The Ultimate Guide to Watching Real Housewives for the First Time

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty/Bravo
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty/Bravo

We’re living in unprecedented times. For the first time since the early days of the Obama administration, there isn’t a single Real Housewives franchise airing on Bravo. But fear not, as there’s more than enough Housewives material in the vault to tide you over until The Real Housewives of New Jersey returns May 5.

Haven’t gotten around to watching the Miami reboot? You “just can’t get into” Atlanta? You’re not sure where to start Orange County? Here’s more than a beginner’s guide, a definitive breakdown of how to get into each and every city—even Dallas—so that you can finally fulfill your completionist dreams and continue watching nothing but reality TV during this Housewives hiatus. Whether you’re a newer viewer, a veteran, or someone looking to start your obsession from scratch, this list is for you.

The Real Housewives of Orange County (2006-Present)

The original Housewives franchise, RHOC is often overlooked in comparison to its peers. But it birthed an iconic franchise with its unfiltered, suburban dream world, and deserves respect.

The cast of The Real Housewives of Orange County - Season 17.

(l-r) Emily Simpson, Gina Kirschenheiter, Heather Dubrow, Tamra Judge, Shannon Storms Beador, and Jennifer Pedranti on The Real Housewives of Orange County.

Andrew Eccles/Bravo

Where to Jump In: Season 7

Now, even the docustyle first few seasons are worth watching, and the Season 6 finale is very much required viewing. But Season 7 is the beginning of the RHOC golden age. Introducing the legendary Housewife that is Heather Dubrow— as well as Vicki Gunvalson’s ill fated love affair with Brooks—the season is immediately gripping.

It’s a top-tier Housewives season, and the show maintains—or exceeds—this superb quality through Season 11 (an Alec Karam-certified choice for top three Housewives season of all time). Oh, and it has the best Housewives finale of all time, rivaled only by the masterpiece that is the Real Housewives of Salt Lake City Season 4 finale. If you can watch Season 7 all the way through and not want to continue, well, this city just isn’t for you. Nor is having taste.

Standout Episodes: “The Party’s Over” (Episode 6), “Are You In or Are You Out?” (Episode 20)

The Real Housewives of New York City (2008-Present)

While RHONY was never the highest rated franchise, it sat atop the pedestal as the fanbase’s crown jewel for many years. Bravo may have rebooted the franchise—the only one to face such a fate—but it’s worth watching from the start to see the rise and fall of Bethenny Frankel, all 3,763 of Ramona Singer’s apologies, and the blossoming act of Luann DeLesseps from Countess to cabaret star.

Where to Jump In: Season 7

Although RHONY is best viewed in its entirety, Season 7 is a perfect jumping-off point, featuring the return of Frankel after a brief hiatus, as well as introducing Dorinda Medley. It was the first Bravo Housewives season to feature eight full-time Housewives, and still the only one to justify its supersized cast.

Constantly shifting dynamics and a cast whose natural chemistry shines leads RHONY to a golden era, lasting all the way through Season 10 (or 11, depending on whom you ask). Once you’ve basked in the beauty that is this RHONY era, go back and watch Seasons 1-6 in their entirety, and embrace the season that created the bar for toxic Housewives seasons (4), as well as the season that birthed the three-part reunion (3).

Standout Episodes: “Double Down on Delusion” (Episode 6), “Don’t Be All, Like, Uncool” (Episode 15)

The cast of The Real Housewives of Atlanta - Season 15.

(l-r) Sanya Ross Richards, Sheree Whitfield, Monyetta Shaw, Marlo Hampton, and Courtney Rhodes on The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

Fred Jagueneau/Bravo

The Real Housewives of Atlanta (2008-Present)

There are many reasons RHOA is so highly revered. Instantly quotable and with some of the most laugh-out-loud scenes in Housewives history, Atlanta was the highest-rated franchise for more than a decade and birthed arguably the most famous of all the Housewives, Nene Leakes.

Where to Jump In: Season 5

If you weren’t incensed by the early seasons of RHOA due to their older style of filming, jump back in for the introduction of Kenya Moore and Porsha Williams in Season 5. It’s the season that changed RHOA forever (after all, who else did Bravo tap to lead the Season 15 reboot but those two?), and has aged like wine.

