Ranking the ‘Real Housewives’ franchises, from worst to best

In the name of the father, son and Andy Cohen

Candiace Dillard, Karen Huger and Gizelle Bryant of the reality series "Real Housewives of Potomac" visit BuzzFeed's "AM To DM" on August 26, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images) (Gary Gershoff, 2019 Gary Gershoff)

You either think reality TV shows on Bravo are absolute trash or you believe the cast of “Real Housewives of Potomac” deserve all the Emmy Awards.

If you fall into the latter group, then you know just how different each “Housewives” franchise can be.

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Sure, each show follows the same premise -- a group of wealthy women who run in the same social circles, arguing and throwing shade for our entertainment; but as the years have gone on, some franchises remain top tier, while others have fizzled out completely.

And while the Bravo network has other fantastic TV shows, such as the “Below Deck” franchise, “Summer House,” “Top Chef” and “Vanderpump Rules,” nothing can beat “The Real Housewives.”

Plus, the shows are now being filmed during the pandemic, so that’s added a whole other layer to the show.

Just a few weeks go, the flagship “Housewives” show, “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” turned 15 years old.

So, in honor of 15 years of back-stabbing, wine-throwing and iconic one-liners (”who gon’ check me, boo?”) let’s rank the “Housewives” from worst to best, based from their most current season.

‘Real Housewives of Orange County’

After watching the latest season of the original franchise, this show is most in need of a cast shake-up.

That partially could be because the show has been on the air for the past 15 years. The last original cast member of the show, Vicki Gunvalson, left last year, and the rest of the cast has only been around for the past few seasons, so it’s not as if the cast is stale. It’s more or less that they are just boring.

It’s hard to relate to Shannon Beador’s constant whining and anxiety, Braunwyn Windham-Burke is a borderline narcissist and it’s not fun to watch anti-masker Kelly Dodd disregard COVID-19 protocols in the middle of a pandemic.

Andy Cohen, an executive producer of “Housewives” and the host of Bravo’s late-night show, “Watch What Happens Live,” said there would be a cast shake-up for next season, so let’s hope the production cleans house and starts with something fresh.

‘Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’

If this list was made five years ago, the ladies of “Beverly Hills” would be in the top three, without a doubt.

But lately? Not so much.

“Beverly Hills” was known for having top-tier drama and laughs, but over the past few seasons, the women have become a little too self-aware. They’re more concerned about serving a high-fashion look, complete with flawless makeup and hair, than rolling up their sleeves and throwing a glass of wine in someone’s face.

Part of the problem can be traced to Erika Girardi.

Girardi ushered in the concept of having a “glam squad.” She started bringing a team of makeup artists, hair stylists and creative directors to plan out her outfits for cast vacations. Now, all of the women have a glam squad, and it’s starting to take away from the “real” part of the show that so many of us tune in for. It seems like the cast is too concerned with looking glamorous -- and they’re afraid to let their hair down and be their fun selves (who we know they can be).

The addition of actress Denise Richards was a step in the right direction, but the cast tried to paint Richards as a villain this past season, and fans didn’t go along with it. Richards left the show and it was kind of a bummer.

The upcoming season has some new faces, including cast member Kyle Richards’ sister Kathy Hilton (aka Paris Hilton’s mom), and given the drama Richards has had with her other sister, Kim, who used to be on the show, we could be in for a strong season.

The trailer for the new season does look really good, but fans said the same thing about last season’s trailer and were immediately disappointed.

‘Real Housewives of Dallas’

The ladies from Dallas never really took off in the way that Bravo had probably hoped, and that’s a shame since it is the perfect kind of city to have a “Housewives” franchise.

The show has had a few iconic moments (former castmate LeeAnne Locken’s “they’re just hands” monologue comes to mind), but this past season, which is almost done, hasn’t had any memorable examples, and the fights have come off as petty and mean.

There is hope, though.

New cast member Tiffany Moon has been a breath of fresh air. She’s an accomplished doctor, and her parents are Chinese immigrants. Watching her share her story of being a first-generation immigrant has been incredible to watch, and something we rarely see on “Housewives” since the casts are so often white.

If “Dallas” does a shake-up of the cast next season and keeps Moon and some of the other women, the show has potential to move up in the ranks.

‘Real Housewives of Salt Lake City’

When Bravo announced at the end of 2019 that there would be a new “Housewives” franchise set in Salt Lake City, the general consensus was a big fat yawn.

Mormons? Really?

But after the show premiered in late 2020, the fandom quickly learned just how wrong that was.

Surprisingly, there is only one practicing Mormon in the entire cast. Instead, we got two ex-Mormons who shared their struggle of leaving the church, a Jewish woman going through a separation from her husband, a Togan woman who switched from being Mormon to Islam and the First Lady of a Pentecostal Church who is married to her step-grandfather.

And no, that last part is not made up.

