous, it's akin to a train wreck - you can't look away, even knowing the mess that must be coming.
    Your first post almost tempts me to watch... but I don't want to get hooked!

  13. Love the blog post! I've had a friend of mine telling me about the Housewives of New Jersey, and now I may just have to check it out...just to see what all of the talk is about!!

    Please tell me what I would need to do to have my book link or info placed on your page? I just released my first romance novel, and would love to reach more people.

    I look forward to your thoughts and ideas :)

    Lisa Renee Faust

  14. Charles -- You really said it with this line: "I suppose I like the show(s) because it really proves the point that money really can ease some of life's concerns and get you nice toys, but it cannot help with the kind of person you are-at heart." So true! (And yeah, clean laundry and working garage doors are overrated anyway!) Thank you for such a long and thoughtful comment.

    Kwana -- Hello! Ah, a NY girl! So you can also REALLY compare the "reality" of these things to your real life, huh? I love the NY cast! Simon just cracks me up. And yeah, the whole NeNe thing and fights with friends (and getting into that party!) -- all of that was great!

    Geraldine -- Another OC girl! So you don't sip Starbucks with your diamonds on either, huh? : ) (Baby tugging at your hip ...) Wouldn't it have been interesting to have a housewife who has a baby??? hmmmm... Anyway, I agree that it was sad about Lauri's son, though.

  15. MizFit -- {"Hi, MizFit!" we say in chorus} The first step is admitting it, my dear. ... : ) Ha. Your comment cracked me up. Yes, we can say we watch to ride our stationary bike or do our laundry, but we know we really watch to see whether Kelly ever catches a clue or whether Vicki gets nicer. ... Love it.

    Emily -- Yes, a theme, for sure! You like those strong ones (and the fighters!) And you're so right -- they all sort of fall into archetypes almost, huh? Hmmmm ... That might be another good post: reality TV and archetypes in our lives. Huh. ...

    Cate -- Thank you! If you don't want to get hooked, you should probably step away now! But if one ever comes near your hometown, you'll prob get hooked, too. : )

    Lisa Renee -- Thank you for swinging by! For your link, I'll have to have Joanna D'Angelo respond, since she runs the show here. Total congrats on your book, though! Quite an accomplishment!

  16. Alas, I've never seen a Housewives episode. Being a writer, I'm partial to shows with plots. *wink* However, I will say, I LOVE The Office and Mad Men, so we have that in common!

    I think Reality TV fascinates people for exactly the reasons you mention. Plus it gives people a chance to live vicariously though the madness and adventures of others. Like you said, people can turn to each other and say, "Thank God, WE would never act like that." *laughs*

    Interesting subject, and of course, since it's based on O.C. how can you resist? I know if one was placed where I live it'd be hard to resist taking a peek.

    Chiron O'Keefe
    The Write Soul: www.chironokeefe.blogspot.com

  17. I think all I watch now is Bravo. Top Chef, Project Runway (which left and its replacement doesn't cut it), and of course "The Housewives." For some reason because I live in Orange County, I can't watch the OC Housewives because I feel like they're a poor reflection on me. And I detest that typical Barbie look they have with the bleached hair, implants, and frosty, plumped up lips.
    I love the NY and NJ ones because at least many of them worked hard at real jobs and had "real" money. Seems like the OC wives are more the over-mortgaged, credit-limit-maxed, all-for-show money. The ladies from Coto with druggie kids seem not quite on the same level with people who own huge houses in the Hamptons as well as an Upper East Side pad. I think it's the difference between "nouveau riche" (OC) and "old money" (NY).
    - Grace T.

  18. I admit to watching the OC wives, but could never get into the others -- though I did catch the table-flipping antics of NJ (or is it NY) a few weeks ago. I live in So. Florida and the OC wives just remind me so much of some of the people you see down here. My husband just shakes his head in disbelief when he catches me watching the Wives though!

    The 'reality' show that is actually interesting to both my husband and I is The Amazing Race. We watch it and talk about which of us would do each of the stunts that the racers would have to do -- and then we're glad we are sitting on our sofa with a nice glass of wine in hand!


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