What's the Secret to the Enduring Success of The Real Housewives?

Real Housewives veterans including Jill Zarin, Kim Richards and Caroline Manzo breakdown why the franchise is still so relevant

By Chris Harnick Nov 18, 2019 6:55 PMTags
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For years, they've entertained us. They've thrown wine, then started their own lines of wine. They've sparked memes, then they've capitalized on those memes. They've introduced countless shady sayings into the everyday lexicon of the American people. They are the stars of The Real Housewives. And now 14 years and 10 shows and counting later, the Bravo reality franchise is showing no signs of slowing down.

Why, after all these years, are viewers still wildly entertained by the antics of these women? E! News took that question directly to the OG Real Housewives stars at BravoCon.

"I think that there are so many people out there that connect to every facet of our lives…If you don't connect with one you connecting with another, there's something in all of us that everybody sees in their lives, good, bad, ugly, whatever," The Real Housewives of New Jersey's Caroline Manzo told us.

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Caroline's fellow East Coast veteran, Jill Zarin of The Real Housewives of New York City, also said it comes down to having a relatable cast.

"I think the originals was because it was so real and it was so relatable. We all have a mother like that, and we all have a friend like that, and we all say stupid things like that and we all forgive and don't forgive like that. We're all rooting for you to make up, you fight, we root for you to make up…I think the hardest thing for the fans to watch is when Bethenny [Frankel] and I fought and we didn't make up. I think that only happened because she went off and did her own show. Had the show continued with her and I, we would have had a resolution. Just like with Vicki [Gunvalson] and Tamra [Judge], they always resolved. But if one leaves the show at the end of a fight, they'll never resolve right, so that's kind of what happened."

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The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills veteran Adrienne Maloof attributed it to the network. "Because I think the network does a brilliant job at marketing and accepting every culture, every race, and have really branched out and reached internationally to everyone. And it's a glimpse into people's lives—and the relatability factor," she said.

Adrienne's former costar Kim Richards credited relatability too, and drama.

"I think that so much, well sometimes some of the drama is, so, like, ‘wow.' And I think we have some people that really have some real-life stuff going on and I think that people identify with that. And I think that the fans really have become attached to some of us. They really love some of the people that they're watching. It's not just a TV show, it's not just, ‘Oh that fight happened!' They love the relationships with those people," Kim said. "It's not about the car they bought or the restaurant, but they end up loving these people and they want to see the fight happen, or they want to see where it ends up and that's why I think it's been so successful."

Jeana Keough, who was part of the first-ever Real Housewives cast when The Real Housewives of Orange County premiered in 2006, said she knew from the start the series would have staying power.

"I think people enjoy watching families and can relate to the difficulties of raising children and the different things all the families were going through—[Lauri Waring Peterson's] child on drugs and her daughter getting tattoos, and I think people can relate to all those different things," Jeana said.

(E! and Bravo are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)