The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Watching The Real Housewives

17 minute read

In the world of the Real Housewives, drama is guaranteed, social currency is key and the shade is definitely real. But with over 15 years and hundreds of episodes in the Housewives books, where do you start?

If you’re a longtime fan of the cultural phenomenon that is Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise, then this guide might not tell you anything you don’t already know (although it’s always nice to get a refresher course). But if you consider yourself a Housewives novice, you’ve come to the right place.

Maybe you’ve always wanted to watch Housewives but were overwhelmed by the number of different series (and seasons) there are. Maybe you’re a fan of some of Bravo’s other shows and are ready for something new. Maybe you never really thought about it until you clicked on this guide. Whatever the reason, there’s no better time than now to start the most important reality TV journey of your life. With an inimitable catalog of priceless memes, cutting one-liners, dramatic reveals and unforgettable reads, Housewives can be a surprisingly effective—and endlessly entertaining—way of taking your mind off everything.

While there are popular international iterations of Housewives, like Melbourne and Cheshire, this guide focuses on the 10 American series (past and present). Without further ado, here’s what Housewives beginners need to know about each of the different Real Housewives series, presented chronologically first for seasons still on the air, and then for those that left us too soon.

Currently Running Series

The Real Housewives of Orange County (RHOC)

THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF ORANGE COUNTY -- Season: 15 -- Pictured: (l-r) Braunwyn Windham-Burke, Gina Kirschenheiter, Emily Simpson, Shannon Storms Beador, Kelly Dodd, Elizabeth Lyn Vargas -- (Photo by: Tommy Garcia/Yavir Ramawtar/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
The Real Housewives of Orange County Season 15 - Pictured: (l-r) Braunwyn Windham-Burke, Gina Kirschenheiter, Emily Simpson, Shannon Storms Beador, Kelly Dodd, Elizabeth Lyn VargasTommy Garcia and Yavir Ramawtar—Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Series premiere: March 21, 2006

Current status: Season 16 renewal pending

Current cast: Shannon Storms Beador, Kelly Dodd, Gina Kirschenheiter, Emily Simpson, Braunwyn Windham-Burke, Elizabeth Lyn Vargas

Notable past cast: Vicki Gunvalson, Tamra Judge, Heather Dubrow, Gretchen Rossi

Spinoffs: Tamra’s OC Wedding, Date My Ex: Jo & Slade

What to know: As the original Housewives series, Orange County laid the groundwork for everything the franchise has evolved into.

“Life is different in a gated community,” the opening line of the series decrees, introducing viewers to the now tried-and-true format of weekly episodes showcasing the glitz, glamor and drama of the lives of the reality show’s wealthy female stars. But the OC of today is a far cry from its mid-aughts debut. While the glitz and glamor have increased, the most recent season’s drama had some viewers questioning whether the relationships between current cast members had become too toxic.

Many fans took specific issue with the continued involvement of Kelly Dodd, who, in addition to claiming that Braunwyn Windham-Burke is a “fake alcoholic” who’s only using her sobriety for a storyline, has come under fire for her controversial comments about coronavirus and mocking the Black Lives Matter movement.

With rumors flying that a major RHOC cast shakeup could be in the works, it seems celebrity Bravo superfan Chrissy Teigen may have summed up Season 15 best: “It’s so uncomfortable mean to me now. You’d think mean would be at least juicy and entertaining (it has been before) but now I’m like…grossed out and uncomfortable at the s—t they say to each other.”

Current feud to watch: The explosive Season 15 reunion pitted Braunwyn, the first out, gay housewife, against pretty much everyone, but especially Kelly. In January, Kelly said on Instagram Live that she won’t return to RHOC if Braunwyn comes back.

Most iconic meme: Even if you’ve never watched an episode of Real Housewives, you might still recognize the sound of Tamra Judge screaming, “That’s my opinion!” That’s because the infamous Season 9 reunion outburst—the result of a heated argument between Tamra and Vicki Gunvalson over Vicki’s then-boyfriend, Brooks Ayers—has since been turned into both a masterpiece of a Vine video and a popular TikTok sound. It frequently pops up in GIF form when points need to be made on social media.