Get in on the ground floor of Leakes’ Hollywood ascent and decline, the friendship fallout of Kandi Burruss and Phaedra Parks, and the birth of Moore vs. Williams. There’s great payoff through Season 9 (and 10 provides the triumphant return of Leakes, with a top-tier reunion), giving way to seasons of amazing TV. Once things cool down with Seasons 11 and 12, go back to the beginning to appreciate the show’s roots, now that you’ve developed an affinity with the cast.

Standout Episodes: “I Do…But I Won’t” (Episode 7), “Make an Ass Out of a Donkey” (Episode 13)

The Real Housewives of New Jersey (2009-Present)

There’s not a more polarizing Housewives series than RHONJ. Some can’t get enough of the family drama while others feel it’s an endless soap opera that has overstayed its welcome. But

Where to Jump In: Season 1

No matter where you start RHONJ, you’re in for a long haul of Teresa Giudice drama, but Season 1 and 2 are some superb television that you need to watch if you consider yourself a Housewives fan. If your only knowledge of Jersey is the Teresa vs. Melissa era, you need to take a step back and remember how it all started—and you’ll get to watch the iconic table flip.

Now, I do need to add that it’s totally acceptable to skip Season 5-7 if you’re in a time crunch, as those range from dire to just plain weird (though Season 6 is a fun standalone watch, for sure). But at least you’ll have four great seasons before you hit that point.

Standout Episode:Finale” (Episode 6)

The Real Housewives of D.C. (2010)

This one-season wonder lives in infamy as the first Housewives show to be canceled, but don’t sleep on RHODC. Recently added to Peacock, the show’s a hidden gem and a must-watch for Housewives diehards. Mary Amons is the original monotonous Meredith Marks, while Michaele and Tareq Salahi’s grifting is truly inspired, outdoing even Jen Shah in their terrifying ability to live in a constant state of criminal delusion. It’s a shame the show flew too close to the sun, but that makes its short run all the more special.

Where to Jump In: Well, there’s only one season, so I’d probably start with that

Standout Episodes:Special Interests” (Episode 5), “Party Politics” (Episode 9)

The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (2010-Present)

Your mom’s favorite franchise, RHOBH has casual appeal thanks to its Hollywood adjacency and focus on lifestyle. While the show has had many rocky seasons, it’s also delivered some of the franchise’s top moments, from Amster-damn! to the limo fight and Kim Richards praying in front of a dumpster.

Where to Jump In: Season 1

The honest truth with RHOBH is you’re doing yourself a disservice to start anywhere but the beginning. While most Housewives franchises take a minute to find their footing and don’t peak for a few seasons, many fans would rightfully argue that RHOBH has never surpassed its monumental first two seasons. “The Dinner Party From Hell” is the pinnacle of Housewives dinner parties for good reason.

If you’re a newer viewer, do yourself a favor and go back to the beginning to appreciate the perfection of Camille Grammer’s villain arc, as well as the Kim and Kyle Richards rollercoaster. It’s almost jarring that this season aired right after RHODC’s own debut and before RHOC Season 6, given how ahead of its time it was, visually.

Standout Episodes:The Dinner Party From Hell” (Episode 9), “Unforgivable” (Episode 13)

The Real Housewives of Miami (2011-2013, 2021-Present)

The story of RHOM is a fascinating one. Originally filmed as an unrelated show titled Miami Social, the show was re-edited to be a Housewives franchise, soft-rebooted in its second season and canceled after a rocky third season, only to be resurrected almost a decade later. The cult favorite Housewives show, often ignored by the masses, RHOM’s rebirth has blessed audiences with some of the best modern seasons.

Where to Jump In: Season 2

Many would argue you should skip the entirety of RHOM’s original run, but those people are simply wrong. Season 2 of Miami is, without a doubt, one of the best seasons in Housewives history and features everything you could want in a reality show. If you’ve only ever watched the reboot, you need to immediately repent and stream Season 2.

Newer viewers may be surprised by a season where Marysol Patton and Adriana de Moura hold mojitos while Alexia Nepola (then Echevarria) sits on the sidelines, and they may be even more shocked by how ahead of its time Season 2 was. The iconic season, and the vastly underrated Season 3, are required for understanding the modern RHOM era. You can’t truly appreciate the Hochstein divorce without watching their introduction, nor can you really understand the modern Patton/de Moura/Nepola feud without studying these ancient texts.

Standout Episodes: “Bras and Brawls, Parts 1 and 2” (Episodes 7-8)

The cast of The Real Housewives of Potomac season 8.

