What was once a humble little show called Real Housewives of Orange County has become, in just a couple of years, a franchise that has out-CSI'd CSI in its inescapability. Bravo has just announced a fifth Housewives series to join the ladies of the O.C., Atlanta, New York, and New Jersey, to be set in the nation's capital.
As long as the ratings continue to grow, it's inevitable that Bravo will look for new settings for its Housewives, cities where the culture shared by rich women is just different enough from its existing shows that it won't look like so much like the network is repeating itself. Could Bravo cameras be coming to your town soon? What are the most likely cities for the Housewives juggernaut to expand to next? Here are a few guesses.
Dallas: Everything is bigger in Texas, so it's easy to assume that the good ladies of the Lone Star State would not permit themselves to be outdone in vulgarity by the likes of New Jersey. Dallas is the ideal setting for the Housewives to colonize; in fact, it's such a good idea that I'm surprised Bravo would have ever preferred Washington to Dallas in the first place. Whatever else one might say about D.C., it worships power much more than cash. But Dallas is all about money and the conspicuous display thereof. It's about giant homes, giant cars, and giant hair on women. What's more, a certain 30 year-old television show still looms large in the American cultural memory bank. We're preconditioned to think of Big D as harboring a certain type of brassy rich person, and finding ex-beauty queens and oil heiresses willing to play the assigned part would be a piece of cake.
Palm Beach: Bravo has a show in the works called Miami Social, but the cast skews younger than the typical Housewives show, and includes men. So best to avoid Miami as a Housewives site, just to keep things relatively fresh. But why not Palm Beach, just a short ways up the coast? The town has not only been synonymous with wealth for decades, but it's associated with a particularly tacky and gross kind of wealth that practically invites regular folks to feel superior. It's the setting for Mar-A-Lago, which is now owned by Donald and Ivana Trump, and is every bit as tasteful as you would expect. Many of the rich of Palm Beach are too famous to ever sully their reputations with a reality show, but surely there are enough second-generation layabouts, bored Eurotrash, and former Kennedy girlfriends to populate what would surely be the bronzest Housewives show to date.
Silicon Valley: The potential problems with putting a Housewives show in Silicon Valley are 1) most Americans don't have a strong visual image of what it's like there; and 2) when one thinks about Silicon Valley, one doesn't first think of idly rich housewives, but of men with the sorts of social skills that don't typically lead to ever having a wife. But of course, stereotyping aside, there are plenty of wealthy housewives in that part of the country. And while the liberal social environment in northern California might not be conducive to the kind of wallowing we're used to seeing from the Housewives -- you can't very well build an episode around a splurge on edamame at Whole Foods -- part of the fun of such a show could be in watching these characters learning how to be rich. Instead of coming at us with their superficiality pre-formed, we could see them grow into being vapid. A Very Special Episode might find a housewife trading in her hybrid for a Hummer.
Boston: Thanks to Denis Leary, Mystic River, and irritating Red Sox worship in the media, the working class side of Boston has been played up in recent years much more than its blueblood side. But the city still harbors an awful lot of families who trace their ancestry back to the Mayflower and beyond, and who are still living off the fortunes originally made when they sold rum to Paul Revere. Plus, if you've ever looked at home prices in the area, you know that an awful lot of people there must have small fortunes. If the Housewives were to come to Boston, the way to go would be to set up conflict between old money and new (that is, post-1776) money. What could be more fun than watching middle-aged ladies throwing croquet mallets at each other? And the bonus grudge match with the New York housewives would make Sox vs. Yanks look like a t-ball game.
Chicago: The great cities of the Midwest have never been popular settings for reality TV. Even The Real World, which has been around for several hundred seasons by now, has made just one lonely foray into the heartland, when it visited Chicago. While I don't really expect the Housewives franchise to ever consider the Midwest until it has exhausted literally every other possibility, the Windy City would seem to be the most likely candidate in that vast section of the country. It has more people than anyplace else between the coasts, so it stands to reason that it also has more obnoxious housewives. And frankly, some of us here are tired of being thought of as more polite, more self-effacing, and less money-obsessed than our cohorts in L.A and New York. The Midwest has made numerous contributions to the tradition of American jerkiness, and damn it, we'd like some recognition for it.