The Real Housewives of New York City (RHONY)

The Real Housewives of New York City Season 12
The Real Housewives of New York City Season 12 - Pictured: (l-r) Tinsley Mortimer, Dorinda Medley, Luann de Lesseps, Sonja Morgan, Ramona Singer, Leah McSweeneySophy Holland—Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Series premiere: March 4, 2008

Current status: Season 13 premieres May 4

Current cast: Ramona Singer, Sonja Morgan, Luann de Lesseps, Leah McSweeney, Eboni K. Williams

Notable past cast: Bethenny Frankel, Dorinda Medley, Tinsley Mortimer, Carole Radziwill, Jill Zarin

Spinoffs: Bethenny Ever After, Bethenny & Fredrik

What to know: From Skinnygirl CEO Bethenny Frankel, to toaster-oven aficionado Sonja Morgan, to countess-turned-cabaret singer Luann de Lesseps, RHONY has featured no shortage of iconic reality TV queens over the years. The ladies of the Big Apple thrive both in and outside of the city, with annual trips to the Hamptons, Berkshires (a.k.a. “Bezerkshires”) and exotic locales like St. John (a.k.a. “Scary Island”), Turks and Caicos, and Cartagena providing some of the most entertaining, authentic and hilariously chaotic television that has ever come out of the Housewives franchise. The rollercoaster that is RHONY is worth watching from start to finish—unless you want to be all, like, uncool.

Current feud to watch: With Dorinda Medley out, Ramona Singer is free of her most vocal Season 12 detractor. But while Ramona and newbie all-star Leah McSweeney hugged it out at the reunion, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be all smooth sailing between them going forward. Of course, with the “Singer Stinger,” it never is. The Season 13 trailer appears to show Ramona butting heads with new addition Eboni K. Williams, RHONY‘s first Black cast member, over Ramona referring to her household employees as the “help.”

Most iconic meme: From “Clip, clip, clip!” to “I made it nice!”, Dorinda had no shortage of memorable one-liners during her six seasons on RHONY. But her most relatable catchphrase, especially over the course of the past year, is almost certainly her response to Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell trying to start a conversation with her following a Season 9 dinner party argument with Sonja Morgan: “I’ll tell ya how I’m doing! Not well, b—ch!”



The Real Housewives of Atlanta (RHOA)

The Real Housewives of Atlanta Season 12
The Real Housewives of Atlanta Season 12 - Pictured: (l-r) Porsha Williams, Kandi Burruss Tucker, Kenya Moore, NeNe Leakes, Eva Marcille, Cynthia BaileyTommy Garcia—Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Series premiere: Oct. 7, 2008

Current status: Season 13 airing now

Current cast: Kenya Moore, Kandi Burruss, Cynthia Bailey, Porsha Williams, Drew Sidora

Notable past cast: NeNe Leakes, Phaedra Parks, Eva Marcille, Shereé Whitfield, Kim Zolciak-Biermann

Spinoffs: Don’t Be Tardy, The Kandi Factory, Kandi’s Wedding, Kandi’s Ski Trip, I Dream of NeNe: The Wedding

What to know: There’s a reason why RHOA has consistently been one of the top-rated Housewives series. Over the course of 13 seasons, the ladies of Atlanta have routinely delivered top-notch drama, and quick, impeccable shade. Much of the show’s huge momentum (and unforgettable memes) have been fueled by its all-star cast, most notably the inimitable NeNe Leakes, who left the show in 2015 and returned in 2017, before leaving a second time in 2020 when she accused host Andy Cohen of being racist and Bravo of not recognizing her creative contributions to the franchise.

Current feud to watch: While the friction between Kenya Moore and Porsha Williams has been seasons-long, Season 13 has upped the ante for these two Atlanta housewives. Kenya’s diva antics and her relentless investigation into who might have slept with the stripper during a girls’ trip to South Carolina led to a fiery reignition of conflict with Porsha. That will be sure to dominate the rest of Season 13.

Most iconic meme: Although Nene has left the show again, her influence still reigns supreme on the Internet, where GIFs and memes abound of her shadiest one-liners and iconic facial responses. Chief among them is her protesting being brought into the drama at the Season 7 reunion (despite often helping to instigate it). “Now why am I in it?” Nene tells Andy and her cast mates amid a heated argument. “See how I always get thrown into stuff?”



