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Real Housewives

Filtering by Category: Feature Friday

RHOC Season 11 Wrap-Up

Glenn Rowley

rhoc-season-11

Season 11 of The Real Housewives of Orange County has finally, thankfully come to a close. After 18 episodes and one three-part reunion filled to the brim with shrieking outbursts, abuse rumors, ambush accusations and one freak accident in a dune buggy, I'm breaking down what made the season memorable and what could change for next year. Plus, find out where it stacks up against season past in my annual season rankings! 

WHY IT WORKED

vicki-gunvalson-rhoc
  • The redemption (and re-crucifixion) of Vicki Gunvalson: The biggest reason to tune into the beginning of Season 11 was to see how the OG of the OC would recover from the last year's fake cancer debacle. Finding herself on the outs with all the other 'Wives, Vicki began the season on her very own personal apology tour, seeking a clean slate with her friends. The OG's efforts were fascinating to watch - while some of the women chose to forgive her and move on, others (like former bestie Shannon Beador) were hesitant to jump back into a friendship with Vicki. But slowly, Vicki successfully managed to reintegrate herself into the group, and by the time the ladies took off to Ireland, all was relatively right between the OC 'Wives. However, Vicki's friendship with newbie Kelly Dodd came back to bite her when the rookie revealed damning gossip the OG had shared off-camera about both David Beador and Eddie Judge. And by season's end, Vicki was once again an outcast, with most of the other women vowing to never let her back in.
kelly-dodd-rhoc
  • Kelly Dodd, drama magnet: If there's one thing newbie Kelly Dodd was good for this year, it was stirring up trouble. Though she was brought into the group by Meghan King Edmonds, the rookie consciously bonded with Vicki and alienated the other women with her juvenile jokes, quick temper and crass behavior. Round after round, she feuded with virtually all the other 'Wives - from accusing Shannon of setting her up at the 70's party and turning the sushi night into a shouting match that pushed Heather Dubrow over the edge to instigating the infamously dark and nasty bus ride in Ireland and attacking Tamra Judge as a mother. By reunion time, Kelly even took things a step farther by essentially rescinding any apologies she had made throughout the season and standing by almost every bit of her bad behavior towards her costars. 
heather-dubrow-rhoc
  • Fancy Pants in the mud: While she's always been my personal favorite Housewife in the OC, it's safe to say that Heather Dubrow had a fairly easygoing season last year. Sure she was affected peripherally by the fake cancer controversy, but all in all Fancy Pants built her mansion, launched her sparkling wine and hawked her and Terry's new skincare line. This year it was much more entertaining to see Heather right in the middle of the drama - whether she was standing up to Kelly's "low, base bullsh*t" at the sushi dinner or facing off with Meghan in the dramatic aftermath of the Glamis accident and #HospitalGate.
rhoc-ireland
  • A hooley kickin' Irish adventure: Top o' the mornin'! Personally, I loved the ladies' vacation this year to the Emerald Isle. It was a unique change of pace and Meghan King Edmonds' desire to explore her Irish heritage was the perfect excuse to go somewhere other than the typical tropical island graced by OC Housewives getaways. From the moment they arrived, the trip was full of drama - from the pub crawl turned brawl between Tamra and Kelly and the Naked Wasted 2.0 scandal to the bus ride from hell that tore the group dynamic to shreds on the way to the airport. However, the trip was also full of laughs and great moments, including the women milking cows at the landmark Bailey's farm and Vicki getting her flirt on with every Irish man in sight. 

WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

  • Mean girls and bullies: As the drama in Ireland raged, I was shocked to see fans all over social media turning on Tamra, Heather and Shannon - labeling them a clique of mean girls with Kelly cast as the poor, bullied outcast. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around how this narrative was formed, but it's safe to say that no one came out of the season with their hands entirely clean. Over the last two seasons, life in the OC has gotten so toxic that I come away from every episode with a serious case of Orange County fatigue. Let's stop with the labeling, the bullying and the classic strategy known as the "OC gang-up," shall we?
kelly-dodd-real-housewives
  • Kelly Dodd, horrific Housewife: While newcomer Kelly fueled the drama this season like a gallon of gasoline dropped onto a forest fire, I seriously question the impact the rookie had on Housewives as a brand. Honestly, there aren't many 'Wives who come across as legitimately, genuinely terrible people, but Kelly took the franchise to a new low with her vulgar outbursts and vicious attacks throughout the season. (Not to mention the inexcusable bashing, fat shaming and bullying she did to fans on social media while and after the show was airing.) As a self-proclaimed expert on all things Housewives, I have to say that Kelly's inclusion in the cast dragged the entire show down and brought out the worst in the women around her.
real-housewives-of-orange-county-season-11
  • A lagging second act: The season both started and ended strong, but a number of episodes in the middle sure were rough. The fallout of the Glamis accident was fascinating but once Heather and Meghan made up at their summit dinner, we were subjected to Shannon's terrible mother-in-law, Kelly crying over her toxic marriage at Glen Ivy Spa, Vicki's ill-advised partnership with a cancer charity and Meghan throwing a party to open a candle store in a mall. Snooze. No thank you. I'll take brawling in Ireland over a completely disengaged Jim Edmonds any day.
Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

  • Cast shake-ups: As I mentioned above, the dynamic between the first ladies of Bravo has gotten so toxic and angry, that I've reached the conclusion that it's time for a major casting shake-up, a la RHONY Season 5. Could it be time to axe half the cast and move forward with a cleaner slate to reset the show? I say yes, but the question then to be asked is who should stay and who should go? By reunion time it was crystal clear that Meghan had mentally and emotionally checked out, making it a foregone conclusion that she's making her exit and taking baby Aspen with her. Personally, I'm completely over the back-and-forth between erstwhile besties Vicki and Tamra. We get it, you hate each other, it's never going to be like it was. However, as Vicki screamed at the reunion, RHOC is "her" show and the only way she's leaving is if she wants to. So, if we can reasonably assume that Vicki's sticking around for Season 12, that puts a major target on Tamra's back as the 'Wife most likely to be unceremoniously ousted. Kelly is also up in the air. A week ago I would've said she was a shoo-in but after her husband attacked Andy Cohen on Twitter, now I'm not so sure. So, partly as wish fulfillment I'm going to say next season's cast will be Vicki, Heather, Shannon and two new girls. Kelly may sneak in there too, unfortunately, but maybe my wish will come true that she's a one-and-done.

