Since 2006, executive producer Andy Cohen has brought us nonstop drama with Bravo's Real Housewives franchise. While it may seem like these ladies have zero rules—you know, given all the ponytail pulling and wine glass throwing—it turns out there are quite a few, and I'm here to break them all down. So grab yourself a glass of Ramona Singer's pinot grigio and settle in.
In a 2015 interview with Attitude, Andy explained why friends are preferred. "The show works so well because it’s all people who have long histories with each other. So it's not just throwing people together in a Big Brother house and seeing what happens." Think: Dorit Kemsley and Lisa Vanderpump or Dorinda Medley and Ramona Singer.
Nope, they don't get an automatic bid to the show. It's still important for the network to see if the potential new members are watchable. Bravo executive Ryan Flynn told The Daily Dish Podcast they start the casting process with the current cast members. "We always start with the women, sort of the core group that we think is coming back. It's always like, 'Who do you know that we should know?'"
Per the Real Housewives contract, the crew is allowed to access anything and everything while filming—from the women's closets to their kids. "I always ask people what's off the table. [If they] say, 'This, this, this and that,' I say, 'You shouldn't be on reality TV," casting director Melissa Stanforth told the New York Post.
Have you ever noticed that the Housewives exclusively talk on speakerphone on the show? It's because while they're filming, the producers want to hear both sides of a conversation, you know, since they later share those phone conversations with the whole world.
When the show airs, the drama can get real. From things said behind their back to situations that unfolded a lot differently than one thought. That's why the Housewives are supposed to keep a blog with their reactions to each episode as part of their job.
"We actually start discussing what the potential tagline could be for each of the various 'wives pretty much at the beginning of the season, and we kick around ideas all season long, because they want their tagline to be unique and special and ones that really stand out from the pack," producer Doug Ross told E News. The women get some say, record three to six, and producers see which one sticks.
During every season premiere, you'll see at least one Housewife has changed up her look. That's because the network won't let them do so once filming starts. Why? A new look would ruin the continuity of their interview looks.
They have to be able to recreate those looks regularly. "You wear the same outfit all year long. You get three looks [total]. But for three months, you have to wear the exact same outfit, same hair, same makeup. You can never cut your hair in the middle of it because you're supposed to look the same," Vicki Gunvalson told Glamour.
Yes, reshoots. Because if reality doesn't work once, try, try again. Cast members have been caught in public filming the same scene multiple times and the crew sometimes even sets up lighting for the "set" where they're filming.
From all white to metallics to different shades of neon, the cast members always look cohesive for their cast photo.
Some are more planned than others. The Real Housewives of Dallas really nailed the black and red color scheme here, but usually the theme is a little less obvious and the women wear what they're most comfortable in—as long as it's cocktail attire.
When Erika Jayne joined The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, she blew the lid off of the glam squad secret that some Housewives hadn't been airing. Erika was open about her wardrobe, hair, and makeup team that she flew out for all of the major cast trips. But at who's cost? Not Bravo's. The stars pay for glam themselves.
It takes hard work to make TV gold like the Real Housewives franchise, and not just from the producers's end. The women are logging six-day work weeks for 14 weeks during their season—and that's on top of any other job that they might have.
There are strict rules about filming children, as legally they can only be filmed for a limited time each day. So production has to come up with a strict schedule to make sure they get the footage they need in the constrained time.
Besides securing locations to film (more on that later), the production team gives each cast member a written call sheet. According to Bravo producer Dave Rupel, this "outlines the next day's shoot schedule. Times, locations, weather conditions, etc."
Some of the show's drama is too real to be cooked up, but some is...how do we say this...pushed along by production. Former Real Housewives of New York cast member Alex McCord explained that some of the scenes and phone calls were orchestrated by producers.
That means no mentions of production or the crew whatsoever. This can sometimes lead to confusing drama. Real Housewives of New York star Carole Radziwill told BuzzFeed that she was told information by a producer that led to her calling Aviva Drescher a liar. But since explaining her source to viewers would break the fourth wall, she couldn't divulge more info.
Andy Cohen has revealed that the network pays for part of the cost of the exotic trips the Housewives take on the show, but that ultimately it's a combination between the network and the 'wives.
If a trip the women want to go on is outside of Bravo's budget, the women can front the bill. Perks like flying private or traveling to a destination in peak season are all some of the things the women arrange themselves. "Look at the credits. If you see 'promotional consideration provided by' an airline, a hotel, a cruise ship, a this, a that. That means it was provided by the producers," Alex McCord told RealityFix.
It's a big deal to miss a cast trip and the women are expected to show up. However, sometimes there are conflicts—or women will create excuses if they're fighting with someone and don't want to go. That said, a lack of attendance can seriously jeopardize your standing in the show's cast.
"There have been some that have been generated by us and there have been some that have been generated by them. The women take the planning of the vacation really seriously," Andy told OK!. Wouldn't you?
On vacations, former Real Housewives of New York star Heather Thomson noted that it's all free-flowing: "You request the kind of alcohol you want and it's there when you arrive to your villa and if you run out, they get you more."
The women are known to hock their various ventures, but it's not exactly *free* publicity. Per their contract, Bravo receives a percentage of the revenue earned from any business promoted on the show, with one exception: Bethenny Frankel. "In the first season of Housewives, I made $7,250 for the entire season, but was the only person to put in my contract [that] anything I ever do, I own. And that ended up being a pretty good thing when it came to Skinnygirl," Bethenny told CNBC.
The women are paid a lump some for the season, with some like fan favorite Bethenny making upwards of $1.5 million after her return to The Real Housewives of New York City in season 7.
Nope, not all of the Housewives are paid the same. New cast members start out with a smaller salary and are given a pay increase after each season, while the OGs or fan favorites, like Bethenny or NeNe Leakes, can bank more than $1 million a season.
If you're a "friend" of the Housewives, a.k.a. you appear on a few episodes every season, like Faye Resnick on Beverly Hills, you're paid per episode. Which might explain why Faye always instigates fights and returns on a later episode to address the drama...
With all of the crazy accusations and altercations, it makes sense that Bravo puts in their contract that the Housewives have to settle their disputes on the couches at the reunion rather than in the courtroom.
Don't be fooled, these women aren't just rolling into restaurants and asking for a table for three with a camera crew in tow. It's the production team's job to secure permission to film at all of the locations before filming.