The Real Housewives of New Jersey (RHONJ)

The Real Housewives of New Jersey Season 11
The Real Housewives of New Jersey Season 11 - Pictured: (l-r) Margaret Josephs, Jackie Goldschneider, Melissa Gorga, Teresa Giudice, Dolores Catania, Jennifer AydinRodolfo Martinez—Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Series premiere: May 12, 2009

Current status: Season 11 airing

Current cast: Teresa Giudice, Melissa Gorga, Dolores Catania, Margaret Josephs, Jennifer Aydin, Jackie Goldschneider

Notable past cast: Danielle Staub, Dina Manzo, Caroline Manzo

Spinoffs: Manzo’d With Children, Teresa Checks In

What to know: Within the cultural zeitgeist, the Garden State is subject to many a stereotype—and RHONJ indulges in them with gusto and delight. Case in point—when Teresa Giudice, the only current housewife remaining from the first season, flipped a table in an expletive-laden rage, it became more than just juicy fodder for the show, but instead a watershed moment in reality TV history. Themes of family abound with many cast members being related, but it’s not just familial strife that keeps the drama flowing in New Jersey—from Giudice serving time for mail, wire and bankruptcy fraud, to Margaret Josephs and her husband Joe tossing Danielle Staub’s husband Marty into the pool after a heated exchange, there’s no shortage of entertainment with RHONJ.

Current feud to watch: Teresa Giudice and Jackie Goldschneider kicked off the Season 11 premiere, guns blazing, with an explosive fight triggered by a cheating rumor about Jackie’s husband and a comment about Teresa’s daughter Gia. With most of Season 11 to go, there’s no doubt that Teresa and Jackie’s feud will take center stage.

Most iconic meme: While it makes sense that Teresa’s notorious table-flipping moment might strike many as the ultimate meme for RHONJ, it’s Teresa’s daughter Gia who has emerged as the talent behind the reigning franchise meme. During Season 3 in 2011, a 10-year-old Gia tearfully sang an original sad song about the family feud between Teresa and Teresa’s brother, Joe Gorga. Flash forward a decade—Gia’s sad song has become a viral audio clip on TikTok, where it’s resonated with users reminiscing over embarrassing moments.



The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (RHOBH)

The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Season 10
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Season 10 - Pictured: (l-r) Garcelle Beauvais, Denise Richards, Lisa Rinna, Kyle Richards, Erika Girardi, Dorit Kemsley, Teddi Mellencamp ArroyaveJohn Tsiavis—Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Series premiere: Oct. 14, 2010

Current status: Season 11 premieres May 19

Current cast: Kyle Richards, Lisa Rinna, Dorit Kemsley, Erika Jayne, Garcelle Beauvais, Crystal Kung Minkoff, Sutton Stracke

Notable past cast: Lisa Vanderpump, Denise Richards, Brandi Glanville, Yolanda Hadid, Kim Richards, Camille Grammer, Teddi Mellencamp Arroyave

Spinoffs: Vanderpump Rules, Vanderpump Rules: Jax And Brittany Take Kentucky

What to know: Known as the most glamorous Housewives city, RHOBH is all about glam squads, high fashion, extravagant homes and rubbing shoulders with Hollywood elites. But while they certainly know how to turn out a look, despite the Denise Richards-fueled high ratings of 2020, the ladies of Beverly Hills have recently been dogged by complaints of dull storylines, staged confrontations and superficiality. In the end, Beverly Hills’ greatest contribution to reality TV may be the long-running Lisa Vanderpump-led spinoff Vanderpump Rules, which centers on the young Los Angeles hopefuls who “work” at Vanderpump’s West Hollywood restaurant SUR—a.k.a. Sexy Unique Restaurant.

Current feud to watch: If the Season 10 tension between Kyle Richards, the final Beverly Hills OG, and new fan-favorite Garcelle Beauvais doesn’t carry over into Season 11, there will almost certainly be some new drama between Erika Jayne and whoever tries to dig into the details of her recently announced divorce from husband Tom Girardi. A civil suit filed against the couple alleges that the divorce is “simply a sham attempt to fraudulently protect Tom and Erika’s money from those that seek to collect on debts owed by Tom and his law firm GK”. Especially since we know from RHOBH seasons past that you don’t *ever* talk about the husband.

Most iconic meme: Beverly Hills alum Taylor Armstrong’s infamous Season 2 breakdown over Camille Grammer bringing up Taylor’s claims of abuse against her then-estranged husband, Russell Armstrong, was a dark and sobering moment in the series. But a still from the scene of Taylor screaming and pointing while Kyle holds her back has since become one of the most enduring memes of the franchise. The screengrab took on a new life in recent years when an ingenious Twitter user combined it with the “confused cat at dinner” meme to create the viral gem that is “woman yelling at a cat.” Even Taylor herself seemed to find it funny, tagging Camille in response to a joking comment about someone dressing up as the meme for Halloween.