SEASON RANKINGS

  • Season 8: To me, the eighth season serves as the high water mark for the OC in terms of pure entertainment value. The cast was perfect and the season's storylines carried over from the previous year to give viewers a real sense of closure on the Gretchen/Alexis chapter. The addition of Lydia McLaughlin as a rare sixth Housewife was a perfect fit, and the return of Lauri Peterson ushered in the new era of OG Housewives returning to the franchise. Also, there's no denying that the visual of Vicki Gunvalson screaming "I HAVE NEVER BEEN WITH MULTIPLE PARTNERS IN MY LIFE!" at the top of her lungs while dressed as a snow bunny on the slopes of Whistler was pure Housewives gold worthy of being inducted into Bravo's Hall of Fame. The season also gave us what I consider to be the best, most dramatic reunion in RHOC's history - rainbow of dresses included. Plus, you know a season is particularly special when Bravo decides it deserves its own behind-the-scenes Uncensored special.
  • Season 7: This season ushered in the Golden Age of Orange County. Heather Dubrow joining the show added the class and real wealth - as well as a brunette voice of reason - the show so desperately needed. It's a season I love re-watching and it gave us plenty of classic Housewives moments including the "pretentious intervention" of Alexis Bellino in Costa Rica, the bunco party explosion between Vicki and Gretchen decked out in full 80s garb, the introduction of Brooks as the OG's shady boyfriend and what has been arguably the best season finale in OC history (#BowGate and evil eyes anyone? "YOU WERE MY FRIEND, MY SOULMATE, MY SISTER!"). The current success of RHOC can be traced back to this memorable season.
  • Season 9: Losing Gretchen, Alexis and Lydia was a bit of a reset for the franchise and moved the show in a new direction. However, Shannon Beador and Lizzie Rovsek were definitely the right replacements for the departing veterans and the Canadian newbie. After a slow start, the season really picked up at Shannon's Christmas party with drama between Heather and Tamra and Heather and Shannon, which eventually led to the epic "take the Beadors down" clash between Heather and Terry and Shannon and David at poor Lizzie's ill-fated beach house dinner party. The scandal surrounding David's email (and off-camera affair) added real weight to the season and the trip to Bali was a gorgeous, exotic experience that left me aching to visit. 
  • Season 5: Three words will explain my love for this season: Loony Lynne Curtin. Plus, this year was the end of Jeana Keough's time as a Housewife, introduced Alexis to the series and featured the 'Wives running around in masks at Vicki's sleepover TP'ing Jeana's house. We watched Lynne and her family get evicted from their home, Tamra's marriage to Simon implode and the girls take a weekend getaway to San Francisco. Easily the best season of early, pre-Heather Orange County.
  • Season 11: Yes, this season was an improvement on last year, but still failed to catapult itself into the upper echelons of the OC's season rankings. Blame Kelly Dodd.
  • Season 10: Last year, I said in my wrap-up that I was burnt out from this season. Unfortunately, my feelings haven't gotten any more positive with time. Brooks Ayers' fake cancer debacle took over the show like an actual cancer, to the point that we're still dealing with its effects two years later. 
  • Season 6: The sixth season was a major weak spot for the franchise. Peggy Tanous was boring and it was nausea-inducing to watch her and Alexis fight over Jimmy the Chin Bellino and one-up each other season long. Equally gross was being subjected to Tamra's naked bathtub make-out session with Eddie. That and her lesbian fling with Fernanda Rocha are both things I don't ever want to relive. Tamra throwing a glass of wine at Jeana in the finale is often cited as an epic moment in Housewives history, but I found it to be forced and inauthentic. Just my opinion.
  • Seasons 1-4: At this point, the early seasons of the show all kind of run together as the series getting its feet under it. Memorable moments include Tamra and Vicki plotting to get Gretchen "naked wasted" in Season 4, Vicki's family van tirade, the Bass Lake controversy surrounding Gretchen's relationship with Jeff, the OC Angels smackdown and Lauri's fairytale wedding to George Peterson. Oh and obviously the classic moment where Vicki showed up at Michael's frat house to surprise/humiliate him in front of his college friends. Classic Vicki moment right there.

With that, my coverage of Season 11 in Orange County is over. What were the best and worst parts of the season for you? Who do you think should come back next year? Let me know in the comments!

RHONJ Season 7 Wrap-Up

Glenn Rowley

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

After eighteen episodes of redemption, drama and bitter feuding, Season 7 of The Real Housewives of New Jersey has reached its conclusion. So, as has become tradition on That Housewives Guy, I'm breaking down the reasons I loved this season so much as well as what could and should change for Season 8. Plus, I give my take on where Season 7 ranks against years past in Jersey...

WHY IT WORKED

siggy-flicker-rhonj
  • Sincerely Siggy: Relationship expert Siggy Flicker burst onto the scene as the first Jewish Housewife in the Italian-dominated history of the franchise.  From the moment we met the Sig with her face wrapped in a scarf post-facelift and sipping lobster bisque through a straw, I instantly fell in love with her and she became an unforgettable addition in the Housewives canon. Initially introduced as a friend of Jacqueline Laurita, Siggy's goal throughout the entire season was to bring the feuding Jersey OGs together and help them heal from years of family feuds and friendships falling apart. All Siggy ever wants is peace. And while her strategy and relationship expertise seemed to work at first (the cast spa-cation in episode 7 was a standout for me), by season's end Siggy realized the wounds between the veterans may be simply too deep for her to fix alone. What endears Siggy to me the most is the light and positivity that simply radiates from her. She's hilariously funny, loves fiercely, is genuine, emotional and real - basically everything you want in a rookie Housewife. Siggy brought a new, distinctly Jewish perspective to the Jersey franchise and I am 100 percent here for it.
dolores-catania-rhonj
  • Dolores Catania, Italian Whisperer: The other new addition to the Jersey gang this season was Dolores Catania, a longtime friend of both Jacqueline and Teresa Giudice with deep ties to former OGs Caroline and Dina Manzo as well. In fact, to call Dolores a "new addition" is a blatant misnomer considering that she's made frequent appearances on the show since the very beginning and - as revealed by Dina recently - was originally supposed to be a Housewife way back in Season 1 before she dropped out and was replaced by Caroline. Dolores also happens to be BFFs with Siggy and proved throughout the season to be the levelheaded voice of reason among the group. Having so much history with all the other women, she also had a particular knack for breaking things for viewers in her confessionals. Whether that meant explaining the fundamental differences between how Teresa and Jacqueline operate or providing insight into Italian-American culture, Dolores' commentary was invaluable for both longtime fans and brand-new viewers. But one word of warning: push the rookie 'Wife past her breaking point (like the drama did in Vermont) and you'll quickly see her Paterson side come out!
jacqueline-laurita-rhonj-season-7
  • War and peace: For the better part of a decade, we've watched the dynamics implode and rebuild and explode again between the Guidices, Gorgas, Lauritas (and Manzos). The connections between these women and their families are deeply entrenched and the history is centered on families and goes back decades. It's part of what makes RHONJ so different from other cities in the Housewives franchise. So, from the moment Teresa came home from Danbury, Jacqueline and Melissa Gorga braced themselves for a rollercoaster of drama. However, "Namaste" Teresa came home determined to make peace and - in a near miracle - she and sister-in-law Melissa put years of family feuding to bed once and for all. On the other hand, Tre's road to rebuilding with Jacqueline was much rockier, full of twists and turns as the former besties tried to navigate past years of hurt feelings. After a couple false starts, the drama exploded on the disastrous cast trip to Vermont as an argument over Season 4's Strippergate (of all things) drew a permanent line in the sand with Teresa and Melissa on one side, Jacqueline on the other and the newbies caught in the crossfire. The fallout was gripping and it went from bad to worse between the women, leading to Jac's great escape with poor Siggy and Dolores running after her fleeing Range Rover in the finale. The drama was vicious and seems insurmountable, but if there's one thing we've learned from the Jersey ladies it's to never say never when it comes to their relationships with each other. Yes, Italians fight hard but they love each other just as intensely. 

