TV: Getting real

Reality TV revisits with Bravo's look at five Orange County 'Housewives.'

The Orange County Register

Get ready, America. Another reality show based in Orange County is coming soon to a TV near you.

"The Real Housewives of Orange County" will premiere on Bravo at 10 p.m. March 21. It's a seven-episode series that was shot last year in Coto de Caza, one of Southern California's most expensive gated communities, where homes regularly sell for $2 million to $4million.

The timing couldn't be better, as the show is building off the popularity of MTV's "Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County," Fox's "The O.C." and ABC's "Desperate Housewives."

"It's kind of like 'Laguna Beach' for an older generation, except we actually complete our sentences here," joked creator and executive producer Scott Dunlop.

"The Real Housewives" follows the lives of five attractive, successful women as they maneuver through graduations, Botox, parties, kids, weekend getaways and, oh, their husbands.

Coto resident Dunlop came up with the idea years ago. "I've lived in the community for 18 years. The original vision of the show was a short film. We wanted to do a short, tongue-in-cheek satire on life in affluent suburbia."

Then the whole reality-TV juggernaut took off, and it became "a logical subject to put in that medium," he said.

Dunlop placed an ad in local papers and interviewed about 60 people. He narrowed the field to five women: Jeana Keough, Vicki Gunvalson, Kimberly Bryant, Lauri Waring and Jo De La Rosa.

Cameramen for "Real Housewives" spent five months in their multimillion-dollar homes, capturing every detail, from meals to fights to waking up to making out.

"It's a tough thing to do, but they trusted me. We trusted each other," Dunlop said of the filming process. "Over time, they forget that the camera is there. The camera is just a fly on the wall."

The women featured in the series agreed that it was challenging at first, but after a while, the men holding the cameras nearly disappeared from their awareness.

"The cameramen were great - they were delightful people," Bryant said. "You kind of don't realize they're there."

But some residents in Coto de Caza were certainly aware that the camera crews and trucks were present, and they voiced their concerns to Dunlop during community-wide meetings. A handful of folks were anxious that "Real Housewives" would make Coto de Caza look bad to the outside world.

"People thought we were going to do a scorched-earth documentary on Coto," Dunlop said. "People were concerned that we were going to try to uncover skeletons in closets. That was not the intent at all." Other misgivings were about invasions of privacy, possible lascivious activity and using private residences for commercial purposes.

There were even rumors flying around that the crew was "shooting a porno."

"At the beginning, people were reading things into it that didn't actually materialize," said Ronald Eger, a neighbor of the Gunvalsons and a county representative for the area. "They were thinking trucks were coming into Coto, disrupting the quietness. But it was all very professional. They did everything right."

In reality, all seven episodes are pretty tame, with a handful of suggestive or risque moments. Mostly, it's just people being people. Rich people, that is.

"We don't talk about anybody else," Gunvalson said. "We're just as self-absorbed as the rest of Orange County."

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LOOKING IN: The five women featured in “The Real Housewives of Orange County” are, from left, Kimberly Bryant, Lauri Waring, Jeana Keough, Vicki Gunvalson and Jo De La Rosa.