The Real Housewives of Potomac (RHOP)

The Real Housewives of Potomac Season 5
The Real Housewives of Potomac Season 5 - Pictured: (l-r) Wendy Osefo, Robyn Dixon, Candiace Dillard, Karen Huger, Gizelle Bryant, Ashley Darby, Monique SamuelsSophy Holland—Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Series premiere: Jan. 17, 2016

Current status: Season 6 filming

Current cast: Gizelle Bryant, Ashley Darby, Robyn Dixon, Karen Huger, Candiace Dillard, Wendy Osefo

Notable past cast: Monique Samuels, Charrisse Jackson Jordan, Katie Rost

What to know: A sleepy, etiquette-obsessed suburb of D.C. might not seem like the most likely environment for a Housewives series. However, Potomac has emerged as one of the best and most beloved franchises, thanks entirely to the sparkling personalities of its stars and the show’s willingness to dive into deeper, more complex storylines that explore race, class and sexuality. While in recent seasons, sexual harassment allegations against Ashley Darby’s husband Michael have given the show its most sobering moments, it’s during the heavier moments that Potomac often shines. It balances all-too-real scenarios with humor, shade and fun, and a cast of truly over-the-top characters ranging from “the Green-Eyed Bandits” Gizelle Bryant and Robyn Dixon to “the Grand Dame,” Karen Huger.

Current feud to watch: It’s undeniable that the epic Season 5 blowout between Monique Samuels and Candiace Dillard has become the stuff of not only RHOP, but Housewives legend, thanks to the epic winery fight that turned physical. However, real fans know the real beef to watch is between OGs Karen Huger and Gizelle Bryant, who are perpetually vying for the top spot in the Potomac hierarchy.

Most iconic meme: While Gizelle and Karen have plenty of shady one-liners delivered with plenty of side-eye, it’s Robyn Dixon who gave the franchise one of the most beloved memes with a quip that she said in exasperation during the Season 5 reunion. After a heated exchange with Monique’s husband Chris ensues during the reunion, Dixon, who attended solo, tells the women, “I am so glad that Juan Dixon is not here right now!” The statement in both its sincerity and absurdity, resonated with the Internet, who wasted no time in making it go viral.


The Real Housewives of Dallas (RHOD)

The Real Housewives of Dallas Season 5
The Real Housewives of Dallas Season 5 - Pictured: (l-r) Kary Brittingham, Stephanie Hollman, D'Andra Simmons, Brandi Redmond, Kameron Westcott, Tiffany MoonTommy Garcia, Virginia Sherwood and Jonathan Zizzo—Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Series premiere: April 11, 2016

Current status: Season 5 airing now

Current cast: Stephanie Hollman, Brandi Redmond, D’Andra Simmons, Kameron Westcott, Kary Brittingham, Tiffany Moon

Notable past cast: LeeAnne Locken, Cary Deuber

What to know: Everything’s bigger in Texas—except maybe the Housewives drama. Suffering in recent years from a lack of the unforgettable moments that are the bread and butter of cities like Potomac, New York and Atlanta, Dallas has consistently been plagued by low ratings. With wildcard OG LeeAnne Locken—known for smashing glasses and threatening her castmates with physical violence—exiting the show in the wake of racist comments she made about co-star Kary Brittingham, Season 5 marked the dawn of a new era for the ladies of the Lone Star State. Locken was replaced by anesthesiologist Dr. Tiffany Moon, the first Asian American housewife, who quickly became a fan-favorite after confronting Brandi Redmond about a racist video she posted on her Instagram story mocking Asians. But only time will tell if Dallas will live to see another renewal.

Current feud to watch: Brandi continues to dig herself into a hole over the backlash she received for her racist Instagram video, recently telling Tiffany that she feels like she can’t be “completely, authentically herself” in front of her. Of course, Tiffany herself put it best in a subsequent confessional: “If she sees me and it reminds her of her video and all the negativity that she got from it, that’s not my problem. I cannot change that I am Asian. If that makes you uncomfortable, that’s your problem.”