WHAT COULD CHANGE

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

  • Feuding family no more: Ever since the christening heard 'round the world in the Season 3 premiere, fans have watched the Giudice/Gorga family feud take center stage as the primary storyline driving RHONJ forward. From Strippergate and tabloid scandals to therapy sessions and a fistfight between Joes, we've seen the family go through some pretty dark drama. But this season, the relationships between Teresa, Melissa and Joe are fixed on all sides and the OG shut down the tension with Friends of the Housewives Kathy Wakile and Rosie Pierri, seeing her cousins' attempt at reconciliation as a ploy to get back in the spotlight after not reaching out to her once during her time at Danbury. The bond between sisters-in-law Teresa and Melissa seems genuine and solid, so can we finally call the family feud over and done with? The Jersey franchise has always been about family, but honestly, that dead horse doesn't need to be beaten one second longer. 
melissa-gorga-rhonj-season-7
  • Jersey girls go international: The cast trip is a cornerstone of every season of Housewives in every city across the franchise, but year after year the Jersey 'Wives have stayed stateside for their big vacations. From Napa Valley and Arizona to Florida and Vermont, the ladies have made it work and the drama has been far from disappointing, but next season can we please send them to some far-flung, exotic destination to watch all the drama boil over? I completely get that Teresa hasn't been allowed to leave the country for the past couple of seasons due to her legal issues, but now that they're in her rearview mirror, I'd love to see the ladies explore Siggy's roots in Israel (and perhaps visit the bomb shelter where she was born). Who's with me?
Photo Credit: Instagram @daniellestaub

Photo Credit: Instagram @daniellestaub

  • Cast shake-ups: Changes in the cast from season to season are almost inevitable in the Housewives universe (though RHONJ holds the record for keeping the same cast of 'Wives from Seasons 3 to 5). However, I feel fairly confident that I speak for the majority of Housewives fans when I say all the girls from Season 7 need to come back next year. I'm obsessed with thedynamic between these ladies and in my well-versed opinion, the Fabulous Five is near-perfect as a cast. Jacqueline has already confirmed on Twitter that she'll be back for Season 8, Teresa and Melissa are no-brainers and I'd like to see Siggy and Dolores continue to thrive and blossom in front of Bravo's cameras. The one major addition next season is the rumored return of Tre and Jac's fellow OG Danielle Staub, the iconic Housewives villain who helped turn RHONJ into a pop culture phenomenon back during the days of Seasons 1 and 2. As revealed in the finale's "Where Are They Now?" cards, Teresa recently reached out to Danielle and the two seem to be building a friendship again - hitting the yoga studio and attending events together. If Danielle's rumored return does happen, Season 8 will undoubtedly be one for the books.

SEASON RANKINGS

  1. Season 2: The Jersey 'Wives sophomore outing is undoubtedly the franchise at its most iconic. From Dina Manzo's abrupt exit following her showdown with Danielle Staub to the chaotic country club brawl between Danielle, Jacqueline and Teresa, Season 2 built on the foundation of the show's first year and reached a fever pitch. I mean, who can forget Danielle pulling a mannequin head out at the reunion to demonstrate getting her extensions ripped out or Teresa shoving Andy Cohen in a blind rage? 
  2. Season 4: Strippergate. The implosion of Teresa's friendships with Jacqueline and Caroline after the night on the deck. The surprise eleventh hour appearance by Dina. The Napa Valley RV trip. For many, Season 4 represents some of the very best drama that Housewives has to give. The issues between the women reached cataclysmic heights as Teresa found herself at war with each of the other 'Wives. By the time the epic, three-part reunion aired, it seemed the Jersey women would never be able to come back from the toxic darkness that had consumed the show.
  3. Season 7: In many ways, this season was a return to form for RHONJ and even while some fans were critical, I loved every minute. The drama may have been as dark as it was in the days of Strippergate, it turned out to be exactly what I didn't even know I needed. From Teresa's emotional homecoming and the addition of Siggy and Dolores to the hellish Vermont trip and Jacqueline's unraveling, the show returned from a long hiatus to tell a story that was real, authentic and ultimately heartfelt.
  4. Season 3: With the introduction of her sister-in-law Melissa Gorga and cousin Kathy Wakile, Teresa Giudice's family drama became RHONJ's primary storyline and turned her into the unequivocal star of the show. Upon airing, the chaotic christening was the highest-rated season premiere in the history of both the Housewives franchise and Bravo as a whole. However, the network's decision to film Seasons 3 and 4 back-to-back resulted in a confusing third season reunion with Jacqueline not showing up and the other women bitterly divided over events viewers wouldn't see play out for a full year. 
  5. Season 1: Teresa's iconic table flip. Cop Without a Badge. While the first season may seem tame and brief by today's standards, the Jersey 'Wives became instant celebrities when they hit TV screens back in 2009. In fact, it's easy to long for the relatively simple days when the Manzos, Lauritas and Giudices were united against villain Danielle Staub as a common enemy and Caroline Manzo uttered the famous words "Let me tell you something about my family..." 
  6. Season 5: The season began with Superstorm Sandy and ended with the Giudices, Manzos, Lauritas, Gorgas and Wakiles finally brokering a fragile peace treaty, but boy was it rough getting there. The cast trips to Lake George and Arizona were essentially settings for fist fights and extended therapy sessions. Add in the finale brawl at Kim D.'s second Posche boutique (which had to be largely edited out for legal reasons) and the introduction of minor players like Penny, Johnny the Greek and Jan stirring up trouble and cheating rumors about Melissa, and many aspects of the season were simply confusing. Still, the emotional payoff of seeing forgiveness and peace between Teresa and her brother brought tears to my eyes, though by the end of the reunion Caroline was ready to exit stage left.
  7. Season 6: I feel the need to start with the caveat that I actually really enjoyed much of Season 6. That being said, it's indisputably the weakest link in the RHONJ canon. The conviction and subsequent sentencing of Teresa and Joe Giudice cast a somber, dark shadow over production, which was truncated into a short, choppy run of episodes. Personally, I rejoiced in the return of Dina (namaste, bitches!) and immediately liked twins Nicole Napolitano and Teresa Aprea, but the less said about Amber Marchese and her husband Jim's stain on the show's legacy the better...

With that, it's time to say goodbye to Season 7 of RHONJ. Did you enjoy the season as much as I did? How would you rank the show's seven seasons from best to worst? Should all the ladies come back next year? Should Danielle Staub? Let me know in the comments!

Breaking Down The Bravos

Glenn Rowley

the-bravos

This week was the first-ever Bravos, an awards show celebrating all things pop culture in the Bravo universe. Joined by a parade of Housewives and other Bravolebrities on both coasts, Andy Cohen hosted an evening where none of the categories were boring and that no true fan of the network should've missed. For this week's feature, I break down my analysis of all the winners, as well as who I think got snubbed or robbed of their rightful awards. Read on for my two cents on all things Bravos...

Don't Call It A Comeback Award

bravo-award-teresa-giudice

Nominees:

  • Teresa Giudice - RHONJ
  • Stassi Schroeder - Vanderpump Rules
  • Craig Conover - Southern Charm
  • Shereè Whitfield - RHOA

Was there ever a question that anyone other than Teresa would win the Don't Call It a Comeback Award? I mean, please. The queen of RHONJ spent most of 2015 locked away at Danbury Federal Correctional Institution and her release was heralded as the return of the century in the Bravo universe. Tre is so critical to the success of the New Jersey franchise that the show shut down production while she was away, and didn't pick up for Season 7 until she was a free woman again. Now, Teresa is back and better than ever, and the new season of RHONJ looks to be its most promising yet. That being said, Stassi's humbling yet necessary return to SUR this season comes in a close second place...

