In honor of The Real Housewives of New York City coming to a close tonight, I decided to do some list-making. That’s right: I’ve ranked the ten best Housewives of all time (to be followed shortly by the ten worst). Deciding how to order this list was a bit tricky. Do I rank the women who seem like the best people? Do I rank the women who are most entertaining? Do I rank the women who I like watching the most? Or do I rank the women who I’d most want to have a conversation with?
I ultimately couldn’t decide. I just went with my gut. The results are probably a mixture of all the preceding questions, and quite honestly, now that I’ve hemmed and hawed, I’m still not sure I’m satisfied with the order. But oh well. These lists are always in flux, and a year from now, the results might be totally different. For now though, check out who I’ve chosen…
10. Gretchen Rossi, Orange County
Here’s the thing with Gretchen. Some Housewives claim to be “the hot one” (ie. Taaaam-RAAAAAAA), but Gretchen really is the hot one, and she doesn’t go announcing it everywhere. Even better is that she’s smarter than she looks, and her May-December romance with the late Jeff seemed genuine. Gretchen frequently has to stand up for herself in the face of united bitchery, and almost every time, she comes out on top. She does lose major cool points for her association with Slade, which singlehandedly almost bumped her off this list (fellow cast member Lauri Waring would have taken her place). Still, there’s something eminently likable about the girl, even if her career aspirations (ahem, Gretchen Christine BeautÃ©) feel a bit slapdash.
9. Caroline Manzo, New Jersey
This no nonsense mom earned a spot in my heart after she uttered those famous words during her first season: “Let me tell you a something about my family: we’re as thick as thieves, and we protect each other until the end.” That pretty much sums her up. Mostly Caroline can be seen laughing or doting on her children, but every so often, her Mama Bear claws come out, and damn, you don’t want to mess with her. She seems to have a good head on her shoulders, something she’s clearly passed down to her three amiable kids. Her only detraction: perhaps being a bit too obsessed with hating on Danielle. Time to get over it, Caroline. Maybe throw some ham around the kitchen instead.
8. Jeana Keough, Orange County
Our favorite sad sack, Jeana, comes in at number eight on this list. Let’s get some things out of the way: Jeana is often depressing, she’s passive-aggressive, she takes unrelenting abuse from her kids, she’s frequently a contrarian, and she seems like someone I would never want to work with. Somehow though, all those traits translate into someone who’s bizarrely lovable. I think it’s because we understand how she got that way, and quite frankly, it’s a rare thing to feel empathy for any of these women; so when it happens, you know there’s something special there. More importantly, Jeana often provides a touch of perspective, especially when the catty girls go at it.
7. Dina Manzo, New Jersey
Dina rarely has anything to do on The Real Housewives of New Jersey. She sort of walks around, showing up here and there to say hi to other women. At home, she has even less going on. Now that her daughter is off the show, she’s just stuck talking to her strange cats. However, don’t let her generally boring story lines give you the wrong impression. Dina is great. She effortlessly makes hilarious quips left and right, and when she’s not cracking a joke, she’s usually crying at something mundane. And then she’s joking about crying. On top of that, she has these crazy neuroses (a favorite being a fear of her daughter catching some deadly disease on a water slide in Cyprus) that just make her more eminently entertaining. I just wish there was more for her to do.
6. Ramona Singer, New York City
Ramona is certifiably insane. She says mean, awful things. She acts in ridiculous ways. She makes scenes. She often causes me to throw my hands over my face. And many times I don’t know how she functions in her day to day life. Yet, yet there is something just amazing about her. When she enters a scene (usually preceded by her spinning around unsteadily, either in a doorway, on a sidewalk, or on her little title screen), I can’t act like I don’t just light up with anticipation. What will she say? How will she act? The truth is that while Ramona has caused her fair share of utterly insane dramas (ie. the dinner party in season one), there really is something so sweet and endearing about her. I love the way she interacts with her family (particularly her daughter), and you gotta admit, underneath all her nuttiness is actually a fairly smart woman. Bonkers, but smart. I just don’t know where we’d be without her.
5. Nene Leakes, Atlanta
BAM! It’s the fifth best housewife! This title of course goes to Nene, who is almost always hilarious, outspoken, and just [insert three air-snaps] fabulous! Everything about Nene is awesome. Well, almost everything. In the second season of Atlanta, she revealed herself to be something of a diva. All she seemed to do was complain and talk smack about her friends, and by the final episode, it was damn near impossible to listen to her voice. If Nene’s attitude had stayed true to the way it was her first season, she might have been as high as second on this list. But alas, bad behavior has its consequences.
4. Bethenny Frankel, New York City
I must admit I have some concerns about placing Bethenny so high on the list. A year ago — sure, no problem. She could have even been #1. Now though… it’s tough. On the one hand, Bethenny is the acerbic, barb-throwing, Greek chorus of The Housewives. Her impersonations and observations can be hilarious. For two seasons, in fact, she was by far the best of the best. Season three, however, saw her charm dwindle a touch. Her jokes felt a bit forced and rehearsed at times; almost as if she were self-consciously aware of her role as The Funny One. Plus, her hawking of the Skinny Girl brand got to be a bit much, and all the canoodling with her new man, Jason, was generally boring. Nevertheless, even though Bethenny was a bit off the walls at the start, she still brought the funny, and by the end of the season, she mellowed out enough to be likable again.
3. Alex McCord, New York City
Remember the first season of RHONYC? Back then, Alex was portrayed as a pretentious, haughty, wannabe socialite who really had no idea what the hell she was doing. As a result, she came off kind of awfully at the time, but over the course of the second season, we began to realize that she’s actually a very lovely and sweet person. By the third go-around, while all the other women were getting nastier and nastier, she somehow became The Nice One — perhaps even The Wallflower. Her ability to stay above the petty arguments and feuds was admirable… until she plunged right into the heart of it like a kamikaze pilot. Alex’s decision to “deliver the message” was not her finest moment, but we understood how she felt driven to that place, and truthfully, her ensuing confrontation with Jill Zarin was somewhat amazing. Go Alex!
2. ShereÃ© Whitfield, Atlanta
This is kind of a shocker, even for me. ShereÃ© Whitfield as the second BEST housewife of all time? Let me explain. On season one of Atlanta, ShereÃ© was horrific. Everything about her was terrible: from her materialistic attitude to her diva tantrums to her love of Kim to her ridiculous foray into fashion. Then something changed. I don’t know when or where it happened, but I imagine it was sometime around when she fought with that party planner in season two. The way she went at it with him was kind of… amazing. And then, and THEN, after all that insanity, we cut to her calmly asking America “Whatever happened to… customer service?” It was just brilliant. From that moment on, I think I got Sherayay (much in the same way that I used to despise Kelly Cutrone until I realized she was the best thing on planet Earth). Sherayay is ridiculous. She is awful. She is a crazy woman, but I absolutely love every second of it. She is a force unto herself, and as such, I am proud to rank her at #2 on this list.
1. Sonja Morgan, New York City
Sonja may be the newest housewife, but she’s already proven herself to be a fan favorite. She not only stays above the fray, she does so with a drunken indifference. All she cares about is downing some booze (note her DUI), talking about sex, and maybe feeling up another girl’s boobs if the opportunity were to present itself. No matter what Sonja does, she somehow pulls it off with panache (did you even see her mugshot?). The best are those moments when she simply dismisses a petty drama by brushing the hair out of her face nonchalantly and saying something belittling like “Girls will be girls” or “We do love our drama…” Sonja is truly great in so many ways. I hope we get to see more of her in seasons to come.
What do you think? Also, check out The Ten WORST Real Housewives here.