Thanks To The RHONY Reboot, I’m A Real Housewives Fan Now — & I’m Not Even Mad About It

The day that I finally embraced reality TV, I looked my preconceptions of this entire genre of television being “subpar” right in the eye and saw them for the misogynistic, pretentious lies they were — that was a good day.
I’m sad, of course, that it took me until I was in my late twenties to realise just how much joy can be had from watching the lives of the rich and famous or the twisted love triangles of young, hot singles — just think of all the content I missed out on!
And because it took me so long to realise the beauty of the manufactured onscreen drama, it means that many established reality television franchises seemed, well, off-limits. There were seasons of drama and back stories and all the intricate spiderwebs of connections between people that seemed far too big and overwhelming to come into at this late stage. Which was disappointing because, especially in the instance of the Real Housewives franchise, I really wanted to be part of the fun.
And who wouldn’t? With 11 different iterations over 15 years of broadcasting, the Real Housewives is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon. Even without having watched a single episode, I knew all the memes, the references, the drama, the darker moments, the controversies. But I wanted an in, and one that didn’t involve me committing hours of my life to playing catch-up because it had already taken me six months to get myself on a semi-regular sleep schedule, and I didn't need midnight-ending binges to derail me.
Enter – the Real Housewives of NYC, 2023.
A brand-new season – season 14 to be exact – with a twist: a new host of people.Heading up the season are Brynn Whitfield, Erin Dana Lichy, Jenna Lyons, Sai De Silva, Ubah Hassan and Jessel Taank. It’s clear with this cast, that Real Housewives is trying to rebrand through this reboot. Andy Cohen, executive producer, told Variety that the show had been searching for “a multicultural group of friends who really best reflect the most exciting city in the country.”
We have the first openly queer housewife (Lyons), a younger demographic, and the first South Asian housewife (Taank). In fact, not all of them are even “housewives”, with several notable cast members who are single (and very ready to mingle).
With this rebrand and the pivot to a new cast, Real Housewives of NYC might just have managed to capture a whole host of brand-new fans. There are, of course, people like me, who came into reality television late into the game and took one look at the back catalogue and felt too intimidated to dive in. Having a completely new cast is a gamble, but it’s one that attracts people like me, who were looking for a way to wriggle our way into the franchise.
And then of course, there is the legacy of Real Housewives of NYC seasons past, one twisted up in allegations of racist behaviour by cast member Ramona Singer targeted at the show’s first housewife who was a woman of colour, Eboni K. Williams, and a history of being dominated by a bevy of white faces. Singer has denied this, saying to Page Six, "I never said that. It's a terrible lie." While the pivot to a diverse cast doesn’t mitigate or undo the toxic allegations of past seasons, it is a good step forward.
Frankly, the new cast is half of the appeal. The standout star has already been identified in Lyons, whose willingness to display her social awkwardness comes across as both vulnerable and relatable. She confesses that she’s never been to a sleepover and is “worried” about how it will play out. She refuses to play too much into the overly “feminine” glamour as she dons ripped jeans and button-ups. She opens up about being outed by the New York Post before she was ready. Lyons, already attracting fans to the franchise purely through name recognition, has now drawn more in through her dedication to being her quirky, unapologetic queer self.
(Of course, the other cast members are equally charismatic — I personally also have a soft spot for Hassan, who stole my heart when she stole a can of coconut cream from a restaurant’s fridge).
And here’s what I believe is the real kicker of this season, and what had me bingeing all available episodes over several hours in a single Sunday afternoon. In the first episode, the fight is about cheese. Yes, you read that correctly. The source of “conflict” is over someone insulting another person’s cheese platter. Rich people problems, am I right?
But hear me out: that is precisely the fun of it. There’s been a lot of discourse recently about the ways in which reality television has taken a dark pivot into overemphasising the villain narrative, pushing the boundaries of outrage and relying on stirring up public anger to keep viewers engaged. It's taken the concept of a “villain” and run with it — some might say, too far, creating a toxicity that allows bullies to thrive and leaves us with an undercurrent of simmering rage as we watch our screens. Or, if they can’t get the villain, they’ll make one, and leave cast members scrambling with a reputation in tatters.
And if it’s not stirring drama within the contestants, it’s the shows themselves stretching challenges and pushing boundaries on what they put their cast members through. Even my beloved Great British Bake Off, known for being the most gentle of shows, has come under fire for cruel judgements and stretching the limits of possibility in its challenges, as if purposefully setting up contestants for failure purely for the purposes of generating drama (and this isn’t mentioning GBBO’s own racial controversies as well).
In this new season of RHONY, the women bicker over cheese, over someone leaving early, and the ridiculousness never tips into full-blown fights, simply into snipes and jabs — and ultimately making up. It’s light-hearted. It’s low stakes. Lichy even told the LA Times, “We’re bringing the light-hearted comedy back.”
And that, my friends, is why we watch reality TV, isn't it? Not to combat a simmering anger, or gnash our teeth at unfairness, or squirm in moments of discomfort. I watch for the fun, the frivolity. Of course, there is space for reality television to teach us things, and to make commentary or political points. But there also needs to be space for it to be just entertainment. A gentle bath for our brains, especially when times are tough.
After years of fighting the thrall of reality TV, I feel as if I’ve finally crossed the final frontier, and taken the last step into being a full-blown legitimate consumer. I’m now a Real Housewives fan. Hallelujah, and bring the caviar. Served on Pringles, of course (the real ones will get it).
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