The Bravo Bro Award

bravo-bro-award-jax-taylor

Nominees:

  • James Kennedy - Vanderpump Rules
  • Jax Taylor - Vanderpump Rules
  • Shep Rose - Southern Charm
  • Ben Robinson - Below Deck/Below Deck Mediterranean

Now, yes, I will concede that Jax is probably the biggest bro found in the Bravo universe and so, for that, he deserves the first-ever Bravo Bro Award. However, his brand of greasy, smarmy playboy has never sat particularly well with me. (There's a reason I haven't covered #PumpRules on THG yet.) For that reason, I voted pretty much daily for my beloved Sheppy to win big. Like he said on the recently concluded Southern Charm Season 3 reunion, there's a big difference between amorous and a misogynist. Shep respects women and never crosses that boundary (besides his rather unfortunate "DTF" confessional joke this season.) Jax, on the other hand, doesn't seem to respect much of anything. And how hilarious was Amy Philipps' pouty impression of James after losing to his number one nemesis in the SUR crew??

Most Socially Driven: Powered by Chevrolet Cruze

bravo-awards-kandi-burruss

Nominees:

  • Bethenny Frankel - RHONY
  • NeNe Leakes - RHOA
  • Kandi Burruss - RHOA
  • Scheana Shay - Vanderpump Rules

Inexplicably the sole award being sponsored by the all-new Chevy Cruze, Most Socially Driven is supposed to be awarded to the Bravolebrity with the most active presence on social media. I may not understand why exactly Kandi won (since I don't follow her as closely on social media), but I feel it needs to be pointed out that Bethenny was jipped out of this award solely on the strength of her hilarious Snapchat game alone. Everyone go follow her!

The Sorry Not Sorry Award

sorry-not-sorry-erika-girardi

Nominees:

  • Erika Girardi - RHOBH
  • Bethenny Frankel - RHONY
  • Tamra Judge - RHOC
  • Caroline Stanbury - Ladies of London

Sorry not sorry, I am overjoyed that Beverly Hills newbie Erika walked away with the award for giving the least amount of f--ks. (Sing it with me, "Not one! Zero! Zero! Zero! Done!") In just a single season on RHOBH, Erika has proven to be the Housewife the people needed, and I am here for it. With her glam squad and bevy of backup dancers in tow, she and her sexy, sassy alter ego were the runaway stars of Season 6 and had absolutely no tolerance for any kind of BS from her new friends and co-stars. I can't wait to see how many "sorry not sorry" moments Erika Jayne serves up during Season 7.

Wacha Award for Animal Excellence

bravo-awards-lisa-vanderpump-menagerie

Nominees:

  • Fredrik Eklund, - MDLNY
  • Carole Radziwill & Baby - RHONY
  • Lisa Vanderpump's Menagerie - RHOBH
  • Vida & Ziggy - Shahs of Sunset

LVP deserved this award, named after Andy Cohen's adorable pooch, solely for the size of her collection of animals alone. Her menagerie of dogs (including Giggy the Pomeranian and golden retriever Rumpy Pumpy) swans Hanky and Panky and mini-horses Diamonds and Rosé have turned Villa Rosa into a veritable zoo. To her credit as an animal activist, Lisa spent much of last season of RHOBH organizing a protest against the horrific Yulin Dog Meat Festival and has since launched Vanderpump Dogs, her very own nonprofit organization dedicated to championing the rights of our four-legged friends all around the world.

Biggest Bravoholic

biggest-bravoholic-michael-rapaport

Nominees:

  • Wendi McLendon-Covey
  • Jerry O'Connell
  • Michael Rapaport
  • Chrissy Teigen

As much as I love Michael Rapaport - and trust me, I adore him - Chrissy Teigen was ROBBED in the race for Biggest Bravoholic. Serving as a famous voice for Bravo addicts since as far back as I can remember, Chrissy is truly one of us and her Twitter feed proves it. Take a casual scroll to see her dedication for yourself. I mean, the woman didn't get asked to be a guest on WWHL's 1000th episode for nothing. That being said, Michael Rapaport is an absolute delight every time he shows up in the Clubhouse, and I love that he reps for all the guys out there who love all things Bravo. Hey Michael, where can I get a "Real Men Watch Real Housewives" t-shirt? Andy and all of the folks at ShopByBravo.com, please get on that ASAP...

Cutest Couple

cutest-couple-tom-sandoval-ariana-madix

Nominees:

  • Kandi Burruss & Todd Tucker - RHOA
  • Lauren Manzo & Vito Scalia - Manzo'd With Children
  • Tom Sandoval & Ariana Madix - Vanderpump Rules
  • Ryan Serhant & Emilia Bechrakis - MDLNY

Out of all the nominees, I suppose it makes the most sense that Tom and Ariana walked away with the title of Cutest Couple in the Bravoverse. There's a certain charm about the way they've emerged as a down-to-earth couple out of the incestuous stew known as the SUR staff of Vanderpump Rules. And I do have this weirdly sexual thing about Tom Sandoval and his hair. However, plenty of snubs in this category - from fellow SURvers Tom Schwartz and Katie Maloney to RHOBH's Kyle Richards and Mauricio Umansky - could've easily beaten out the winning couple had they been up for the vote. Plus, you just know Luann de Lesseps is seething from her new penthouse on the Upper East Side that she and fiancé Tom D'Agostino weren't nominated...

Jumpsuit Achievement

khloe-kardashian-jumpsuit

Nominees:

  • Erika Girardi
  • Khloe Kardashian
  • NeNe Leakes
  • Kelly Ripa

It's a well-known fact that there's nothing Andy loves quite as much as a good jumpsuit, and Khloe surely rocked the one she wore while appearing on WWHL this year. However, this category contains what I consider the most glaring oversight in the entire awards show. How was Teresa Guidice not nominated for the iconic orange jumpsuit she wore in her very first appearance on WWHL following her release from prison? How?? Promoting her prison memoir, Turning the Tables, Teresa's jumpsuit was hilariously clever, outrageously chic and a big old middle finger to the powers that be that put her behind bars for a year. Never forget the orange jumpsuit, folks. 

The Queen of Shade

queen-of-shade-phaedra-parks

Nominees:

  • Gizelle Bryant - RHOP
  • Reza Farahan - Shahs of Sunset
  • Jeff Lewis - Flipping Out
  • Phaedra Parks - RHOA

With her endless trove of witty one-liners and cutting reunion jabs, Phaedra certainly has the long track record to justify being bestowed the Queen of Shade title. However, I would not have minded one bit if we'd seen Potomac standout Gizelle sneak in with a major upset. On the other hand, had either Reza or Jeff won, I would have been unreasonably upset. Keep trying, queens, but the Southern Belle known as "Shade-ra" wins.

Susan Lucci Award for Best Performance in a Reality Show

bravo-awards-patricia-altschul

Nominees:

  • Patricia Altschul - Southern Charm
  • Kristen Doute - Vanderpump Rules
  • Vicki Gunvalson - RHOC
  • Dorinda Medley - RHONY

How pumped was Andy to have his daytime soap icon Susan Lucci in the Clubhouse to present the award named in her honor? I wasn't surprised to see Southern Charm's queen of the kaftans take the award home. After all, she's basically the Bravo equivalent to Susan Lucci herself, and the show just came off its best season ever a few weeks ago. Plus, it was an excuse to finally get Patricia to leave her fancy Charleston estate and visit the Clubhouse for the very first time. However, I will argue to the death with anyone who differs that my beloved Dorinda Medley deserved this award more than any of the other nominees. After less than two seasons as a Housewife, it's hard to imagine a RHONY without Dorinda's love of dirty martinis, mafioso attitude and slurry subtitles when she's had one too many. How did we ever survive without her??

