Knocking on Washington's Door: 'Real Housewives'

By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, May 27, 2009

This is our now, Washington.

Bravo network's "The Real Housewives of Fill-in-the-Blank" franchise is coming to our nation's capital.

Bravo, owned by NBC Universal, has announced that it is developing a "Real Housewives" reality series set "in the influential metropolitan region of Washington, D.C."

Expect the series to hit Bravo's lineup in about a year, Andy Cohen, the network's senior vice president of original programming and development, told the TV Column.

The new series will "tap personalities who are among Washington, D.C.'s influential players, cultural connoisseurs, fashion sophisticates and philanthropic leaders -- the people who rub elbows with the most prominent people in the country," the network announced.

About 25 housewives are already on tape, and the producers will now "lock down on" the lucky handful who will make it to air.

These women must be very "brand-specific," Cohen said -- meaning "wealthy, independent, strong, outspoken."

The secret of the "Real Housewives" franchise, Cohen said, is that each show portrays "the same type of women," but the four existing shows nonetheless manage to make the women "almost look like they live on four different planets."

Here are the planets the show has already visited:

Orange County: "A lot of big blond hair and big boobs," Cohen observed.

New York: "Less blond hair, and the boobs are more to scale."

Atlanta: "You're dealing with an entirely different operation."

New Jersey: "They say 'bubby' -- it's a whole other language there."

The Planet Washington wives are apt to be "politically connected," and some will also be: horsy.

Washington "has a huge horse culture, and everyone is really politically minded," Cohen explained. "One of the reasons people are so obsessed with ["The Real Housewives of New York City"] is it's a modern-day look at manners, and etiquette, and offending people, and confrontation in a very rich world."

The Washington story line will be about women who "are political with each other," he continued; we were fascinated.

"If you have a woman whose husband is a powerful Republican ax and another whose husband is a very active Democrat, the subtext of their relationship is frothy."

"We've -- and I say this with a straight face -- not had much political discourse on the 'Real Housewives' franchise," Cohen said, marking the first time "Real Housewives" and "political discourse" had ever been used in the same sentence.

Susanna Quinn made a casting tape -- but only after repeated assurances that the show in development was not "Real Housewives," she told The Post's Amy Argetsinger. The wife of prominent D.C. lobbyist and former White House counsel Jack Quinn said she'd take a pass if asked to join the cast: " 'Real Housewives' end up ex-wives," she said.

Though Washington had been rumored to be on the "Real Housewives" Hot List for ages, it only recently became a reality, in part because you can't throw a brick at a newsstand without hitting at least two publications with President Obama or first lady Michelle Obama on the cover.

"There's a young, hot couple in the White House, and along with that comes a lot of interest in the place they're living and the restaurants they're eating in," Cohen said.

"Washington didn't need the Obamas to be one of the most important places in the world, but . . . they're ratcheting up its image as a place Us magazine is looking at -- for better or for worse."

In fact, Michelle Obama "is the kind of bull's-eye new Real Housewife of America," he said.

"But I don't want to say we're planting our flag in D.C. because of Michelle," Cohen added quickly.

"We always thought D.C. was an interesting town and wanted to develop there. With the influx of new blood, it becomes sort of hotter and more interesting."

* * *

Infidelity is like catnip to young chicks.

That would explain why the season debut of TLC's "Jon & Kate Plus 8" copped nearly 10 million viewers, the most in TLC's nearly 29-year history -- about one-third of whom were women between 18 and 34. On a holiday Monday, no less. That's another record for the Discovery Communications cable channel.

For comparison's sake, the young-chick rating -- a 9.1 -- is bigger than the 8.4 clocked by the final performance night of "American Idol" and only slightly smaller than the 9.8 rating among 18-to-34-year-old chicks logged by the "American Idol" finale last Wednesday night.

In fact, among young chick viewers, "Jon & Kate Plus 8's" season debut tied ABC's enormously successful "After the Final Rose" broadcast last March. That was the post-"Bachelor"-finale special, in which bachelor Jason Mesnick dumped his brand-spanking-new fiancee, Melissa Rycroft, on national TV, so he could fly back into the open arms of The Other Woman -- Molly Malaney.

In case you've been hiding under a flat rock recently, Jon and Kate Gosselin, proud parents of sextuplets and twins, have been keeping tabloid editors up nights with waves of stories about each spouse's alleged infidelity. Jon is supposed to be having an affair with a 23-year-old teacher, Kate with her bodyguard.

TLC originally planned a season debut about the sextuplets' birthday party. But after the stories about Jon and the teacher broke, new footage was added in which the producers interviewed Jon and Kate -- first separately and then together -- about their relationship and the tab reports.

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