Most iconic meme: In typical Housewives fashion, the Dallas ladies’ Season 3 trip to Copenhagen spiraled out of control virtually upon arrival when Kameron Westcott and D’Andra Simmons sparred over Kameron’s mother-in-law warning D’Andra against hanging out with Brandi. But it wasn’t until LeeAnne got involved that the fight nearly came to blows. Luckily, LeeAnne had the sense to remove herself from the situation before letting loose on D’Andra with a rant that immediately earned a spot in the annals of Housewives meme history: “I’m exhausted. My weave is exhausted. The pantyliner on my underwear is exhausted.”


The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City (RHOSLC)

The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City Season 1
The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City Season 1 - Pictured: (l-r) Lisa Barlow, Mary Cosby, Heather Gay, Jen Shah, Whitney Rose, Meredith MarksChad Kirkland—Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Series premiere: Nov. 11, 2020

Current status: Season 2 filming

Current cast: Jen Shah, Heather Gay, Whitney Rose, Meredith Marks, Lisa Barlow, Mary Cosby

What to know: RHOSLC may have just wrapped its first season, but make no mistake—these housewives are hardly novices when it comes to bringing the drama. Mixing in a heady dose of religion and some complex racial politics with the longtime Housewives formula makes for an outstanding inaugural season, which is also bolstered by storylines so over-the-top, you have to see it to believe it. What other franchise can boast a Pentecostal pastor married to her step-grandfather, a pole-dancing ex-Mormon, a Mormon tequila entrepreneur and a Mormon-turned-Muslim with seven assistants, but no clear job? The ante will be upped next season as well, as Shah was arrested while filming Season 2 after being accused of taking part in a fraudulent telemarketing scheme. Shah has pleaded not guilty to fraud and money laundering charges.

Current feud to watch: While Jen Shah’s vocal outbursts about Mary Cosby’s claim that she “smelled like hospital” made for a strong contender for best feud of the series, fan favorite Heather Gay’s aggressive and sustained attacks against Lisa Barlow’s cool relationship to her hint that there’s much more drama coming our way next season.

Most iconic meme: While there were no shortages of dramatic moments from the inaugural season of RHOSLC, Meredith’s tight-lipped response of “I’m disengaging” during bouts of conflict instantly became a fan favorite, especially when delivered in her monotone drawl. We’re betting that some iteration of it will show up in her tagline for Season 2.


Past Series

The Real Housewives of DC (RHODC)

The Real Housewives of DC Season 1 Reunion
The Real Housewives of DC Season 1 Reunion - Pictured: (l-r) Rich Amons, Mary Schmidt-Amons, Ebong Eka, Lynda Erkiletian, Catherine Ommanney, Andy Cohen, Michaele Salahi, Tareq Salahi, Stacie Turner, Jason TurnerWilliam B. Plowman/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Series premiere: Aug. 5, 2010

Series finale: Oct. 21, 2010

Number of seasons: 1

Cast: Mary Amons, Lynda Erkiletian, Cat Ommanney, Stacie Scott Turner, Michaele Salah

What to know: RHODC will go down in history as the first and only Housewives series to get cancelled after just one season. The cancellation wasn’t for lack of buzz, either—ahead of its premiere, the show was already garnering notoriety after Michaele Salah and her husband crashed a state dinner, where they were photographed speaking to President Barack Obama (some have pointed to this controversy as part of why the show was cancelled). The show also broke form with other Housewives series, with a more serious tone and a focus on the characters’ jobs and philanthropy in the nation’s capitol, as opposed to dramatic fights or petty asides.


The Real Housewives of Miami (RHOM)

The Real Housewives of Miami Season 3 Reunion
The Real Housewives of Miami Season 3 Reunion - Pictured: (l-r) Alexia Echevarria, Adriana De Moura, Lisa Hochstein, Andy Cohen, Joanna Krupa, Lea BlackGiovanni Rufino—Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Series premiere: Feb. 22, 2011

Series finale: Nov. 4, 2013

Number of seasons: 3

Cast: Lea Black, Alexia Echevarria, Adriana de Moura, Marysol Patton, Larsa Pippen, Cristy Rice, Lisa Hochstein, Joanna Krupa, Ana Quincoces, Karent Sierra

What to know: Eight years after it went off the air, RHOM is reportedly coming back for a fourth season and, as of February 2020, “already in the full swing of interviewing potential cast mates to hire.” Although Miami was never officially canceled, according to Andy Cohen, low ratings, specifically for the Season 3 reunion, were to blame for its discontinuation. Luckily, thanks to vocal support from fans, the ladies of the Magic City appear to be getting another shot at bringing the drama.

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