From Andy Cohen to The Real Housewives and Beyond: A Beginner’s Guide to the World of Bravo | reality TV

One person’s trash TV is another person’s trash. And when it comes to the American TV network Bravo, I’m one of the millions who cherish it.

After more than 40 years in existence, the NBCUniversal-owned channel has become a thing, with a “Bravoverse” featuring mostly unscripted reality shows. Host and producer Andy Cohen is the most popular, and The Real Housewives is the most prolific format: a franchise that follows a mix of wealthy women in cities across the US and – as of last year – in Dubai.

In Australia, Bravo shows such as Housewives, Below Deck, and Vanderpump Rules were available across many networks and streaming devices, with the paid subscription service Hayu the most central place for modern programming.

But now there is a new destination. The Seven Network has launched the free air station 7Bravo in partnership with NBCUniversal, which offers a small selection of unscripted series from Bravo and beyond – a free entry point for those who want to catch up.

Here’s everything you need to know before you do.

What’s in 7Bravo?

Tune your TV to channel 75 and you can catch an episode of Bravo’s Million Dollar List, Under Deck, or Top Chef, as well as The Real Housewives of Dubai, Orange County, or New Jersey. With a spin-off that will pull from the broader NBC networks, 7Bravo will also air episodes of The Tonight Show and The Kelly Clarkson Show, and select shows from NBC’s true crime network Oxygen.

The channel itself plays random episodes, for the classic free-to-air experience. If you’re keen to indulge at your leisure, you can head to 7Plus’ library to find Bravo content that’s mostly premiered elsewhere in Australia (only NBC’s talk shows are making their first Australian run with Seven).

7Bravo won’t be premiering shows like The Real Housewives of New York, Atlanta, or Beverly Hills, but it does have “All Stars,” Season 1 of The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip — and there’s still more to release, including Real Housewives of Miami and The recently rebooted Real Girlfriends of Paris, which follows adorable twenty-something expats in France.

The channel sounds more like an “Andy Cohen Starter Pack” than something meant for true bravoholics, who would find it odd to tap TV to a 2016 episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. But if we’re known for anything, he always wants more, so a new free network can’t hurt.

Journey through the Bravoverse

Like many, my Bravo journey began with episode one, season one of the first Real Housewives: Orange County series, which came out in 2006. After recovering from a tonsillectomy in 2018, I spent a sleepless month on the couch, letting go of wealthy mid-women. Older women scream for me when I can’t speak.

Within a year I watched over a thousand episodes. Fully committed and up-to-date, I now watch all the Housewives — and spin-offs — on the same day they air in the States. Question my priorities, I don’t mind: It’s Andy Cohen’s world and I just live in it.

Andy Cohen with The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (season 11). Photo: Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Bravoholics treats watching these privileges like sports. We follow the seasons, pick sides, and often watch it together. We listen to podcasts like Bitch Sesh or the Sexy Unique Podcast, which explain episodes and provide commentary about scandals on and off screen. We read rumors about our favorite “Bravolebrities,” and follow fan pages, TikToks, and Instagram accounts dedicated to all things Bravo (my last pick was the RHONY musical parody account). We frantically message each other with breaking news several times a day. I’m even planning a pilgrimage to BravoCon 2023 along with a few other local stands (we need the dates please Andy!). Bravo isn’t just a lifestyle network: it’s a lifestyle.

Cohen is the leader of the Bravoverse. Executive producer on a number of series, he also hosts all of the shows of Bravo reunion, where the cast comes together and breaks up the season that just aired (AKA he keeps fighting, then he stars). Cohen is also the host of Watch What Happens Live, a late-night talk show primarily dedicated to dissecting the Bravo shows we all enjoy.

Untangle Bravo Network

The Bravoverse is as isolated as it sounds and, in a way, self-sustaining. It started with The Real Housewives of Orange County and then branched out to other cities before the Housewives began. Vanderpump Rules, which launched in 2013, follows the young staff at Sexy Unique Restaurant (SUR) in West Hollywood, owned by former Real Housewife Lisa Vanderpump — and the shows are still snarky to this day. In the trailer for season 10 of Vanderpump Rules, for example, current RHOBH cast member Garcelle Beauvais and her son have guest spots.

Lisa Vanderpump and her dog Sean Combs at BravoCon 2019.
Lisa Vanderpump and her dog Sean Combs at BravoCon 2019. Photo: Gregory Pace/REX/Shutterstock

Communication goes deeper. In Season 5 of Vanderpump Rules, cast members Stassi, Kristen, Scheana, and Katie go to visit their “friends” in Montauk, New York. The episode was a crossover preview of the new show Summer House, which then became a standalone series with its own cast of young professionals who take off for the weekend at a good summer house.

That led to Winter House, where the cast of Vanderpump, Summer House, and Southern Charm gather in Vermont for two weeks during the winter. Southern charm, you ask? This one follows the exploits of several Charleston, South Carolina socialites — and just last year it got its own Charleston spin-off, Southern Hospitality, which follows Southern Charm’s Levi Bonaparte staff at the clubs and bars she owns in the city.

Southern Hospitality will air on 7Bravo later this year along with other niche titles, including Family Karma (one of my favorites), which chronicles the intergenerational relationships between several American Indian families in Miami. Also available is Under Deck Season 6: a mix of Bravo’s best subgenres (Real Housewives meets Vanderpump, but on a yacht!), and it stars big soup Kate Chastain, one of the Bravolebrities greats IMO. Australian spin-off Under Deck Down Under will be available on 7Bravo soon.

Do we need 7 Bravo?

There are some tropes that keep Bravo fans coming back for more: wine glass throwing, petty arguments, and room fights on the cast’s outings. These shows are equal parts comedy, tragedy, and drama, with insight into lifestyles that are often over the top.

For me, there’s something particularly special about watching Women of A Certain Age, once scripted from the written game, now dominate unscripted TV. We see marriages and lives falling apart. Many (not all) rise from the ashes. We mainly watch soap operas here, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

are we need to another dedicated terminal? Maybe not. But for Bravoverse fans, who consider making changes to Housewives just as important as “landing on the moon,” we’ll take what we can get.

And for those who whet their appetites, there’s good news: There’s a lot more to it than that.

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