'The Real Housewives of O.C.' are back for more
Ladies and gentlemen, make way for the reality TV series that started the whole booming, yet peculiar, "Housewives" phenomenon: "The Real Housewives of Orange County" is back on the air.
The premiere of season 6 airs at 10 p.m. Sunday on Bravo. The show, which follows the day-to-day lives of five to six seemingly wealthy Orange County residents, will continue to air at 10 p.m. Sundays, with repeats broadcast at all hours of the day on the cable network.
Since the debut of "The Real Housewives of Orange County" in 2006, we've seen a plethora of spinoffs – New York City, Atlanta, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Beverly Hills and Miami.
We've witnessed marriages, divorces, tables being overturned and ugly fights breaking out from coast to coast.
Still, Orange County is the original. And last season, which concluded in March 2010, it averaged 2.01 million viewers, including 1.47 million adults ages 18-49. It was the highest-rated season for the series, achieving double-digit growth over season 4.
So what makes this franchise – which started as a documentary behind the gates of Coto de Caza – so popular?
"There are a lot of relatable stories," said Scott Dunlop, creator and executive producer of "The Real Housewives of Orange County." "There are a lot of blondes, for sure. But there are a lot of relatable stories that cut across the financial, marital, challenging and humorous aspects that occur in life."
And perhaps a few train wrecks, too. In Orange County alone, the majority of cast members have gone through divorce. Many have faced foreclosure or short sales of their homes, and several kids and loved ones of housewives have been arrested for various offenses.
Returning for season 6 are Vicki Gunvalson, Tamra Barney, Gretchen Rossi and Alexis Bellino. Lynne Curtin of Aliso Viejo is no longer a permanent cast member, although she may make occasional appearances during the season.
The newest housewife is Peggy Tanous of Irvine. Fernanda Rocha, a personal trainer from Laguna Beach, will make regular appearances during season 6, but she has not been officially announced as a "housewife."
So without further ado, allow us to introduce "The Real Housewives of Orange County," season 6 edition.
A former bikini model and TV spokeswoman, Tanous is a stay-at-home mom who takes care of her daughters, London, 3, and Capri, 19 months old. Her husband, Micah, 38, is an Internet entrepreneur.
Tanous is a study in contrasts. She believes in clean, natural living, eschewing prescription medication unless absolutely necessary. At the same time, she loves her bling, her Bentley, and has reportedly had some plastic surgery.
The 41-year-old Irvine resident describes herself as "down-to-earth" and "a people person." She and her husband have been friends with Alexis and Jim Bellino for years. "We all got married at the same time," Tanous said in a November 2009 interview. "Their twins were born the day after our daughter was born, in the same hospital."
Tanous is not expected to fully appear in the new season until episode 2. She says she didn't have any conflicts with the other housewives, although her friendship with Alexis has changed a bit. Hanging out with the other cast members from the show is another step toward "being fabulous."
During the season, Tanous is expected to revive her modeling and spokeswoman career. She will also open up about a dramatic secret, according to Bravo.
The well-toned, bisexual personal trainer hails from Brazil, but now lives and works in Laguna Beach. Rocha, 34, will be introduced as Tamra Barney's friend in the season 6 premiere. Avid viewers may remember Rocha, who led three of the housewives in an intense, "Brazilian booty" workout during season 5.
Rocha co-owns the Art of Fitness & Day Spa in Laguna. She is expected to add some interesting twists to the new season, but will not be presented as one of the permanent housewives, a Bravo spokeswoman said.
"I don't understand it," Barney said. "She's on almost every episode. They did film her by herself. She's a housewife without the title. She's a housewife in training."
Vicki is the veteran, the housewife who has lasted the longest of all the franchises. She has appeared in every episode since the Orange County show premiered in 2006.
"I feel kind of like the mamma bear," she said about returning for season 6. "I started this franchise. It would be very difficult for me to leave. I've watched my family grow up on TV. I feel a sense of responsibility."
The self-employed insurance agent from Coto de Caza has expanded her business, employing 12 workers and overseeing more than 700 agents in the field.
She has written a book, "More Than a Housewife," and is starting a new business, Coto Retirement Planning.
"With hard work, you can have it all," she said. "You can have good balance."
After some tough times in her marriage, Gunvalson, 48, renewed her vows with husband Donn in Turks and Caicos during season 5. But we may see her "love tank" emptying again this season. She filed for divorce in Orange County Superior Court in October.
