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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What We Wouldn't Normally Watch: Real Housewives of New Jersey

It's that time of year when the tank tops come out, the deck gets refinished and regular season television shows take a break. But does that also mean we're allowed to take a hiatus from our discerning standards? In this new segment -- "What We Wouldn't Normally Watch" -- Channel Surfing bloggers explore the shows they would never watch during the regular season, but don't mind delving into when the weather is warm.

Channel Surfing blogger Malavika Jagannathan explains her unnatural fascination with Bravo TV's "The Real Housewives of New Jersey."

Malavika: "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" has all the makings of a trashy soap opera with a dash of "The Sopranos" thrown in for good measure. Because what's a show set in New Jersey without an overt comparison to the state's most famous exports? But, seriously, it's hard not to be obsessed with the silly, scandalous and self-indulgent housewives of this show with their gaudy mansions and their obsession with plastic surgery (fake "bubbies" as I've started calling them). They're so gauche, it hurts.

If you've never watched an episode of the "Housewives" shows -- so far, the show has crisscrossed the country from Orange County to New York with a bizarre pit stop in Atlanta -- you're not missing anything. But this particular version is tantalizing summer fare. For one, it's New Jersey and these gals live the stereotype to the max. The hair, the accents, the Italian heritage, the possible mobster connections, it's all there! If you think I'm kidding about the mobster connections, I'm not. The father-in-law of two of the housewives -- Dina and Caroline Manzo -- had ties to the Gambino familiy before being found executed mob-style in the trunk of a car, according to the New York Daily News.

Aside from Dina and Caroline, the show focuses on their sister-in-law Jacqueline Laurita, friend Teresa Giudice and frenemy Danielle Staub. The tumultuous back-stabbing relationship between Dina and Danielle drives much of the drama with sweet Jacqueline often in the middle (she's friends with Danielle, but also has family obligations). Teresa spends much of the show waiting to move into her new McMansion of marble and onyx or trying to get her 7-year-old daughter a modeling contract. Danielle is clearly the villain of the bunch. For one, her Botoxed face rarely betrays emotion -- and when it does, it's a frightening cross between Jacko and Joan Rivers -- and she has a sordid history of prostitution and drug arrests that surfaces on the show. She's a serial dater with poor taste in men and calls her two young daughters her best friends. It's two parts pathetic to one part scary -- ie. your basic drama cocktail.

This is vapid reality fare at best, but it's definitely a step above, say. "I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here." Capping off a rather short 6-episode season, Bravo TV will air the season finale tonight, but expect to see these Garden State gals on reruns. On Saturday, Bravo TV will air all the episodes in a row starting at 3 p.m., so set your DVRs or spend some quality time on the couch!

The Real Housewives of New Jersey" airs tonight at 9 p.m. on Bravo TV. Want a quick preview of the show? Check out this clip (don't have the volume too high -- the shrieks will kill your hearing otherwise):

--Malavika Jagannathan,

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