(l-r) Charrisse Jackson Jordan, Karen Huger, Candiace Dillard, Ashley Boalch Darby, Nneka Ihim, Mia Thornton, and Gizelle Bryant on The Real Housewives of Potomac.

Graeme Jennings/Bravo

The Real Housewives of Potomac (2016-Present)

After one of the worst seasons in Housewives history, it may seem all hope is lost for RHOP. But don’t let a short term memory rob you of the great days of Potomac past. RHOP at its best is a formidable force, and if you’ve only experienced the sluggish era, it’s best you go back and appreciate the show’s former glory.

Where to Jump In: Season 3

Season 3 is an instant payoff, throwing viewers straight into the deep end of Karen Huger’s financial crisis, while introducing us to Candiace Dillard-Bassett. From Robyn Dixon being coined “the dizziest bitch at the table” to Gizelle Bryant’s #taxreform shirt at Huger’s press conference with no press, the first few episodes are packed heavy with iconic moments that are instantly gripping.

The entirety of Season 3 is all killer, no filler, while Season 4 stands out as a top Housewives season of all time. And once you’ve gotten all the backstory, dive into Season 5, one of the most dramatic, tumultuous seasons in the franchise’s history.

Standout Episodes: “Meet the Press” (Episode 2), “I Came From Jesus” (Episode 6)

The Real Housewives of Dallas (2016-2021)

Everything’s bigger in Dallas, so they say. While RHOD was often the unwanted stepchild of the Housewives franchise, it’s well worth a watch. If you enjoy the suburban sprawl of RHOC, you’ll surely find something to appreciate in her younger sister.

Where to Jump In: Season 2

Although RHOD struggled to hit the highs of its peers, its second and third seasons are legitimately strong TV, and any Housewives fan should give them a shot. If the deranged nature of Leanne Locken isn’t enough to entice you, consider the firestarting additions of Kameron Westcott (before she jumped the shark by claiming clown emojis are “white face”) and D’andra Simmons. Simmons is a top-tier Housewife, from only having $200 in the bank account to her soap operatic mother. Oh, and Stephanie Hollman and Brandi Redmond also star.

Standout Episode: Viva La Mexico (Episode 7)

The cast from The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City - Season 4.

(l-r) Angie Katsanevas, Lisa Barlow, and Whitney Rose on The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City.

Fred Hayes/Bravo

The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City (2020-Present)

If you haven’t watched RHOSLC, you need to rectify that—immediately. From its very first episode, RHOSLC is unlike any other Housewives show, so absurd in every machination that it’s often referred to as “community theater” by the fanbase. It’s masterful proof that post-reality TV still has merit.

Where to Jump In: Season 1

There’s no other place to start RHOSLC than the very beginning. The show has one of the franchise’s best debut seasons, and the first episode already features a wonderfully bizarre fight that sums up the beauty of Salt Lake City (“You smell like hospital”).

It’s also must-watch context to truly appreciate the undoing of Jen Shah in Season 2. Five of this franchise’s six OGs are still on the show today as RHOSLC films Season 5, so the investment is well-worth it to watch these women adapt and unravel. Each and every Salt Lake City Housewife undergoes a stunning metamorphosis, making for a truly dynamic viewing experience.

Standout Episodes: “Welcome to Salt Lake City!” (Episode 1), “Sinners in the City” (Episode 12)

The cast of The Real Housewives of Dubai - Season 2.

(l-r) Lesa Milan, Caroline Stanbury, Chanel Ayan, Caroline Brooks, Sara Al Medani, and Taleen Marie on The Real Housewives of Dubai.

Chris Haston/Fred Jagueneau/Bravo

The Real Housewives of Dubai (2022-Present)

Bravo’s first international Housewives endeavor, RHODubai offers a look into the luxurious lives of many expats in the world’s first city designed entirely after a Los Angeles outdoor mall. While its debut season wasn’t appointment viewing, now is a great time to sit down with it just in time for the Season 2 premiere in June.

Where to Jump In: There’s only one season—for now!

Did you love Caroline Stanbury on Ladies of London? Do you want to watch a fabulous model flaunt around Dubai? Do you like french fries? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you have no excuse not to give RHODubai Season 1 a try. Ayan and Stanbury’s rocky friendship has all the makings of a classic Housewives frenemy duo, while the gorgeous locales provide a scenic backdrop to even the most mundane scenes.

Standout Episode:“Drama in the Sandbox” (Episode 8)

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