On March 21, 2006, a little show about a group of five women in Orange County, California premiered on Bravo. Billed as a look behind the gates of the exclusive community of Coto de Caza, The Real Housewives of Orange County was reality TV's attempt to capitalize on the massive successes of Desperate Housewives and The O.C. No one could have guessed at the time that the show would not only outlast both of its fictional counterparts by years, it would spawn a global media franchise that would blaze a trail for the entire genre of reality TV.
At the time, I was a junior in high school who spent countless days glued to the drama surrounding Stephen, LC and Kristen on Laguna Beach, so when I heard about another reality show in the OC, I perked up. Cozied up in my parents' room, I clicked the remote to Bravo and immediately became immersed in the lives of these glamorous OC women and their families. Little did I know how much I would come to love the Housewives or just how much the franchise would come to mean to me over the next decade.
The show began with five original Housewives: high energy insurance maven Vicki Gunvalson, former Playmate-turned-MLB-wife Jeana Keough, single mom Lauri Waring, trophy fiancé Jo De La Rosa and pro-plastic surgery soccer mom Kimberly Bryant. Over the course of the first season, we saw the 'Wives with their families (including Jo's fiancé, future OC staple Slade Smiley) and interact socially. Back then, the show wasn't so much about drama and conflict between the women, it simply captured their day-to-day reality.
We watched Vicki send her daughter Briana off to senior prom and attend her own 25-year high school reunion and Jeana raise her three competitive kids. Lauri dealt with her teenage son Josh's legal problems while working for Vicki as an insurance agent. Jo and Slade navigated the murky waters of being engaged despite their considerable age difference (Jo was only 24 when she filmed Season 1!) and Kimberly felt the pressures of the OC lifestyle - upgrading her car, shopping for a house and proclaiming in her opening tagline that "85 percent of the women around here have breast implants." In fact, the most dramatic plot point of the entire season was Kimberly's skin cancer scare towards the end of filming, which resulted in the Bryant family relocating to the Midwest after the show wrapped. All in all, Season 1 comes across as a bare-bones prototype of what Housewives has become today. I mean, the first season reunion consisted of Vicki, Jo, Lauri and Jeana sitting poolside in the Gunvalson's iconic backyard to chat about the season with no Andy Cohen in sight!
As I said, there was no way to predict that Housewives would become a pop culture phenomenon over the next 10 years, but how grateful we are that it did. Without the first season of RHOC, we wouldn't have any of the iconic, watercooler moments the franchise has given us with over the years: Teresa's Table Flip. Aviva's Leg Throw. The Dinner Party from Hell. Scary Island. Slutty Island. LimoGate."Bye, Wig!" The existence of Big Poppa. The Pretentious Intervention in Costa Rica. Brooks Ayers' fake cancer. The Bethenny/Jill feud. The redemption of Queen Camille Grammer. The Gorga/Guidice christening brawl. Every single tagline and reunion walk-off. Need I continue?
Furthermore, we wouldn't have been gifted with so many memorable moments over the last 10 years of the OG of the OC: Vicki screaming about threesomes on a mountaintop in Whistler. Vicki on the bar at Andale's. Vicki having a full-blown emotional breakdown in Costa Rica. Vicki screaming about the family van. Vicki not knowing what a "circle jerk" is while riding a children's train. The constantly changing state of Vicki's love tank. Every single "woo-hoo!" and "whoop it up!" The list truly could go on and on...
So thank you Bravo and thank you to the five original women who let us into your lives and started this fabulously entertaining world known as the Real Housewives. We are forever in your debt.