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Real Housewives: How The Franchise Adapted To The Pandemic

The Real Housewives franchise faced many challenges during the pandemic. Some cities were still filming, while others were finished with their seasons and in the editing process. Since the Real Housewives is an unscripted show, cameras couldn't hide anything. The series had to present what was happening as COVID-19 spread across the country. From altered cast trips to virtual reunions, the housewives had to live with the pandemic along with the rest of the world.

When COVID-19 first hit last year, The Real Housewives of Orange County season 15 was in the middle of filming. As the crisis escalated, production stopped and the women recorded with their iPhones. Once things calmed down months later, they were able to resume filming. RHOC was one of the first franchises to show the news of the pandemic unfolding in real-time. Other franchises followed its lead, using RHOC as an example for future Real Housewives seasons.

Related: Real Housewives: Cast Photo Revealed For All-Stars Spin-Off On Peacock

Bravo fans were worried about how their favorite reality TV shows would continue when COVID-19 changed things. There were rumors online about different franchises having to shut down. The Real Housewives of New York City and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills entertained audiences with brand-new seasons that aired during the height of the pandemic. New episodes from RHONY and RHOBH kept fans afloat while production teams learned how to work around COVID-19 protocols. Now, it's time to look at how the Real Housewives franchise adapted to the pandemic.

Real Housewives teams stopped production immediately if anyone tested positive for COVID-19. The housewives were tested every week, which helped to keep everyone involved with the show safe. On RHOC, Shannon Beador caught the virus from her three daughters. Emily Simpson and her family also had the COVID-19 virus. Her husband Shane Simpson had a severe case and was sent to the hospital. Emily documented her heartbreaking journey on the show. Production was paused on RHOBH season 11 when Kyle Richards, Kathy Hilton, and Dorit Kemsley all contracted COVID-19. Even though the cast members had to isolate separately, the womens' self-taped footage only lasted for one episode of the season.

Sonja Morgan from RHONY had COVID-19 on season 13, causing production to be halted for a month. This ruined the momentum of an already difficult season. Leah McSweeney was exposed to the virus and had to self-quarantine. She was featured on the season's "Black Shabbat" event through video chat, saying a prayer in Hebrew to practice her conversion to Judaism. The Real Housewives of New Jersey had an easier time while filming season 11. Dolores Catania told US Weekly that none of the housewives from RHONJ tested positive during the season. The Real Housewives of Atlanta went on a break for two weeks when a crew member tested positive.

No Real Housewives season is complete without a cast trip. Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, highly-anticipated vacations were replaced with local staycations. The cast of RHONY ventured to Ramona Singer's house in the Hamptons at the beginning and end of the season. Ramona threw multiple themed parties. There was a Breakfast at Tiffany's bash, a Galentine's Day event, and an identity swap dinner. Leah planned a trip to Salem, Massachusetts so the women could explore the town and learn about witchcraft. They dressed up as witches, got tattoos, and had a "leather and lace" party.

Related: Why Real Housewives All-Stars Season 2 Will Be Better Than Season 1

The cast of RHOBH went to Lake Tahoe for their getaway. Later in the season, Kyle Richards hosted the group at her Palm Springs home. While most of the women accepted Kyle's offer, Garcelle Beauvais, Crystal Kung Minkoff, and Erika Girardi stayed in a nearby La Quinta hotel. These trips were an adjustment for the Beverly Hills women since there was no one to cook and clean for them or take the luggage to their rooms. The RHOC housewives also enjoyed Northern California with a girl's trip to Lake Arrowhead. They cooked dinner with face shields and participated in local outdoor activities like canoeing and bike riding. Margaret Josephs took the women to Lake George on RHONJ. At the end of the season, they headed down to the Jersey Shore, which has become a tradition on the Garden State franchise.

The pandemic also affected the Real Housewives when the season was over. Last summer, RHONY and RHOBH went on month-long hiatuses to film confessionals at home. The infamous interview clips are usually shot in a studio with producers. Because of COVID-19, the women created their own set-ups remotely. Diehard Housewives fans immediately noticed the change, with mixed reviews on Twitter. "Ufff. These at-home confessionals are going to be rough. #RHONY," MarioKiki commented. "The #RHOBH really did Kyle dirty lol the two at home confessionals are nothing alike" the Queens of Bravo fan account chimed in. While the new, edited-in home confessionals weren't ideal, credit should be given to the editors for working hard during a pandemic to make great entertainment.

Every season, almost every Real Housewives series films an After Show on BravoTV.com. This gives the women a chance to talk about controversial Housewives topics that were discussed throughout the season. Similar to confessionals, the After Show is recorded in a studio with one or two other cast members and producers. The ladies traded in professional crews for split-screen video chats from the comfort of their homes. Two housewives were featured at a time. All Housewives franchises have an After Show except RHONY, including the newest season of The Real Housewives of PotomacThe virtual version of the digital series works out well and is a treat to fans.

The only thing that gets Housewives fans more excited than the shows is the reunions. The end-of-season sit-downs were replaced with discussions in Brady Bunch-like squares onscreen. Things got just as heated. The Real Housewives of Atlanta was the first Housewives city to have a virtual reunion. In part 3 of the season 12 reunion, OG housewife Nene Leakes felt she was being attacked by the rest of the cast and walked away from her computer screen. Sitting in front of her were notes that she left, with important points she wanted to bring up at the taping.

Related: RHONY: Cast Finally Coming Together For In-Person Reunion

The RHOBH season 10 reunion was the second to be filmed virtually. This season was heavily focused on Denise Richards' alleged relationship with Brandi Glanville. Former Bond girl Denise was at an advantage because she didn't have to face her opinionated castmates in person. She was reading over lines for one of her scripted roles while filming the reunion, knowing that her side of the story wouldn't be significant. Fans quickly saw that former RHOBH housewife Denise seemed to have checked outRHONY, RHONJ, RHOP, and RHOC were lucky enough to have in-person reunions. Instead of the ladies sitting on couches, each housewife sat in her own chair, to remain socially distanced. The Real Housewives of Dallas season 5 reunion was filmed in a hybrid format, with everyone attending except Brandi Redmond and Kary Brittingham, who joined remotely.

The Real Housewives franchise continued to give fans the content they love during the pandemic. Viewers now need reality TV more than ever, as it's a great escape during hard times. The cast and production teams did not disappoint while filming during the COVID-19 crisis, even if they had to do things differently. Despite the bumps in the road, Bravo was still able to deliver top-quality entertainment.

Next: RHOBH: Denise Richards' Daughter Sami Sheen Calls Her Home ‘Abusive’

Sources: Queens of Bravo/Twitter, MarioKiki/Twitter

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