Biggest Hustle Moment

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Nominees:

  • Luis D. Ortiz - MDLNY
  • Jeff Lewis - Flipping Out
  • Asa Soltan Rahmati - Shahs of Sunset
  • Dr. Jackie Walters - Married to Medicine

Ok, so Jeff Lewis won. But that doesn't mean I have to be happy about it. I've never been a fan of Jeff or Flipping Out as a whole, but in the wake of his bashing Heather Dubrow on WWHL last week, he's cemented his place on my list of Bravolebrities I actively dislike. And he wasn't wrong in his condescending acceptance speech: Asa should've been a shoo-in as the hardest-working Persian priestess out there. Girl, bye.

Giving Me Life Achievement Award

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Special Awardee:

  • Mariah Carey

There's perhaps no one more fitting to be given the honor of the very first Giving Me Life Achievement Award than the Elusive Chanteuse, Miss Mariah Carey herself. Mimi's dual appearances on WWHL have been major pop culture moments, as well as the only instances in which Andy gladly gave up his Clubhouse throne. A diva in the truest sense of the word, Mariah represents all the glamour, drama and over-the-top fabulousness that The Bravos stand for, and her acceptance speech from a clearly green-screened shoe closet was just the cherry on top of the cake that was the first annual awards show for the network. My only question is this: when are this year's Real Housewives Awards??

What did you think of the first-ever Bravos? Do you agree with the winners or did you vote for other nominees? How right am I that Chrissy Teigen was robbed for Biggest Bravoholic? And does anyone out there dislike Jeff Lewis as much as I do? Let me know in the comments section below!

Before They Were Housewives - Countess Luann

Glenn Rowley

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In the first-ever Before They Were Housewives special, Luann de Lesseps takes us on a trip down memory lane through her enchanting life before The Real Housewives of New York City became a pop culture phenomenon in 2008. From her humble roots in suburban Connecticut and her days as a model in NYC to her time as an Italian TV star and her whirlwind romance with Count Alexander de Lesseps, Luann's pre-Housewives life is like something out of a classic novel. For this week's feature, I'm breaking down everything we learned about the Countess in her nostalgic special...

The Fairytale of the Countess

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The special starts with a look at Luann falling for Count Alexander de Lesseps back in 1993. When they met, the future Countess was living in Milan, Italy and working as a model throughout Europe. She also happened to be dating another man named Roberto at the time, but the moment she locked eyes with Alex at a dinner party at a glamorous chalet in Gstaad, that relationship was doomed. For the next five days, Luann and the Count were inseparable as they went skiing in the Swiss Alps, and at the end of the fifth day, Alex proposed. What a whirlwind! Of course, Luann had to deal with the problem of Roberto - whom she had been living with for the past two and a half years. Since Roberto was on a business trip, she ended up packing all of her things at their apartment and leaving "like a thief in the night," only calling to tell him she was engaged to another man after she'd left. Madly enamored, Luann left everything behind on a whim - the man she was dating, a successful career in Italian television, an entire life in Milan - all in the name of love.

Honeychile's Betrayal

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While she lived in Milan, Luann was befriended by Honeychile Wilder - an American socialite who had married an Austrian-Hungarian prince. Significantly older than Lu, Honeychile had made a name for herself working as a showgirl and appearing on comedian Bob Hope's popular radio show before moving to Europe and becoming a princess. In her time in Milan, Luann had been taken under Honeychile's wing and looked to the older woman as her mentor. (Luann even relays the story of a time when Honey once took her to Hubert de Givenchy's atelier to get dresses to wear to the Paris opera.) Despite having been with Luann on the night she met the Count, Honeychile became incredibly possessive at the thought that Luann would leave her. In an act of betrayal, the socialite tried to convince Alex not to marry Luann - citing that she was just a nobody from nowhere - and left Lu heartbroken. When she left with Alex to elope in New York City, she said goodbye to her longtime friend in a note, explaining that she was leaving her behind...for good.

A Big Apple Elopement

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Jetting off to NYC, Luann and the Count decided to elope after picking up a five-carat, pear-shaped diamond ring from a jewelry store in the Diamond District. Following through with their romantic plan, Luann and Alex took the subway to City Hall and got married right then and there, dressed in jeans and a blazer, with a truck driver named Lucille acting as the sole witness of the nuptials. Just like that, Luann became Countess de Lesseps after knowing Alex for only two weeks total. Now it was time to meet the family!

Connecticut Roots

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Next, Luann travels to her hometown of Berlin, Connecticut to give us a glimpse of the place she grew up. Born in 1965 as the sixth of seven children, Luann was raised in a large, middle-class, French-Canadian family in the Connecticut suburbs. With so many older brothers, Lu almost inevitably turned out to be a self-proclaimed "jock," which is a far cry from the Countess persona we've always seen on RHONY. Visiting her childhood home, Luann reveals that the house actually burned down when she was a child, which left the family basically homeless with nothing but a collection of photo albums her mother managed to save from the flames. Eventually Luann's father and brother rebuilt their home, but she still calls it one of the most difficult times in her life. 

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Bringing her new husband home to meet her family, Luann was nervous about how different her salt-of-the-earth background and upbringing had been to the Count's much more glamorous life. Never mind, of course, that she had decided to marry her now-husband after just a couple of weeks and her family still had no idea. Digging up some old VHS tapes that her son Noel came across, Luann sits down with her mother Nadine and her brother Michael to reminisce about the first time she came home with the Count. Apparently, everything went so well that no one in the family even had any idea Luann had married a titled aristocrat!

Lu's Lucky Little Red Dress

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Rewind to 1987. At the urging of a nurse's aid she worked with,  a 23-year-old Luann decided to enter the Miss Connecticut beauty pageant, once again on a whim. On a bridal shop's clearance rack, she found what she describes as "the perfect red dress," which would set her on a path she could have never imagined. While she didn't place at that first beauty pageant, a man in the audience stopped her after the competition and told her she had potential to be a model in New York City. The man encouraged Luann to enter a modeling competition the next week in Hartford, Connecticut, and opined that if she brought the red dress she would win. As luck would have it, the mysterious man was right - Luann won the modeling competition and scored a private photoshoot with a professional photographer in NYC as her prize. 

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Arriving in New York for the first time, Luann had no idea she was about to embark on a new chapter in her life. The prize package from the competition also included a contract with Mystique Models, and Lu quickly learned how to pose and get a good photo by watching the girls around her. Despite its reputation in the 80s as a dangerous place to live, Luann fell head over heels for the Big Apple and after six months of commuting back and forth for auditions, she moved there permanently. This risky move paid off, thrusting Luann into the glitzy and alluring world of New York nightlife - full of parties, dances and of course, plenty of handsome men. However, working as a model turned out to be much more difficult than the future Countess anticipated. Her life turned into a veritable rollercoaster with its high moments (landing the cover of Playgirl) and low moments (handing out flyers as a showroom model). Eventually, though, Luann met a man named Don who whisked her off to Europe, where she launched the next chapter of her career in Milan.

