In 2006, producer Scott Dunlop and the masterminds at Bravo birthed "The Real Housewives of Orange County," which quickly became the network’s most buzzed-about program. In the six years since Vicki Gunvalson and her gaudy Coto de Caza cohorts became bona fide TV stars, the show has emerged as Bravo's programming anchor and a multi-million dollar franchise, spawning an additional six editions (New York City, Atlanta, New Jersey, D.C., Beverly Hills, Miami), outrageous must-see reunion specials, and even a few spinoffs.
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While each edition of “The Real Housewives” has found success (with the exception of the swiftly canceled D.C. version), the spinoffs have either been hit or miss. "Date My Ex" -- starring past "O.C." housewife Jo De La Rosa and current cast member Slade Smiley -- failed to attract viewers and a second season pick-up, but "Bethenny Ever After..." (formerly "Bethenny Getting Married?") has flourished. We’re three seasons in, and the outspoken former Real Housewife of New York City and Skinnygirl empress is still going strong, even if her marriage isn’t. But Bravo wants its stable of stars to expand and is banking on familiar faces like Bethenny to keep rabid viewers satiated.
On March 4, the network held its annual upfront presentation in New York, where it announced the return of eight current shows and the pick-up of 11 new series, including two new Housewives-related projects. "The Kandi Factory" -- starring Atlanta Housewife Kandi Burruss -- will follow the Grammy-winning singer/songwriter as she mentors wannabe pop tarts looking to make it in the music biz. Meanwhile, "SUR" will feature Beverly Hills Housewife Lisa Vanderpump as she manages the chaos at her trendy West Hollywood restaurant.
Now, don't get me wrong. I love Kandi, but do we really need another show about aspiring musicians? No. Nor does Bravo need to embarrass itself in that arena once again. "Platinum Hit," anyone? Bueller? Lemme guess, none of you even remember it. I was secretly obsessed with the Jewel-and-Kara DioGuardi-helmed mess (actually, I only loved contestant Jackie Tohn, who came in seventh), but it bombed. Ratings were abysmal, and it got shuffled off to Friday nights… and we all know what that means: It didn't return for a second season. I'm worried that Kandi may suffer the same fate. Did you see the preview of “The Kandi Factory” when it debuted in early March? Talk about a snoozefest. Don’t we really just want to see the “No Scrubs” songwriter as a member of The Smalls (Kandi/Kim/Phaedra/Sheree) battling The Talls (NeNe/Cynthia/Marlo), working on her own music with country star Jo Dee Messina, and launching her new line of adult toys? Yes. And while we’re being honest with each other, the real stars of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” (as much as it pains me to admit this) are NeNe Leakes and Kim Zolciak. Their personalities are bigger (I didn’t say better), and they could easily lead their own hit shows. That’s why NeNe has a million projects in the works and Kim’s own spinoff, “Don’t Be Tardy for the Wedding,” launches later this month.
Vanderpump, however, has a much better shot at branching out. The Brit restaurateur and club owner can command a room. She’s funny, she’s always impeccably dressed, she’s well-connected, and she’s filthy rich. Lisa is also well aware that any successful reality show must focus on non-stop drama, which “SUR” will undoubtedly deliver.
Despite my enthusiasm for “SUR,” I’m not convinced that Lisa, like Kandi, can make it on her own. She’s talented and fabulous, but I find her budding friendship with Brandi Glanville and escalating feud with Adrienne Maloof on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” more exciting than any behind-the-scenes shenanigans “SUR” could ever serve up. Perhaps Lisa can convince loudmouth Bethenny to guest as a bartender? That may convince me to tune in.
Here are five other “Real Housewives” spinoffs I'd prefer to see:
“Rehabbing with Kim Richards,” starring the troubled Beverly Hills housewife as she attempts to get her life and acting career back on track with the help of her kids, her therapist, and her equally crazy sister Kyle.
“L.A. NeNe’s Way,” starring Hotlanta’s own NeNe Leakes as she capitalizes on the success of her stint on “Glee” by moving to Hollywood in search of more fame and fortune.
“Chic, C’est La Vie,” starring LuAnn de Lesseps as she travels throughout Europe, inviting viewers to experience vacation destinations fit for a Countess.
“G&T,” starring O.C. housewives and new BFFs Gretchen Rossi and Tamra Barney as they drive cross-country in a convertible (“Thelma & Louise”-style) while doing nothing more than cat fighting with each other and gossiping about Vicki and Alexis.
“The Brownstone,” starring matriarch and Jersey housewife Caroline Manzo as she re-enters the working world at her family-owned event facility after her kids have left the nest.