Did constant filming of her personal life put a strain on her marriage?
"Absolutely," she admitted. "It would ruin your marriage to have every intimate, private moment on film. My marriage is my private issue. It's a very raw emotion right now. It's a very, very difficult thing."
Overall, however, she doesn't regret having her life taped and broadcast for a national audience.
"It's really neat. It's been a very, very good experience. There's been a lot of heartache and a lot of tears, but that's life. One day this ride will end, and we'll look back, and have real-life diaries of what happened."
The mother of three returns to "Housewives" with a new sense of independence. While she still views husband Jim as king of her life and the household, she confesses in the program that she would like a little more autonomy now and then.
Over the past year, Bellino, 33, has made endorsement appearances for a Newport Beach plastic surgery center and med spa. She is also branching out in the clothing business, launching a line of sexy and revealing dresses.
Bellino says her Christian faith is important to her, and her family attends church in Irvine regularly. "In my household, my God is first," she said in a 2009 interview. "My husband and my children are next, and those are the most important things in our life."
This season, we'll see how the dour economy and the housing slump affects the Bellinos. Last year, they defaulted on their $4.6 million home loan, and faced foreclosure for several months. A foreclosure auction was scheduled and rescheduled, and now it appears the 6-bedroom property is available for short sale for just under $.4 million.
Husband Jim has his own challenges. He filed for bankruptcy protection for one of his companies in December. He is also being sued for fraud by three Laguna Beach residents in a case involving the InVogue Hotel, now owned and operated by Bellino.
While she may harbor her own issues with one or two of the housewives, Alexis often acts as a mediator when disputes arise. We'll see how things work out.
The self-described "hottest housewife" is entering a new phase in her life as a single woman. Husband Simon filed for divorce in January 2010, and the two share custody of their three children.
Barney short-sold her Ladera Ranch home last year, and lives in another Ladera property. Her new boyfriend, business owner Eddie Judge, also lives in Ladera Ranch, and we'll be seeing some of him in season 6.
"He's pretty quiet, pretty shy," she said of her new squeeze, who's five years her junior. "He was pretty hesitant to film. He's not that into it."
Barney sees her participation in "Housewives" in very practical terms.
"This is a job for me," she said. "It's a business for me at this point, as a single mom. Nobody's paying my bills. There are so many other opportunities, being on the show."
Those opportunities include paid appearances, endorsements and book deals. Barney, 43, said she's working on a book right now about divorce.
"The bottom line is, you should really stick to what you know."
During season 6, we'll see Barney in altercations with ex-husband Simon, fellow "housewife" Gretchen Rossi and ex-housewife Jeana Keough. Her first son Ryan Vieth will also reveal a "shocking secret," according to Bravo.
Since most of the filming occurred last year, some of the disputes, particularly with Simon, have already been resolved.
"They show all the dramatic parts," she said. "There are certain subjects you wish you hadn't talked about. I'm sure I'll do things I'll regret. But I'm excited the show's on again."
She's no longer the new kid on the block. In fact, the blond-haired, blue-eyed Costa Mesa resident is entering her third season on "Housewives."
Rossi, 33, continues to build on her makeup line, Gretchen Christine Beaute. She is expanding her business with a handbag collection.
The former fiancée of Jeff Beitzel, who died in September 2008 of leukemia, is still seriously dating Slade Smiley, 42 – who appeared in seasons 1 and 2 as the former fiancé of ex-"housewife" Jo De La Rosa.
"Slade and I have been friends for eight years," she said in a 2009 interview. "He was the only person, besides my family, to call me every day after Jeff died. When somebody is there for you so much, a fondness is just automatically there."
In season 6, Rossi's girlfriends will pressure her to take the next step with Smiley. However, she doesn't know if she's ready for marriage again. (She was married to Christopher Rossi, but the two officially divorced in 2008.)
Gretchen has heard the gossip that Smiley is a deadbeat dad, a serial-housewife-dater and a freeloader. Thus, she must weigh that information into her decision about their future together.
Rossi has been the subject of some controversy for the past couple of years. A Huntington Beach man says he was her "secret boyfriend" while she was dating Beitzel. (She denies this.) The two have been battling each other in court with dueling lawsuits for more than a year.
Rossi's disagreements with Barney will continue in season 6. They don't exactly see eye to eye.
And while she was initially criticized for being a gold-digger, she can shed that accusation, because, as she says in the season premiere, "I'm dating Slade. He has no money!"