Calling all Housewives!
After years of Bravo fans begging the network for an all-star season of the durable “Real Housewives” franchise, the much-anticipated “Real Housewives: Ultimate Girls Trip” is finally here, though not on Bravo: The first three episodes are now streaming on Peacock –only the first is free – with a new one due weekly on Thursdays.
The reality series gathers veteran housewives from different cities for a weeklong getaway in Turks and Caicos. The cast features Kenya Moore and Cynthia Bailey from “Real Housewives of Atlanta”; sisters-in-law Teresa Giudice and Melissa Gorga of “Real Housewives of New Jersey”; “Real Housewives of New York” OGs Luann de Lesseps and Ramona Singer; and Kyle Richards, the sole representative of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”
“When you pull (the women) out of their franchises, it’s just a completely different dynamic automatically,” says Kyle, an original Beverly Hills cast member now in her 11th season. “There is drama there, of course there is, and it started a lot sooner than I expected.”
The joint trip doesn’t skimp on tension. The first episode (aptly titled “When Wives Collide”) commences with a faceoff between Ramona and Kenya; discomfort between sisters-in-law Teresa and Melissa; and hurt feelings after Ramona calls Teresa a “scarecrow” without much of a brain, with promises of more clashes to come.
Melissa says the Ramona-Kenya argument “just seems so strange. I can’t even see the two of them even saying hello to each other. To watch them argue was definitely shocking.”
A clash between Kyle and Cynthia will likely surprise fans – it surprised the women, too.
“Cynthia (and) I had a little bit of an issue,” Kyle says. “I wasn’t expecting that.”
Cynthia says Kyle, “in the best possible way,” was the least of her concerns going into the show because she’s “just pretty easygoing. We bumped heads early on in the trip. Once we did, I have to give her credit because she apologized pretty much right away. … I wish looking back that I was just able to just kind of accept her apology sooner than I did,” Cynthia says.
Kyle jokes she “didn’t know if it was a setup or a compliment that they thought I could handle my own” as the sole cast member from her city.
Cynthia had another unanticipated issue with Kenya that she says “changed the dynamic of our friendship.”
“That hurt me, because Kenya is someone who I am friends with and who I’m always going to have love for,” says Cynthia. “That is something that I didn’t expect, that I didn’t want and that I’m still dealing with.”
Melissa also acknowledges the tension with Teresa going into the trip, especially “the struggle of me getting on this show with my sister-in-law. I feel like she’s never fully accepted the fact that I’m on the show, too. And it’s always a challenging subject for us.”
Luann says she “had some conflicts, but all in all I feel like I walked away unscathed.”
The new show, which wrappedfilming in May, comes amid intense storylines and major exits on the franchise’s other editions.
The recent “Beverly Hills” season centered on Erika Jayne (real name Erika Girardi) and the ongoing legal questions about her ex, lawyer Tom Girardi, who is accused of stealing millions of dollars from his clients, including a burn victim and orphaned children of plane crash victims. The latest New York season featured its first Black housewife, Eboni K. Williams, who helped facilitate conversations about race with the white cast. Atlanta saw the departure of Cynthia and Porsha Williams (Porsha landed her own spinoff, “Porsha’s Family Matters”).
Leaving the Atlanta cast is a full circle moment for Cynthia, who began her 11-season tenure on the show with a tumultuous wedding to ex-husband Peter Thomas and ended it with a wedding to TV personality Mike Hill.
“I really want to focus not just on my marriage and my family, but I want to focus on some other television opportunities as well,” Cynthia says, noting there’s nothing but support between her and Bravo.
As their personal crises draw more scrutiny and social media plays a larger role for the women, the invisible “fourth wall” of TV has slowly been chipped away. “Ultimate Girls Trip” tears down that wall completely, as the women talk openly about filming and their experiences with each of their casts.
Normally, “we never discuss actually being on a reality show,” Melissa says. “We never discuss how it feels when the cameras are in our house. And we did all of that; we explained the behind-the-scenes, which the fans never got to experience before.”
Luann has shared her journey with sobriety on “RHONY” (she’s even coming out with her own non-alcoholic wine): “It was actually easier to do (“Girls Trip”) and not drink than it is (on) my own franchise,” she says.
Unlike the local“Housewives” franchises, which film scenes on an intermittent schedule, the “Ultimate Girls Trip” house was rigged with cameras that caught the women’s every move 24/7, like “Big Brother” or “Jersey Shore.”
“People have the illusion that the crew and cameras are in my house every day all day long. That’s not the case, that’s not how we do Beverly Hills. But for the ‘Ultimate Girls Trip,’ wow, it was actually shocking at first. I would be asleep, and a light above my bed would go on at 7 a.m. And that would be the sign, like ‘time to get rolling,’ ” Kyle says.