I am an Austin native, and as such, I proudly exercise my right to complain about this city nonstop. It can be hard for those of us who grew up here to be okay with how much this place has changed. When focusing on traffic and rent prices, it’s easy to spiral into despair. When this happens, I force myself to list the (handful of) ways that insane population growth has actually improved the city: there are a lot more direct flights in and out of Austin-Bergstrom. There is, without question, more diversity to our local cuisine. The larger we become as a metropolis, the better chance we have to get a Muji store, like Portland has.
Those are the only pros I could come up with until this morning, when it dawned on me that Austin is now the Texas city best suited to host a branch of The Real Housewives.
Bravo has made one attempt at a Texas takeover with the The Real Housewives of Dallas, which ran from 2016 to 2021. The series was a notorious flop that was canceled after five seasons. Dallas—and Highland Park in particular, where most of the cast lived—seemed like a good idea at first. It aligned with the spirit that birthed the franchise: the chosen ladies were rich, and they flaunted it. If viewers were tuning in just to see women spend money egregiously, RHOD would have lasted. But modern Housewives fans require something more. A truly good Housewives installment must carry with it a sense of hypocrisy. The women must forever be pretending to be righteous, while over and over proving themselves to be the exact opposite. They must constantly be deriding their castmates for being bad friends, liars, drama queens, and alcoholics, then turn around and fight off the very same (totally warranted) accusations themselves. The moral high ground is on a seesaw, and it’s treated with as much respect as a playground toy.
The more potential virtue you have floating in the ether, the better the show can be. Just look at The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, where Mormonism is a constant subtext, even amongst cast members who are not themselves Mormon. In the recent overhaul of The Real Housewives of New York, brand new housewives fight over who is the least problematic and most relatable amongst them, when we all know that if they were any of those things, they would have no reason to be on the show.
There is no city in Texas more hypocritical than Austin. Long advertising itself as cool and left wing, the city is also incredibly segregated, its liberalism akin to that of the parents in Get Out. And now we have a wave of recent transplants who have brought with them ungodly amounts of money, and an insistence that they chose to live here—and not in L.A. or New York—because they are chill and laid-back. We are awash with C-, D-, and Z-list celebrities, and we have nine billionaires within our city limits.
The casting possibilities are endless. Each franchise has between six and eight stars. As I see it, you would need one main cast member with ties to the “old” Austin, maybe someone who grew up elsewhere in the state and moved here as a young adult sometime in the nineties, early aughts at the latest. You need someone with name recognition, but in an industry that’s not front-facing, so viewers wouldn’t necessarily know what she looks like. (Obviously, this would be perfect for Kendra Scott.) You need one to two people who moved here from Hollywood—Haylie Duff, Becca Tobin, Christy Carlson Romano, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, James Van Der Beek’s wife Kim, take your pick!—and someone from the Bay Area with big-time tech money. The wife of a UT coach would be a great addition, and it wouldn’t even have to be one of the main ones; an assistant coach’s wife would do just fine. Lauren Zima, the 35-year-old Entertainment Tonight correspondent, newly married to Bachelor host Chris Harrison, would also be great, especially if her husband is willing to make an appearance or two. Someone should probably come from oil money.
Several of them should live in Westlake or Tarrytown, and if the latter then they should live on an estate that required them to buy multiple lots and knock down the existing houses. A couple of the Austin housewives could technically live outside city limits, in Bee Cave or Lakeway. At least one of them must live on the East Side, in a wildly expensive new build or a historic mansion that is unrecognizable on the inside. It would be hilarious if someone lived in a penthouse condo downtown, preferably the Jenga tower.
The narrative possibilities are endless. The wives would go line-dancing at the Broken Spoke early in the first season. The series should start filming in the fall, I think, so they can go to the VIP tent at Austin City Limits festival, and hit up a bunch of events during Formula 1. At some point they will take a trip to the “real” Texas and get into a knock-down, drag-out fight somewhere near Marfa.
The wives will stress time and time again that they moved to Austin specifically to get away from the drama. They will praise the laid-back way of life, but it won’t take them long to reveal how high maintenance they are.
In my lifetime, many parts of Austin have grown indistinguishable from other “up-and-coming” metropolises. Our condos and fast-casual health food chains make us little more than the southernmost iteration of Nashville and Portland. We must accept this, and let Austin also be indistinguishable from the likes of Atlanta, Beverly Hills, Miami, New York, and Salt Lake City as seen through Bravo’s lens. It may pain native Austinites to admit this, but if this place can never go back to being a sleepy, artistic college town, we might as well watch a handful of our newest citizens throw drinks in each other’s faces at a western masquerade fundraising ball at an event space in the most-gentrified part of the city.