Reality TV

For the Love of ‘Real Housewives’: Casey Wilson on an Obsession That Never Quits


I discovered the franchise that would become the love of my life during the darkest period of my life. My mom had passed away suddenly, and I was back in Los Angeles, a city I now loathed due to its relentless sunlight. I spent my days lying on a stained couch in my apartment on Cahuenga Boulevard (cross street: the mouth of the 101 freeway). I lived with my dear pal from college, Laura, and our place was a shiiithole. When we’d looked at the color wheel at Home Depot, the only color we could agree on for our common space was green. Within the green family, the only shade we could agree on was bright stoplight green, which we used only halfheartedly to cover the walls, because no two lazier people have ever existed. While friends hated it aesthetically, several people rented it to shoot projects that required a green screen. They say after a loved one dies, it’s important not just to stay alive but to thrive.

Lying on that couch and watching garbage programming was how I spent my early days of mourning. The only errand I actually completed was one I reasoned was worth the effort because it would help lower future exertion levels. I visited my ob-gyn to ask for a prescription for something I’d read about online: pee pills. What are those, you ask? They’re capsules designed to mask your body’s urges to urinate, so you pee less frequently. Grief had me in such a state of lethargy I felt genuinely fed up with expending even the energy required to go to the bathroom. My doctor was a bit thrown by my request. She told me they’re usually only prescribed for the elderly and infirm—and in some cases, here in Los Angeles, to agents’ assistants who aren’t allowed to leave their desks during the day. I told her I didn’t have a desk but I had a couch and didn’t want to leave it.

It was under these grim conditions, remote control in hand, that I came across two lifelines. One was a network called Bravo. The other was its new reality show, The Real Housewives of Orange County. It featured “rich” older gals who lived in a tiny hamlet I had never heard of (but now have engraved on an anklet charm) called Coto de Caza. As fate would have it, I was one of the lucky ones who stumbled across the FIRST airing of the FIRST episode. I had met the women who would become my lifelong frenemies, the first of whom was the “OG of the OC,” Vicki “Whoop It Up” Gunvalson, a delightfully unhinged blond insurance agent burdened with an anger problem that eclipsed even mine. I watched the first episodes with my mouth open. Each woman was like an emptied-out purse, the detritus of her life strewn about for all to see. I hated them, but I also…liked them. Nay, rooted for them.

And then Bravo went and added another city! And another. And another. And new disasters of humans were revealed. They say there are no great parts for women over 40? I BEG TO DIFFER. These women are as Medea-esque in their emotional tenor as they are tiny in their emotional intelligence. Bette Davis never summoned the rage Dorinda Medley gave us after hosting the other Housewives for a weekend in her Berkshires home that ended in ruin, when she threatened them with an empty wine bottle, hands shaking, eyes wet with tears, slur-yelling at the top of her lungs, “I DECORATED. I COOKED. I MADE IT NICE!!!”

As far as fans go, the older the Housewife, the better. We are wary and often resentful when they introduce younger blood. Those young upstarts can GET THE FUCK OUT, WITH THEIR ZERO EXPERIENCE OF THROWING WINE IN SOMEONE’S FACE DURING A FALL BASH AND NO PRECEDENT OF STANDING BY AS A FRIEND’S 70-YEAR-OLD HUSBAND GETS PUSHED ONTO THE BAJA SHELF OF A BEVERLY HILLS POOL, ALMOST PARALYZING HIM FOR LIFE. No, this franchise has no place for a wide-eyed ingenue just off the bus with a tube of ChapStick and a dream. I want my Housewives just out of a repossessed Lamborghini with a tube top and a broken dream.

I’ve spent hundreds of nights watching these women not change and not grow like a fucked-up The Truman Show. My husband can’t stand the sound of them screaming. “Really?” I say, genuinely shocked. “See, for me, their screams are like waves crashing upon the shore.” I look forward to being lulled to sleep by the wails of a woman drinking tequila in Mexico, who just stabbed herself in the hand with a steak knife. I love drifting off to the sweet sounds of Kenya Moore or Ramona Singer ranting and raving. What exactly are they ranting and raving about? It doesn’t matter. It just feels like home.

And that home is the house that Andy built.

Andy Cohen is the longtime impresario of the Real Housewives franchise. Our Warholian godfather. He knows he need only stand back and let these women live out loud. But he’s also not afraid to step in and cut even the strongest team member, lest anyone think the show hinges on them. Andy’s greatest strength, however, is knowing that, above all else, the shows are FUNNY. During a mid-pandemic Zoom reunion, the Lucille Ball of the franchise, Porsha Williams, told a fellow castmate whose breasts weren’t looking their best, “Girl, them titties is aged hens. They social distancing.” Chef’s kiss. In an iconic moment during a Beverly Hills reunion, Kim Richards returned a stuffed bunny, still wrapped in plastic, that Lisa Rinna had given her daughter—because, I quote, Kim didn’t “feel it was given to me with the right energy.” Andy watched with restrained glee as Lisa, in turn, delivered a soap opera–worthy single tear, complete with quivering lip, then slow-walked off the set to collect herself.

Though we may laugh, we must also learn from these desperate unicorns. They’re the ghosts of Christmas future. They’ve selflessly taught us what not to do, like pretending you own a ski chalet and have multiple personal assistants when in fact one of the assistants may be aiding you with a telemarketing scheme, which the feds recently arrested you for while—prepare yourself for the three greatest words a Housewives fan could hear—cameras. were. rolling. But while we get to turn them off and go on our merry, it is Andy who bears the brunt of their wrath when things don’t go their way. He was SHOVED by Teresa Giudice during a reunion, but that didn’t stop him from later sitting across from her and conducting a meaningful one-on-one, Diane Sawyer–style. I tuned in for it like it was the moon landing.

By Mike Rosenthal.



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