Making It Big in Italy

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While Lu immediately loved living in Milan, her modeling career hit a major slump. Turned down by nearly every agency in the city, Luann found herself quickly running out of money and desperate to make something happen. Her Italian lover at the time, named Genaldo, convinced her to represent the United States in the Lady Universe pageant - an Italian beauty pageant featuring women from countries all over the world. In another moment of pure luck and good timing, Luann was crowned Lady Universe. As part of her duties, she embarked on a tour across Italy, which led to her attending a cocktail party at the home of Prince Egon and Diane von Furstenberg. At the party, the prince suggested Lu work in television and made introductions for her to impersonate actress Sharon Stone and present an award at Italy's version of the Emmys.

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Three months after successfully pulling of the Sharon Stone act (complete with blowing a kiss to Arnold Schwarzenegger in the audience), Luann was cast as the cohost of Pressing, the top-rated Sunday night show covering Italian soccer. Almost overnight, the TV gig turned Luann into a bonafide celebrity in Italy and the entire world was in the palm of her hand. Ultimately, this change in her life led her right into her title as Countess de Lesseps. 

Living the Jet Set Life

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After marrying the Count, Luann's life continued to be something out of a dream - watching him race cars in Barcelona, traveling to Hong Kong and Beijing, heli skiing in the Alps and jetting off to her homes in Portugal and Gstaad. She even became a close personal friend of Constantine II, king of Greece. Soon after marrying, Luann gave birth to her daughter Victoria, followed quickly by son Noel 22 months later. Spending their summers in the Hamptons and the rest of the year in Europe, life didn't seem like it could get much better for Luann and her young family. That is, until a terrible freak accident changed everything in the blink of an eye...

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In 1997, Luann was spending the winter in Gstaad. One evening around dusk, she was driving home from a tea party with the kids when she hit a long stretch of black ice on the road. Before she knew what was happening, Luann found herself and the two young toddlers trapped in the car, tumbling down the side of a mountain. Miraculously, the car landed upside down in a local resident's backyard, though neither Luann nor the kids were seriously injured. Digging herself out through a broken window, Lu then proceeded to walk with the kids - Victoria barefoot in the snow - until they reached a farmer's house, who kindly offered to drive them home. The accident had a profound impact on Luann, who suffered through months of PTSD and nightmares. Feeling isolated in the secluded Swiss Alps, Luann eventually decided to come back to the U.S. for the sake of her mental well-being, not knowing the decision was the beginning of the end of her marriage to the Count.

Becoming a Real Housewife

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Moving back from Europe in 2006, Luann concluded that getting back to work would be the best thing for her. Approaching a local television station, Luann talked her way into creating The Countess Report, a cable access show featuring just the Countess and a camera. From there, The Real Housewives of New York City fell into Lu's lap when she met a certain redhead by the name of Jill Zarin at a high society party in NYC. About a month later, Jill sent an email asking if she wanted to film a show she was working on for Bravo called Manhattan Moms, which eventually turned into RHONY. From there, the franchise we all know and love was born and Luann became a Bravolebrity. 

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Early seasons of the show presented Luann's life as the Countess through an idyllic, rose-colored lens, featuring Alex, the kids, her nanny Rosie and the family puppy Aston. However, while she was getting bucked off of a camel in Morocco and singing with Natalie Cole on camera, her marriage was falling apart behind the scenes. By the Season 2 reunion in 2009, the Count had broken up with Luann over email, leaving the other Housewives shocked. Recognizing that she had a family and an image that needed protecting, Luann had tried to hide her marital struggles from Bravo's cameras. However, she ended up learning the difficult lesson that - no matter how hard you try to hide it - the cameras see everything. After 16 years as the Countess, Luann's life was about to enter yet another era...

Looking to the Future

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As viewers have seen on the current season of RHONY, Luann has fallen in love with her newest soulmate, Thomas D'Agostino, after being introduced by fellow 'Wife Dorinda Medley. The pair are currently engaged, with plans to be married on New Year's Eve of this year. After eight years as a New York Housewife, Luann ends the special by saying she doesn't live her life with regrets. The many chapters of her life have been something of a modern-day fairytale, and as this next chapter begins with Tom at her side, Luann can't wait for whatever happens next.

What did you think of Luann's Before They Were Housewives special? Did it show you a completely different side to the Countess? Do you want to see a Luann wedding spinoff? Leave your thoughts and opinions below in the comments...

RHOD Season 1 Wrap-Up

Glenn Rowley

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

After just 10 episodes and a one-part reunion, Season 1 of The Real Housewives of Dallas is in the rear-view mirror. Bravo has yet to announce whether the Texas ladies will be back for a second season, so for this week's feature I'm breaking down what made the first year in Dallas great and what needs to change if it comes back next year for Season 2.

WHY IT WORKED

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  • The Dallas difference: In order for any city in the Housewives franchise to stand out, it has to add its own unique flavor to the legacy of the cities that have come before it. Texas was certainly new territory for the mostly-coastal Housewives universe, and the new perspective it offered had both positive and negative elements. While the ladies' emphasis on the "Dallas charity world" seemed like overkill to some fans, I personally liked that philanthropy played such a key role in establishing the show's identity. From Mad Hatter's to the Grace Project Conference, the many charity events featured on-camera gave the Housewives ample opportunity to interact and engage while using the limelight to do some good. Plus, who didn't love watching the women argue over petty grievances like their social status and standing in the charity world?
  • Old-school OC vibes: When Andy Cohen announced that we'd be getting two new Housewives franchises this year, he assured us that they reminded him of early seasons in Orange County and New York City. And while the Potomac 'Wives gave off echoes of Manhattan, the ladies of RHOD were brimming over with shades of vintage OC. Dallas reminded me of the flagship series in the franchise because, at its heart, it was all about these women and their families. Whether Tiffany Hendra was trying to persuade her rocker husband and his perfect hair to move to Dallas permanently or Stephanie Hollman was visiting her hometown of Coweta, Oklahoma, family came first for the Dallas Wives...just like it does in the OC. In particular, Brandi Redmond's tumultuous family life was the source of endless fodder for the cameras. From the former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader's marital strife with her checked-out husband Bryan to watching her cope with her brother's PTSD-related suicide attempt and meeting her estranged grandfather for the first time, Brandi let us completely into her world. Talk about shaking all the skeletons out of the family tree...
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  • LeeAnne Locken, carny queen: Whether you love her or love to hate her, there's no doubt that the fiery queen bee of Dallas simply made the show this season. LeeAnne's journey from a childhood spent on the carnival circuit to becoming a self-made socialite through sheer grit and determination of will was Housewives gold in terms of backstory. And if you don't believe me, consider this: over the course of a single season, she managed to feud with literally every other member of the cast - including an epic curbside shoving match with her BFF Tiffany where one of Bravo's cameras became collateral damage and threatening to gut Friend of the Housewives Marie Reyes "carny-style" on the cast trip to Austin. Every show in the franchise needs a breakout star, and while she's nothing like Bethenny Frankel or Teresa Giudice, LeeAnne is the bright pink blush-wearing OG-in-the-making that Dallas never even knew it needed. 

