Reality television is an easy escape into different pockets of the world under the guise of showcasing real life. But, it’s no surprise that on-screen reality isn’t all it’s dolled up to be. Shows like The Real Housewives portray real-life events in the lives of cast members and their families, but unscripted television still comes with a playbook. If we’re being honest, the strings being pulled behind-the-scenes are what make the show worth tuning into every week.
Everyone is drama-prone now and again, but Housewives level drama requires some extra planning and poking. And in turn, what’s done behind the scenes leads to authentic reactions and fall outs we’ve witnessed over a decade of the franchise. Let’s dive into the smoke and mirrors that go into making The Real Housewives as juicy as it is.
They’re not all really friends
You could probably already tell from the never-ending contention, but the ladies of The Real Housewives don’t always know each other very well, or like each other for that matter. Despite the franchise following a group of women already acquainted with each other, casting the show doesn’t come completely naturally. Though some Housewives are actually friends or family, many come onto the show after being scouted by producers. While the producers always find a way to introduce new women to the group through an existing housewife, the reality is that some of the women are cast because of their existing fame, or simply because production sees the next Lisa Vanderpump in their midst.
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Everyone has to audition before being cast
One known truth about the Bravo universe is that no one has more power than the producers. This is why we frequently see shocking firings and cast shake-ups. For this reason, it’s also known that all cast housewives have to audition for the show before being signed on, and this includes ladies with a “friends of” role.
Storylines are planned and crafted
Creating a perfect storm of drama comes with a formula. Although The Real Housewives is unscripted, the storyline is still mapped out. Producers use existing drama and push the narrative forward by creating scenarios and pushing dialogue between the ladies. This creates a more cohesive storyline. Conversation topics are also suggested by producers so they can move story arcs forward as the season progresses. That’s why we often see FaceTime and speakerphone calls happen “organically” while one of the housewives are lounging around and the cameras just happen to be rolling.
They film scenes multiple times
You know how in real life we stutter, or there’s a lull in conversation, or we have food stuck in our teeth? You never see any of that in the show, and that’s because if there’s a flub, they reshoot the scene. The editors also cut out those natural everyday moments, simply because those moments aren’t exciting to watch. The Real Housewives runs on punchy, consistent drama, and emotional or funny moments. Capturing that for television requires some cutting, tweaking, and reshooting.
Confessional interviews are filmed monthly
The iconic confessional interviews on The Real Housewives allow the women to individually recount the events that occurred during regular filming. Though they speak in present tense, the confessions are sometimes filmed weeks after the topic being discussed. This is why we’ve seen some of the ladies describe certain events completely differently than what was actually shot in real-time. Sometimes it’s a tactic to manipulate the audience into seeing things differently, and sometimes it’s just because they really don’t remember it properly.
Filming is done on a set schedule
One season of The Real Housewives is usually shot over about three months, and the ladies will film up to six days a week with and without each other. Ever notice that when a new season starts, the women seem to have not seen each other in months? That’s because they haven’t. Because, as mentioned before, many don’t speak when the cameras aren’t rolling.
During filming months they work off call sheets
In addition to having a set timeline for shooting, The Real Housewives cast also follow strict call sheets that determine the locations for shooting, the people involved, and even weather conditions.
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Cast members are not allowed to break the fourth wall
One major factor in keeping things seemingly authentic at Bravo is the major rule — don’t break the fourth wall. Even in confessionals, it’s understood that certain aspects of the show, namely production’s meddling, is not to be mentioned. It’s been revealed that the iconic Denise Richards “Bravo Bravo Bravo” scene was born from an old trick used by the Housewives long before she came onto the show. The idea is to call out “Bravo” so that production has to cut scenes they don’t want aired. But because Denise’s scene was seemingly too juicy to cut, Bravo left Richards breaking the fourth wall in.
Bravo has a budget for their travel expenses
Though the host of the group trip takes the credit for where the women vacation and stay, the truth is that Bravo is actually setting them up in their digs. While the ladies do get a say in where they travel to, accommodations are provided by production. Fighting for the rooms Ramona style, however, is all-too real.
Bravo has a stake in cast member businesses
With so many of the housewives showcasing their business ventures, one has to wonder if they’re just getting free publicity (on top of their hefty paycheques). The answer is, probably not. It’s been rumoured that Bethenny Frankel negotiated in her contract that she would be consistently promoting her SkinnyGirl brand while she was on Real Housewives of New York.