While many may now be tuning into the real life drama of Teresa and Joe Guidice, I have to say, I was an early adopter of The Real Housewives. Not sure I should be proud of that, but it's true.
I watched the very first episode of the first season on The Real Housewives of Orange County, and have been watching what happens ever since. The show came right on the heels of Desperate Housewives, the scripted night time drama on abc. That show was a huge pop culture success at the time, so I instantly thought that making a reality show version was brilliant. This is long before we knew Andy Cohen was, well, Andy Cohen.
I was hooked not knowing we would see a second season, or a New York, or an Atlanta, or even a New Jersey. I see the girls from Miami are coming back soon and I can't wait!
These women had me at hello and their brand of drama keeps me hooked. While there are times when I thought their popularity would fade, some new scandal pops up. Perfect timing?
As I've watched the show expand as a franchise and now as a brand, I have been trying to figure out the appeal, even for me as a fan. I mean it's so cheesy, it's embarrassing. The ultimate in guilty pleasure, with tons of guilt. And a Bravo t-shirt and shot glass to go along with it.
And then it struck me! The Real Housewives are the new soap opera.
As the daytime soap opera (not so) slowly dies off, here's a night time reality show, with just as much drama, that with the help of repeated rotational time slots and on-demand, that can be viewed any time of the day. Repeatedly.
And if any of us still think that The Real Housewives is unscripted, then we don't understand how tv programming works. Every scene is thought through and then researched to see if it will not only fit within the plot line but also if it will resonate with viewers. To see if there's enough drama to keep the audience watching.
The drama that unfolds is unreal, yet so real. Exaggerated for the purposes of tv, yet at the same time relateable enough to keep us watching.
But what spins out from the show is even more shockingly dramatic. Sure, we see these women's lives play out on TV, but then we see them play out in the headlines as well.
Teresa Guidice. Bethenny Frankel. NeNe Leakes. Taylor Armstrong.The story lines have crossed the screen into the courtroom, bookshelf, grocery store, magazine cover, gossip blog, and doctor's office, the likes we have never seen before. We even had a run away wife and White House crasher in D.C. I mean, c'mon! The real life drama rivals the show's staged drama with one feeding into the other and then back again. It's a relentless feeding frenzy.
This week it's the potential alleged deportation of Joe Guidice, next week it'll be another's turn at bat.
Ok, I may be getting carried away but you get the point. Failed marriages, stolen business ideas, teenage angst, suicide, police activity -- sometimes in one episode. Certainly enough drama to keep the country riveted, taking the place of daytime soaps that at one point had us captivated as well.
Local and national product placements a plenty, plus the cast members (yes, cast members) are asked to blog and tweet to keep the plot line going even after the show is off air. And that is often what fuels the feuding -- a brilliant way to keep the story unfolding. Plus pop up tweets during some of the shows so you can hear directly from cast members about their take on the situation.
What P&G did for the soap opera back in the day, Andy Cohen has reinvented. His late night talk show called Watch What Happens, is completely centered around The Housewives, and features all the other Bravolebrities as well (yes, they coined a phrase)!
And by the way, the same sponsors are still there as with the daytime soaps, buying airtime and display ads to reach what has become a pretty darn big audience. While some brands have avoided the drama I am sure, others have embraced it. We've seen Kyle Richards do plenty an endorsement.
What's a little sad, though, is despite the staging and loose scripting, the reality is real. These women's lives get torn apart in public. Put on display which only amplifies the action. Some have come out smelling like a rose, like Kim and NeNe, but for the most part the drama certainly looks like it takes a toll.
Sure hope it's worth it for them.
I do have to applaud the way these women have tackled their issues candidly, to what I imagine is great inspiration to others facing similar drama. Domestic violence, failed businesses, health care issues, marriage struggles -- we can in fact, despite the exaggerated drama, learn from what these women go through and perhaps apply some learning to our own situations.
For that I am a fan. I present as exhibit to that how Jackeline Laurita is currently handling her special needs child who has Autism. Bravo! One of the relevant brands ought to pick her up and offer some help,to her and others like her.
Follow Jim Joseph on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@JimJosephExp