Ranked: The Real Housewives of Orange County

As we start puzzling out what psychoses are driving newbies Emily and Gina, let’s take a look back at the nineteen(!) past OC Housewives and determine who’s the best, who’s the worst, and whose surname we wouldn’t remember in a ten-minute Sporcle quiz.

19. Gretchen Rossi (4-8)

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The inane remarks. The contrived storylines. The insipid conflicts. The SLADE SMILEY of it all. And the squawking, my God, the squawking. Gretchen parachuted onto this program via a sympathetic dying fiancé storyline, clearly expecting to be the young and glamorous star; fortunately, Tamra and Vicki were waiting in ambush, but it took them five agonizing seasons to finally snipe her. Better late than never, I suppose.

18. Jeana Keough (1-5)

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Merrily enabled her sullen, malicious husband (even after their separation!), her aggressive bigot of an elder son, his mini-me younger brother, and their black-hole-of-smarm sister. Regularly blamed women for the behavior of their emotionally *and physically* abusive men. Were it not for Tamra sending an aesthetically perfect spray of cheap red right into her eyeballs, would really have no reason for existing.

17. Lydia McLaughlin (8, 12)

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After a pleasant enough first season, Lydia returned four years later bound and determined (and paid off by the producers) to reunite Vicki and Tamra. Her chosen method? Uh, endlessly berating and gaslighting Shannon. Girl, Heather AND Meghan AND Kelly called, they want their first season Shannon storylines back. Also obnoxiously rich and Christian. Hard pass.

16. Lauri Waring Peterson (1-4)

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A vapid homunculus who briefly conjured the illusion of depth with her financial issues, problem children, and stint as Vicki’s Coto Insurance galley slave. Then she found a rich insipid Republican to keep her and gave us increasingly insulting scenes of her blowing cash on useless crap, until finally her son’s drug-addled psychopathy drove her off the show. (Minus an S8 cameo lobbing half-baked threesome rumors at Vicki, ofc.)

15. Lizzie Rovsek (9)

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Poor Lizzie shone dimly next to the red-giant glow of her fellow newbie, Ms. Shannon Beador. Really she was the archetypal one-and-done: cipher husband, wan attempt at getting into fashion design, half-hearted feints toward a family v. career storyline…sure, whatever. Give her credit for trying to take on Vicki, and (fairly successfully!) taking on Tamra, but it didn’t add up to much beyond an oddly present Friend Of cameo in the cancer season.

14. Peggy Sulahian (12)

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#100thhousewife infuriated cast and audience alike with her vapid flaunting of wealth, bizarre maybe-cancer-maybe-not backstory, and (fakey fake) bafflement at the simplest of idioms (“DIDN’T YOU GO TO UCLA?!” – Kelly Dodd). She can’t help it, though; she’s from outer space. I mean that literally.

13. Kimberly Bryant (1)

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This is what a lot of non-viewers probably think all Housewives are like: blasé attitude toward money, lotsa plastic surgery, no discernible personality traits, etc. Sadly…well, for someone, presumably, Kimberly’s bizarre susceptibility to skin cancer forced her to migrate to the cold North and out of our televisual lives. Happily, she chucked a grenade on the way out by informing Jo that Slade had fucked Lauri.

12. Tammy Knickerbocker (2-3)

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Tammy contained flashes of a good Housewife; see her getting lit with Tamra at a decade’s worth of parties, or reacting to her ex-husband’s death by scoffing that her daughter was clearly exaggerating about having watched it happen. Unfortunately, this was the era where the producers were still trying to sell the Sexy Teens of Orange County, so mostly we got a bunch of Tammy tut-tutting at her useless bratty offspring as they whinged and got ugly tats and such. I’m good thanks.

11. Heather Dubrow (7-11)

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Primarily notorious for one of the most infamous single-season villain performances ever, in which she gaslights the shit out of the pure and angelic Shannon Beador. But putting that aside, and the fact that she cannot for the life of her carry a main storyline, and the dullness of her solo footage, and her obnoxious mugging husband…um, all that aside, she had her moments, now and then, I guess, chiefly as the Meltdown-to-English translator of anti-Vicki arguments.

10. Peggy Tanous (6)

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I could do without the palpable anxiety of her struggle with postpartum depression (juxtaposed with her owning a shitton of guns good Lord). But Peggy arriving as a supposed Alexis ally, only to constantly condescend to and finally turn on her (always wise to side with the Vicki/Tamra alliance, when there is one), did add a little zest to the season. And her having once dated Sexy Beast Jim Bellino is of course one of the all-time great Housewives reveals. But man, getting chased off the show by Alexis…that’s gotta smart.

9. Quinn Fry (3)

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Six episodes in search of a punchline. It’s likely that we Witches are the only humans on Earth who give a shit about or even remember Quinn, but there’s something to be said for casting a chaste, religious frump who’s so out of her depth that she has to wear a ratty blonde wig to play-act inviting her own lover back to her “pad.”

8. Meghan King Edmonds (10-12)

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MKE, PI is of course iconic for rooting through newspaper clippings, calling up imaging facilities, poring through medical dictionaries, etc., all in the interest of annihilating the dastardly Brooks Ayers. The rest of her footage isn’t nearly as good—yes, babies, we get it—but she’s a fairly charming voice of reason in a cast perpetually drowning in pandemonium and grime, and we’ll always have cancer.

7. Lynne Curtin (4-5)

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Sure, she possessed sub-Lifetime-movie-caliber life skills, eventually leading to her hungover teenage children having to accept service on an eviction notice on her behalf, but guess what? Lynne Curtin is trying you guys. She’s also such a daffy pothead/pillhead that she could defuse the most vitriolic Tamra/Vicki/Gretchen battles simply by being there. The Dudette Abides.

6. Alexis Bellino (5-8)

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Some love her for her hapless, tongue-tied conflicts with every single other cast member that she HAD TO GO ON XANAX FOR. Others prefer her string of failed successful and inspiring endeavors, from fashion to acting to trampolines to extolling the virtues of the booty on local television. Regardless, she was Jesus’ angelic ambassador to this vulgar program and made us all the more godly for her presence.

5. Jo De La Rosa (1-2)

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What would the first two seasons be without Jo? We shudder to think. Sure, she unleashed the blight of Slade Smiley upon the earth, but she more than made up for it by constantly emasculating him, spending his money on liquor flights at LA nightclubs, and eventually “forgetting” to tell him that she had moved into her own apartment.

4. Kelly Dodd (11- )

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For the viewer who finds Ramona Singer just a little too highbrow, I present Kelly Dodd, a walking boob joke whose conflict resolution skills involve lobbing gutter insults about subjects including, but not limited to, divorce, infidelity, spousal abuse, and chin hair. She’s understandably a polarizing figure, but this ranker finds her vulgar hysteria transfixing—particularly in the love-hate relationship between her and Shannon, two sides of the same neurosis-riddled coin.

3-1. Tamra Judge (3- )Vicki Gunvalson (1- )Shannon Beador (9- )

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I group these three at the top not as a copout (as of this moment in time I stand by the above order, with Shannon as the GOAT), but rather because on any given day I might prefer Shannon’s urgent anxiety, Vicki’s cartoon psychopathy, or Tamra’s soap opera mood swings. They’re the true Holy Trinity and backbone of this show, and thank God they’ve finally coalesced again into something resembling a friendship (though it’s clearly doomed in the long and possibly also the short term). You’re free to love whomever you choose of course, but your fave really ought to be one of these three if you want to sit with us at lunch.

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