WHAT COULD CHANGE

  • No more poop jokes: While getting a peek into the Dallas charity world was a positively unique thing RHOD added to the franchise, the cast's preoccupation with poop, farts and juvenile humor made the show stand out for all the wrong reasons. When Brandi brought up the first poop joke in the series premiere, I was hoping the immature humor was a fluke, but I was unfortunately very wrong - not a single episode went by without some mention of fecal matter. Even more frustrating was the fact that a number of the season's major plot points revolved around some form of poop. From the scandal of Brandi's poop-themed hat at Mad Hatter's to the humiliation of LeeAnne's poop story from 15 years ago becoming common knowledge on the trip to Austin, we literally couldn't get away from the disgusting subject. Quite frankly, every mention of it was just gross and in poor taste. If the show gets a second season, any and all potty humor or poop talk needs to be banned by production. 
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  • Step up the reunion, please: I was honestly shocked when, after everything that had occurred over the preceding 10 episodes, Bravo chose to make the Season 1 reunion just a single episode. Yes, they claimed it was "supersized" by adding an additional 15 minutes to the hour, I find it hard to believe that after an entire day of filming, Bravo's cameras only got enough footage to justify a one-part reunion. Whether the 'Wives simply didn't engage enough on the couches or it was a choice made by production, the reunion needs to be at least two parts next season. Hear that ladies? Get ready to bring it for Season 2.
  • Cast shake-ups: Tweaking the lineup is an inevitability in the Housewives universe, and in the case of RHOD, it's an exercise the show could benefit from if it gets a chance at a second season. It's no secret that the Texas franchise had significantly lower ratings than any of the other Housewives cities including fellow newbie Potomac (and even its lead-in Southern Charm), so production would be wise to shake things up and perfect the Dallas recipe. In theory, the idea of two sets of BFFs - LeeAnne/Tiffany and Brandi/Stephanie - held significant promise, but didn't pan out quite as explosively as I suspect Bravo was hoping it would. In fact, while Brandi started out the season as the primary foil to LeeAnne's intensity, Cary Deuber ended up being the dark horse who became LeeAnne's only formidable foe by season's end. First and foremost, if the show gets a Season 2, Marie needs to be upgraded to full-time status. And if someone has to be cut loose, my vote would be to lose Brandi. Not only would that solve half of the poop problem mentioned above, but Brandi's admitted on Twitter that she's not even sure she has it in her to do another season. Therefore, my ideal cast for Season 2 would be for LeeAnne, Cary, Tiffany, Stephanie and Marie to return along with a brand new sixth Housewife. If they need a Friend of the Housewives to round out the group, I'd nominate Heidi Dillon, who made a few controversial appearances this season. Any way casting shakes out, the show would benefit from growing in a different direction and upping the overall glamour, wealth and luxury to get on par with the rest of the cities in the franchise. 

OVERALL GRADE

Since I don't have any other seasons of RHOD to rank Season 1 against, I'm going to give it an overall grade of B-. While the Dallas 'Wives gave us some entertaining moments over their first 11 episodes, the show didn't quite live up to fans' expectations or its own potential. There's significant room for improvement if Bravo decides to give the Dallas franchise a Season 2. Until we find out, don't forget that if you associate yourself with garbage, your charity world will go down in flames. Bow at me!

RHOC Season 8 Uncensored

Glenn Rowley

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In 2013, Season 8 of The Real Housewives of Orange County premiered on Bravo and ended up becoming one of the most unforgettable seasons in Housewives history. Thanks to the perfect combination of Housewives, surprising alliances, and major moments in the lives of the ladies, the season earned its own look back with the RHOC Season 8 Uncensored special. Featuring never-before-seen footage and brand new interviews with Housewives and producers alike, we got to learn more than we ever knew about what really went down in the OC. Read on for my full recap of all the revelations and new details from the special...

A Whole New Vicki?

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The start of Season 8 revealed a shocking new face in the OC – except the new face was a Housewife we'd known since the beginning. Vicki Gunvalson. Between seasons, the OG of the OC had decided to get some fairly major plastic surgery on her face following the “Miss Piggy” comparisons levied at her by Slade Smiley in Season 7. Vicki specifically chose to undergo surgery while the cameras weren't rolling so that she could come into Season 8 healed and looking better than ever. However, this plan was foiled when her daughter Briana went into labor with Vicki's first grandchild and Bravo wanted to catch the moment on camera. So, production was pushed up to just a couple of weeks into the OG's post-surgery recovery. Camera crews arrived at the hospital on the night of baby Troy's birth and when Vicki came down to meet them in the parking lot, they were shocked to see her swollen face mostly frozen in place since the secret surgery. Much of the season essentially documented the healing process of Vicki's face - almost episode by episode fans could see differences in her appearance as the dust settled.

Shady Friendships & Shifting Alliances

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To say that the season began with the dynamic between all the 'Wives in a very strange place is an understatement. For multiple seasons the shows main alliances consisted of Vicki and her BFF Tamra Judge in one corner and their arch-rivals Gretchen Rossi and Alexis Bellino in the other. However, over the course of the previous season, Vicki and Tamra's rock-solid sisterhood had been blown to smithereens by the OG's relationship with Brooks Ayers while Gretchen and Alexis feuded over a job as a local lifestyle correspondent for FOX5. In the most baffling turn of events possible, mortal enemies Tamra and Gretchen started Season 8 as BFFs, leaving Vicki and Alexis to develop a new friendship with each other. As such, the show entered unchartered territory with the women in alliances that just one year prior would have been unthinkable. 

Alexis Returns & Lydia Joins the Show

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Additionally, Alexis's return to the show, complete with a freshly-shorn haircut, was another surprise. Her story is that she quit the show after spending most of Season 7 as the primary target of the other women's criticism (pretentious intervention in Costa Rica, anyone?) while most of her co-stars claim she was fired by Bravo. Either way, Alexis still had more story left to tell, and this time she was coming back with a friend in tow...For Season 8 producers chose to add a sixth Housewife to the cast, which is a rare move for the OC franchise. Lydia McLaughlin joined the show as a friend of Alexis and brought a whole new flavor to Orange County. A thirty-two-year-old born again Christian who originally hailed from Canada, Lydia was the editor for Beverly Hills Lifestyle Magazine with her husband Doug - whom viewers lovingly dubbed "Jesus Abs." However, while she was already friends with Alexis, Lydia's first time meeting the rest of the women was more explosive than she could have ever predicted...

CUT Fitness Chaos

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In the first major event of the season, Tamra threw a dinner party to celebrate the groundbreaking of her new fitness studio, CUT Fitness. According to executive producer Kevin Lee, the party started off on the wrong foot because the rest of the 'Wives resented that Alexis was returning to the show. Battle lines were drawn as soon as Vicki walked in with Alexis and Lydia - with those three on one side and Tamra, Gretchen and Heather Dubrow firmly on the other. Co-executive producer Bill Fritz revealed that part of the tension stemmed from the fact that in between Seasons 7 and 8, Gretchen had accused former bestie Alexis and her "camp" of trying to steal a number of her personal appearances. Don't mess with a Housewife's fame, y'all. Of course, drama erupted the second Tamra confronted Alexis over why she would want to come to the dinner in the first place when she'd been threatening legal action against the hostess for slander, which resulted in the epic "YOU GET THE F--- OUT!" moment where Tamra kicked Alexis out the party. In the ensuing chaos, producers claimed that Heather made a beeline to them and promised she had other friends who could join the show to replace Alexis while Gretchen breaking into applause at her former friend getting booted signified the permanent end to their once-close friendship. What a welcome for Lydia, am I right?

