Albert Manzo, Gia Giudice
New Jersey: Season One
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Reviewed by Will Harris
et’s start this review with a caveat: this was my inaugural experience with the world of “The Real Housewives.” I’d never dared to venture into any of the previous series or cities, and really, why would I? I don’t tend to watch reality shows. I’m not a housewife. These two things alone led me to believe that they wouldn’t be up my alley. Having now watched the entire first season of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” I can confirm that, yes, I was right: this show isn’t up my alley. I found myself sucked into the proceedings anyway, though, so let the call of “Guilty pleasure, ahoy!” ring out and be done with it.
It seems that the cast of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” is slightly different from that of the previous “Housewives” series in that there’s a profound element of family. First, you’ve got Caroline and Dina, a pair of sisters who are married to a pair of brothers, Albert and Tommy Manzo. Then you’ve got Jacqueline, who’s married to Chris Laurita, a.k.a. the brother of Caroline and Dina. Next in the mix is Teresa, who’s known all three ladies for several years. And finally, there’s Danielle, who nobody knows and who doesn’t know anybody, something which immediately places her at a disadvantage – and under suspicion.
Given the title, it’s far from surprising to find a lot of goings-on which prove familiar both to women and to married, most notably Jacqueline’s battle to have a child. Granted, the fact that she already has children makes this somewhat less dramatic than it might have been if she had been trying to conceive for the first time, but it’s an emotional journey nonetheless. Somewhat less dramatic is Teresa’s concern that her husband might not accept her desire to increase the size of her “bubbies,” but it results in some laughs, at least. It may be a little hard for middle America to get excited about some parts of the show – oh, gee, Teresa’s moving from a house five times bigger than mine into a house that’s ten times bigger than mine! – but if you enjoy living vicariously through others, this show could be for you. Then again, if you’ve already got enough fighting in your family, you probably won’t want to suffer through watching these girls lay into each other.
It’s none too shocking to find that the most interesting member of the cast by far is the show’s outsider, Danielle. Part of that comes from the fact that she’s a hot-bodied cougar on the prowl, with a libido which finds her admitting to a fondness for phone sex and leads her to suggest to a date that perhaps they should pause their dinner, abscond to the bathroom, and have a brief, erm, rendezvous. “I’m bad,” she says, with mock chagrin. Yeah, but you don’t know the half of it: as it turns out, Danielle has a dark past which sets the rumor mill to flying, particularly when a book is revealed which details some of that past. Caroline thinks she’s trash, Dina isn’t much fonder of her, and the others take turns on their feelings about their new friend, with Teresa definitely determining what side of the fence she’s on by the season finale.
Yes, given its infamy, you’re probably already aware of the finale, given that it offers an event that even those who don’t regularly watch the show probably still heard about: the table flip. If you must watch one episode of the show, it’s this one. In the span of one hour, it offers everything you want a trashy reality series to be, including a desire to see what’s going to happen next season.
Mind you, you’ll probably find yourself burdened with a profound sense of guilt for having that desire, but it’ll be there nonetheless. The sooner you learn to accept it, the better you’ll feel about tuning in for Season Two when it premieres on May 3, 2010
Special Features: On the surface, you’d think that fans would be thrilled to see that the bonus material for the set includes four additional hour-long programs beyond the seven episodes of Season One, but they may change their tune if they try sitting through all of those programs at once. It starts with a director’s cut of the season finale, thereby providing new, heretofore-unseen footage mixed in with the existing material, follows that with the two-part reunion episode, “Watch What Happens,” which is half reunion and half recycling of old clips, then closes with a special called “The Lost Footage,” which is all the stuff that wasn’t good enough to make it into Episodes 1 – 7 or “Watch What Happens.” That sound you hear while you’re playing the “Are You A Real Jersey Girl?” quiz on Disc 3? It’s the barrel being scraped.