'Dirty John': How Bravo went from reality TV giant to exciting maverick in the original series game

After dominating the world of reality television, Bravo is testing the waters with original scripted shows

                            'Dirty John': How Bravo went from reality TV giant to exciting maverick in the original series game

There was a time when you thought of the television network Bravo and only reality television came to mind. Bravo's reality shows had unparalleled success when it came to unscripted shows - 'Top Chef', 'Vaderpump Rules', 'Project Runway', 'Married to Medicine' as well as the 'The Real Housewives' franchise - that have had multiple seasonal runs, each season often more successful than the last.

Things, however, are changing now with Bravo moving to a much more exciting field - the territory of original scripted shows. Bravo's rise had a lot to do with the shakeup at the beginning of this millennium - it went on to be acquired by NBC.

Bravo started off as a premium channel co-owned by Cablevision's Rainbow Media division and Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment in the year 1980. In just a year, the channel went on to garner 48,000 subscribers which then went on to become 350,000 in a matter of the next four years.

At the time, its focus was content that had an exotic element - foreign films, ballet, jazz shows, and independent films. In 2002, network giant NBC bought Bravo for $1.2 billion after owning a stake in the channel for many years.


After the takeover, Bravo's programming graph has been simple - it has gone from classical to pop culture content. It added a lot of celebrity-studded unscripted shows like 'Runway', 'Top Chef' and 'Being Bobby Brown' to its programming slate.

Bravo really changed the game of reality TV in the summer of 2003, with a show that made headlines - 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy'. The Fab Five garnered overnight success and went on to get 3.5 million viewers for the network. Coupled with shows like 'Married to Medicine' and 'Project Runway', Bravo was now a well-established reality TV giant. 

Then, it decided to step into the business of scripted shows. Bravo Media released its first-ever scripted series, "Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce", in the latter half of 2014, which earned impressive ratings signaling a green light for a second season. It was a comedy drama that starred Lisa Edelstein and Beau Garrett. The show debuted to 1.04 million viewers with a positive critical response.

Then, they released another comedy called 'Odd Mom Out' which was based on a novel called 'Momzillas' by Jill Kargman. The show starred Kargman as Jill Weber, a stay-at-home mother to three children and wife to her husband, Andy Buckley as Andy Weber, Jill's rich and blue-blooded husband and K. K. Glick as Vanessa Wrigley, an ER doctor and Jill's best friend who always tries to keep her in check and sane. 'Odd Mom Out' was also received well.


With this working out too, it appears Bravo decided to take the plunge. In February 2017, it released another original scripted show called 'Imposters', this time a dark-comedy. The show did considerably well, with overall positive reviews. Coincidentally (or not), it was also around the time Bravo debuted its fresh new look.

The speech bubble inspired logo we see today was debuted around the same time, with a new tagline and sleeker fonts. It was a symbol of the change the network had undergone, Amy Troiano, Bravo’s senior VP of creative, had said at the time in a statement.

It is now back with another scripted original to add to its growing roster called 'Dirty John'. Originally an investigative podcast hosted by journalist Christopher Goffard of the LA Times, the story follows a 59-year-old woman named Debra Newell, an independent and successful interior designer. She meets an extremely charming man named John Meehan and falls head over heels in love with him.

John is everything a girl can ask for - he's incredibly handsome, knows the right things to say and is kind and gentle. What's more - he's always there, never unavailable for his lady love. However, problems arise when everyone else senses something off about John but Debra, and what follows is a chilling discovery of deceit, love, and betrayal. Connie Britton stars as Debra Newell and Eric Bana plays the role of John Meehan. The show premieres November 25, this Sunday.  


The show already has a large fan following, thanks to its hit podcast. This appears to be the common thread in most of Bravo's scripted series - these stories have already been out there creating a fanbase. The network picks it up and puts it on the screen - which is an extremely smart move. Although, this would be their first time with an original scripted thriller.

Bravo's original show roster may be small but it is definitely becoming varied - something we can't really say for all the original scripts we are bombarded with today. Who knows what the future holds for 'Dirty John' but for Bravo; the original series world is its oyster.