Andy Cohen, who helped develop Bravo’s massively successful Real Housewives franchise, is opening up about how the show’s concept came to be and what he finds aspirational about it all.
In an interview with The New Yorker, published online Sunday, the Watch What Happens Live host said he views the way women are portrayed on Housewives as a “great feminist tableau.”
The reality series, with 10 shows executive produced by Cohen in the United States and even more globally, follows some of the most affluent women across the country as they live luxurious lifestyles.
“There’s no show that has given a platform for women over 50 in this way, in terms of expressing their sexuality and who they are and starting over in life and figuring things out,” Cohen said. “And I think that’s brilliant.”
Before Housewives was created, the producer said he was intrigued with the soap opera All My Children, “because there were strong, powerful women who dressed well, with big hair. I was, like, ‘Oh, my God, Erica Kane is the fiercest thing I’ve ever seen.’ And the Housewives were interesting to me.”
Then, an opportunity sparked. Earlier in his career, while he was in charge of production at Bravo, he told the magazine that a man, Scott Dunlop, “brought a VHS of these women in his neighborhood, and I was, like, ‘Wow, this is interesting.’ There was no format. There was no nothing. It was an idea.”
And from that, the first Real Housewives show was created in 2006, starting with Orange County. Cohen explained that he was really drawn in “by the idea that the women on the show all went to the same tennis club, and they lived in the same gated community. Pine Valley was a small place, and they all went to the Chateau for a fancy dinner, and they all went to the Glamorama to get their hair done, and so the drama happened in these spots.”
Once Orange County proved that it could flourish, the franchise expanded next with New York City, and then Atlanta, New Jersey and so on.
“One of the things that titillated me in the early seasons of Orange County was that there was a sexuality that I connected with, that I hadn’t seen on reality shows,” the host added. “Certainly on The Real World it was teenagers who were hooking up or whatever, but here were, like, MILFs with huge boobs.”
Cohen has previously talked about the show’s triumph in the reality television world. During an April 2022 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, when asked about the longevity of viewership for programs about lavish lifestyles given the current economic climate, he said, “These shows have always been voyeuristic about the other half. It’s part of the backbone of the franchise. And I think it makes it fun to watch. You see that with The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills — which has, in a weird way, emerged as the crown jewel in recent years. People love watching how these rich women live.”