Housewives Rules 101

Next, in an amusing segment the show's producers revealed the list of unspoken rules that the Housewives have developed over the years for being on camera. These rules of extreme convenience include the following:

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  • New 'Wives are never to stand in front of veterans on camera, particularly Tamra.
  • Housewives are to never eat on camera because it's impossible to look glamorous and beautiful while doing so.
  • Housewives form cliques and promise to have each other's back, but the alliances are subject to change from season to season.
  • All friendships of convenience between other 'Wives are to be exposed and undermined.
  • Develop real friendships with your fellow cast mates or you will be called out.

A Bachelorette Party Turned Battlefield

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Next up for discussion is the unforgettable trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for Tamra's bachelorette party. Due to the flip-flopped friend dynamic of the season, Gretchen fell into the role of putting the bachelorette party together for Tamra rather than Vicki. Meanwhile, Alexis had been invited to Mexico but one of the hard and fast rules in the Bellinos' traditional marriage is "no bachelor or bachelorette parties," so she stayed behind in the OC. And while Heather ran behind the cameras and jokingly (but kind of seriously) threatened a sexual assault lawsuit if the Mexican strippers so much as touched her during the wild in the hotel, the bachelorette party turned into a turf war between Vicki and Gretchen over who was a better friend to the bride-to-be.

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Vicki essentially went into the trip with a secret plan to snatch Tamra from Gretchen's clutches and when Gretch and Heather went to the bathroom following a snoozy first dinner, the OG saw her chance. With newbie Lydia in tow, Vicki kidnapped Tamra and ditched the other women to go to Andale's, her favorite dive bar in Puerto Vallarta. Despite not having filming permits for the bar and not really knowing where it even was, the Bravo crew spent the majority of the evening following Vicki and the other 'Wives through the streets of Puerto Vallarta as they bought light-up bows, danced on taxis and whooped it up once they found Andale's. Naturally, getting ditched left Gretchen infuriated and the conflict that came out of the night became pivotal to the season's story. Gretchen and Vicki were officially at war with Tamra as the victor's prize, and ultimately the OG would come out on top.

The Dubrows and the "D" Word

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One of Heather's major storylines for Season 8 was the conflict in her marriage with husband Terry Dubrow. After being considered for Season 5 (the year Alexis Bellino joined the show) it's a well-known fact that Terry actually forged Heather's signature on her contract when she finally joined the cast two years later. Terry was the one who pushed Heather to do the show, and producers even described her as a "reluctant participant in her husband's misadventures." Nowadays it's hard to imagine RHOC without Fancy Pants (she remains my all-time favorite OC 'Wife), but in her first couple seasons, Heather admits she had trouble really opening up in front of the cameras. Behind the scenes, the Dubrows' worst fights were about her being on the show because she didn't actually to do reality TV. So when Terry failed to support Heather's renewed acting career, which was being documented throughout the season, Fancy Pants threatened to quit the show and Terry threw the word "divorce" out during a blow-out fight between the two. By the time the season wrapped, Heather and Terry's marriage was stronger than ever but getting to that point was certainly a rocky road.

The Revenge of Lauri Waring Peterson

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Season 8 also brought the return of a familiar face from the show's early days: OG Housewife Lauri Waring Peterson. After leaving the show midway through Season 4 to focus on her new blended family with her Prince Charming, George, Lauri blasted back onto the scene with an agenda to take down her old friend Vicki. Lauri had originally been Vicki's secretary and protege-of-sorts when the show premiered way back in 2006, but the moment she came back to film with Gretchen, Lauri threw the OG of the OC under the bus with a scandalous rumor that she'd caught her in a threesome back in the day. From Vicki's perspective, the attack was insulting but logical: in order for Lauri's return to be as relevant as possible, she had to go after the dog at the very top of the food chain. Mind you, Lauri insists in her interview that she didn't have any vendetta against Vicki, but that's a hard claim to swallow as fans watched the salacious drama unfold.

Go Yell It on the Mountain

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A tricky game of telephone was born out of the gossip Lauri spread, and when the rumor reached Vicki during the cast trip to Canada, she exploded. Decked out in full snow bunny gear on the slopes of Whistler, the OG hunted down the show's executive producer, shoved him up against a brick wall and threatened him that it would hurt a lot worse if this storyline made it to air. To make matters worse, the other woman in the rumor actually turned out to be Vicki's sister, whom the OG insisted be cut out of the conversation. (Only after talking to her sister later and getting her blessing did Vicki use the fact to defend herself in blogs and on WWHL.) Producers note that Lauri was very careful not to ever use the term "threesome," but Vicki's ensuing freakout is still one of the most iconic moments in Housewives history.

Gretchen Rossi: A Cautionary Tale

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Next, the special addresses the downfall of Gretchen over the course of the eighth season. Executive producer Douglas Ross explains that when Gretch joined the show in Season 4, she let viewers completely into her life - from her relationship with now-deceased, older fiancé Jeff Beitzel to getting "naked wasted" by a scheming Tamra and Vicki, nothing seemed to be off-limits. However, as her time on the series progressed, Gretchen started presenting a much more whitewashed, inauthentic picture of herself. Once she started dating Slade Smiley, the much-reviled, self-proclaimed "Housewife Hunter," the execs at Bravo noticed that the couple always seemed to be working some sort of angle for the show. (We all remember the time Slade "bought" her with a Rolls Royce, right?) And everyone knows that once self-production is an automatic death sentence in the Housewives universe.

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This forced inauthenticity was never more clear than in Gretchen's decision to stage an elaborate rooftop proposal to Slade at the end of Season 8. For three seasons, Slade had been floating out the idea of getting engaged to Gretchen but never quite seemed to be able to pull the trigger. Flipping the script in the name of quasi female empowerment, Gretchen put together an extravagant proposal for her boyfriend that involved a song on the radio, a helicopter ride and all of their family and friends - but none of the other Housewives. Heather opines in her confessional that Slade was probably in on the surprise and even Andy Cohen notes that the entire event rang hollow and felt purely put on for the cameras. (Obviously Gretchen denies this.) Not inviting any of her cast mates also proved to be one of the final nails in the coffin for Gretch, though during the special she points the finger at producers for why none of the other ladies were included. Also, it's important to note that it's now been three years and Gretchen and Slade still aren't married. Maybe they'll walk down the aisle if someone offers to turn their wedding into a TV special a la Tamra's OC's Wedding

Winter Wonderland Finale & the Reunion of Rainbow Dresses

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By the time Vicki's Winter Wonderland-themed finale party came around, every other Housewife had her own personal issues with Gretchen. So, throughout the party poor Gretchen was forced to go on a giant apology tour, moving from one sit-down to the next so all the women could air their grievances against her. To this day, Gretch maintains that the other Housewives banded together to get her off the show, but we all know that's not exactly how cast changes work. At the Season 8 reunion, which in my opinion stands as possibly the best Housewives reunion ever, resentment toward Gretchen was at an all-time high and she had simply burned too many bridges to have any shot of staying on the show for Season 9. 

The Legacy of Season 8 in the OC

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To this day, Season 8 of The Real Housewives of Orange County remains a high water mark for both the show and the franchise as a whole. Alexis was let go at the end of the season when it became clear that viewers had now seen the beginning, middle and end to her story arc, while newbie Lydia chose to walk away after just a single season to focus on her family and have a third baby. As Andy succinctly states in the special's closing moments, Season 8 remains iconic for being a changing of the guard in Orange County and will never be forgotten in the annals of Housewives history and the larger pop culture.

What did you think of the RHOC Season 8 Uncensored special? Do you love the season as much as I do? Should Gretchen, Alexis and/or Lydia ever return to the show? Leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!