The Real Housewives of New Jersey returned to the airwaves last night, thus marking the first time Bravo has inflicted on us two separate seasons of their now-trademark franchise at the same time. In theory, I love the idea of more Housewives, but in execution, I’m not totally thrilled. I think that’s in no small part because of all the Housewives, the NJ set has always seem the most dull. I know what you’re thinking — how can the ladies who brought us a table-flipping, curse-laden imbroglio ever be considered “dull?” Well, it’s easy to forget that leading up to that phenomenal final episode, most of the Garden State season was a bit slow. It coasted on a gentle current of pettiness, which occasionally bubbled over, but most of the time, we were stuck with Caroline Manzo doting over her children. Don’t get me wrong: I love Caroline (and Dina moreso), but I can certainly think of a few things more interesting than watching them wile away a summer in suburban bliss.
Some people praise the New Jersey group as the most authentic reality experience of the lot. They say that these women are less aspirational than their equivalents in other cities, and as such, they care more about family and friendship, not book deals and novelty singles. I suppose that’s true, but at the same time, just because they’re not careerist doesn’t mean they’re necessarily better. It’s hard to imagine much conflict between much of the cast because let’s face it, almost all of them are related. And so we’re back to square one this season: everyone hates Danielle, Danielle hates everyone, and eventually we’ll get to see some sort of epic blowout that will make me eat my words in four weeks’ time.Personally, however, I think this cast could benefit from some fresh faces. It seems bizarre to me that Bravo would add a staggering two more women to the New York City cast (which is totally unnecessary, even if Sonja has proven to be a lovely addition), and yet there’s nothing new on the horizon here in Franklin Lakes. Why not throw that crazy lady Kim into the mix. For those who weren’t paying attention, Kim was the big-boobed, stereotypical Jersey woman who spoke every word as if she were sipping from a straw. She also purported to be a good friend of Danielle’s — so much so that Danielle claimed she was the only shoulder she had over the past year. Well, here’s a shocker: Danielle’s a poor judge of character. Not long after we saw Kim proclaiming Sicilian solidarity with Danielle, she soon was off at the Manzos’ going off on how in actuality, she’s hardly friends with Danielle at all. Say what you will about Danielle, but this woman was a true piece of work too. And so was her boyfriend, who seemed to be no slouch in the sleaze department. It all left me wondering “Why is this Kim lady not a part of the cast?” First of all, she’ll start drama, but second of all — and most importantly — she typifies all the bad impressions people get about Jersey (and I know, I know, it’s not fair to do that, but that’s why we’re tuning in, right?).
The problem, however, is that this show was clearly filmed in the summer, long before Jersey Shore became the sensation that it is. What Bravo didn’t realize at the time was that people don’t want to see a real life version of The Sopranos. People want to see… well… trash! Heck, look at all the other Housewives — trash central! (Even if some of the New York women like to think otherwise) Hey, I’m not saying the women of Franklin Lakes are gonna make the late Emily Post proud, but I think Bravo could have done a bit better when it came to rounding out the Jersey-ness of the cast.
Thankfully we have Danielle — the bonafide nutcase of the group. She spent the entire hour reminding us about how much she simply didn’t care about the other ladies, and yet there she was first praying for them, then bad mouthing them, and then literally in her SUV, prepared to crash Caroline’s police fundraiser (a curious event in and of itself), all in an effort to show that she just DIDN’T CARE. Seemed a bit counterintuitive. Still, I loved the way she insinuated that Caroline’s support of the local Sheriff perhaps had an ulterior motive. And let’s face it: she’s right. Clearly Caroline wants one of those novelty badges. Right? What else could it be?
Elsewhere in town, we got to spend time with arguably the tackiest of all the housewives in all the cities, Teresa, who was now pregnant and just about ready to burst placenta all over her new and generally soulless mansion (or is it a chateau? I believe she wanted a French motif; although, the only evidence of that seems to be an Eiffel Tower cut-out on little Gia’s wall). Anyway, when Teresa wasn’t socializing her daughters to get married and blow out their hair and love the color pink, she was making tomato sauce with the family. She and Joe and their respective parents all gathered for an annual tradition of making 180 jars of red sauce that would hold them over for the year. I actually really enjoyed the idea behind this — generations passing on traditions to generations and all that crap — but I couldn’t help feeling like this was a remarkably over-the-top way to make tomato sauce. I mean, they had restaurant equipment going to get this stuff made — seemed excessive. Then again, if tomatoes are in season, why not? Nevertheless, we learned a charming tradition, which is that women on their period can’t get near the red sauce because, well, they got their own red sauce to tend to (was that too much? Sorry). Luckily, Teresa is far from being menstrual, what with that bambino up in her womb. We still don’t know what the sex of the baby will be, but I think it’s safe to say that one day, it too will raid the snack closet just his or her older sisters.
In Manzo land, things were more or less low key. Shocker. Dina really did nothing this episode except cozy up to her cats, Grandma Wrinkles and Ladybug — the latter of whom was given an exceptionally ridiculous grooming to look like a lion. Normally I’d find these kooky felines to be a touch on the ugly, repugnant side, but seeing Dina’s love for them is a bit infectious, and it’s hard not to chuckle as she dotes on the like the second and third coming of Lexi. Speaking of which, where was Lexi? The Dina-Lexi dynamic continues to be one of the most amusing parent-child relationships in the franchise, certainly better than watching Jacqueline and her daughter — whatsherface. I don’t even remember her name because she’s so boring.
There’s also a lot of charm when it comes Caroline and her kids. Watching them all interact together is heartwarming; although, I don’t know if I’d base a whole show on it (as Bravo seems to have done). The good news for Caroline is that her husband had lost seventy pounds, and now she was ready to jump his bones in the back of the Brownstone. That’s one passionate experience I’d prefer not to witness.
But alas, I seem to have given myself an image I can’t shake. Maybe I should just move on to the photocap:
“I’m not pregnant. I just ate a lot of red sauce.”
“Father, I don’t think you realize how much I don’t care about these ladies. I’ll put my money where my mouth is. And by ‘my money’ I mean your dick. No? Not into that? Okay. Seems a bit rude.”
“I hope that someday my child will grow up to be just as bland as I am!”
“The old Danielle would care about those women who tried to tear me down with rumors and lies. But the new Danielle doesn’t care. Now excuse me while I go burn down their houses.”
“Mommie, why do we have to make so much red sauce?”
“Because you’re a girl, and that’s what girls do when they marry boys, WHICH YOU’LL DO.”
“Huh. The Manzos are having a fundraiser, and they didn’t invite me. That’s good because I don’t want to have anything to do with them anyway. I guess that’s one check for a thousand dollars the Sheriff’s Department won’t be getting from me! I mean, it would have bounced, but that’s neither here nor there.”
“Oh sweety, do you want to meet my new pet? It’s a ladybug that I named KITTY. Sorry, I’m all about the mind games.”
“What a cute dog! Yes you are! Yes you are! SO ARE YOU GUYS DOING IT OR WHAT?”
“WAAAAH!!! I want to be Bethenny’s baby! WAAAH!!!”
Caroline: “Welcome to our fundraiser. I’m glad that you — two law-abiding citizens who happen to pay for things only in cash — came to this event for the purely philanthropical desire to support our hard working sheriff!”
“Don’t you like all the French stuff in Gia’s bedroom? I love it! So who wants to live out mommy’s unfulfilled dreams next?”
What did you think about the premiere? Thoughts on the show so far?