With such a diverse cast, the ladies of “Salt Lake City” fully delivered for fans, and probably gave Bravo the best premiere season of a “Housewives” franchise, ever. The only reason it’s not higher on the list is that the middle of the season slowed down a bit, but it certainly ended on a high note.

And thanks to recent news, season two could launch it to the top of the list. Jen Shah, arguably the cast member who most of the drama stirs around, was recently arrested and charged for wire fraud and running a fraudulent telemarketing scheme. Shah was allegedly filming the show the day she was arrested, and apparently, will continue to film while out on bond.

The news exploded in the Bravo fandom, so expect “Salt Lake City” to be ratings gold next season as fans want to see Shah’s legal troubles unfold.

Get the popcorn ready, folks.

‘Real Housewives of Atlanta’

For being around for so long, the “Atlanta” cast has consistently been good, which is hard to do when it’s been on the air for more than a decade.

The show obviously is not as good as it once was in the early seasons, but considering that the core cast of Kandi Buress, Porsha Williams, Kenya Moore and Cynthia Bailey is still interesting to watch? That says a lot.

The current season is almost over, and we’ve gotten some pretty hilarious moments, including an episode that will forever go down in “Housewives” history, featuring a bachelorette party and a male stripper named Bolo.

This season also gets bonus points for featuring the cast’s participation in the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer, especially with Williams, who was arrested for protesting the death of Breonna Taylor.

“Atlanta” is probably due for a cast shake-up pretty soon, but if anything, we’ve learned that it’s still fun watching these cast members who have been established on the show for so long.

‘Real Housewives of New Jersey’

The best part of the “New Jersey” cast is that it is a true family ensemble, resembling a real-life soap opera in the best way possible. That’s what made the first few seasons of the show so good -- is that the entire cast felt like family, and that was partially due to the fact that it’s true.

The seasons before and after Teresa Giudice went to prison were lagging, but the show has had the same six cast members for the past three seasons alone, something that is practically unheard of in “Housewives” casts.

The women love and fight each other like sisters (emphasis on the “fight” this season) and their husbands are equally close.

Depending on the franchise, the husbands are involved at times, but mostly just for the wives to chat with.

But on “Jersey,” the husbands are fully involved in the drama, especially Joe Gorga, the husband of cast member Melissa Gorga, and Giudice’s brother.

The drama this season has been next-level, and the only critique there has been is that Giudice may need to go soon. She’s been the main character since the show premiered -- and easily put the “Housewives” on the map with her infamous table flip in the first season.

However, her antics have gotten pretty old.

Regardless, “New Jersey” feels like the show that it used to be when it first premiered more than a decade ago.

‘Real Housewives of New York City’

When we talk about the different franchises being different styles of shows, the “New York City” series could be described as a comedy.

Make no mistake, there are certainly some epic fights on “New York City” that have gone down in “Housewives” history, but these New Yorkers are genuinely hilarious, whether they know it or not.

You’re got Sonja Morgan, probably the most sexually liberated Housewife of all the franchises, who is a gas to watch; the totally oblivious former-Countess-turned-Cabaret-star Luann de Lesseps; the willfully delusional yet still hilarious Ramona Singer, and Dorinda Medley, who is known for her zingy one-liners.

Newcomer Leah McSweeney was added to last year’s season, and she was a breath of fresh air too, giving these women of a certain age something to talk about.

Like the “Atlanta” cast, the “New York City” ladies have had the same core cast for years now, and the show has been reliably good, season over season. Fans were nervous when Bethenny Frankel, arguably the most famous “Housewife” of them all, left “New York” a few seasons back, but the show still remains top-tier.

Sadly, Medley won’t be back for the new season (she was let go, but could return later) when it premieres, but the show is adding its first-ever Black cast member, something that has been long overdue.

‘The Real Housewives of Potomac’

There is a new supreme in the Bravo world, and it’s the ladies of a small town outside of Washington D.C. called Potomac.

The “Potomac” franchise has only been around for five seasons, but it’s gone on to show that the idea of a “Housewives” franchise can still be fresh and entertaining, even after being around for more than a decade.

The key to “Potomac’s” success is having a reliable and relatable cast, epic drama and hilarious antics. Their latest season was truly one for the books, with most of the drama circling around a fight between cast members Monique Samuels and Candiace Bassett that turned physical.

“Housewives” arguments normally never turn physical, but this one did, and it opened up a larger conversation about how we treat others, how to deal with anger and it taught each of the cast members a lesson.

Fans often slept on the ladies of “Potomac” during their first few seasons, but when word got around that an epic fight was going to go down, many (including this writer) jumped on the bandwagon to see if the hype was real, and reader, it certainly was.

It will be interesting to see if the cast can keep the momentum going, especially since Samuels has said she won’t return for a new season, but given just how close this cast is, it won’t be surprising to see that they bring it again.

About the Author

Jack is a Digital Content Editor with a degree in creative writing and French from Western Michigan University. He specializes in writing about movies, food and the latest TV shows.

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