If a show like Disney’s JONAS is review-proof, then Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New Jersey may be endorsement-proof: if you don’t like this Bravo franchise, than I probably can’t persuade you to try this installment. But while I don’t much care if I never see another installment of Orange County, Atlanta or even New York City, I ended up strangely hooked on the New Jersey installment.
Having married a woman from New Jersey—central Jersey, which is green and quiet and totally unlike the state’s Sopranos-cliché image—I’m generally sensitive to easy New Jersey stereotyping. And yet it’s kind of amazing how lustily the five women on this latest reality show about the suburban rich embrace their stereotypes. Not just the big hair, but the taste for garish lawn waterfalls and the language; i.e., one character says of another, “Her heart is as big as her bubbies.”
Maybe part of the reason that the first episode grabbed me so, and made me want to see more, is that here—as on The Sopranos—family is involved. No, not that kind of family. RHONJ is largely cast with sisters and in-laws, which means that there is more impetus for loyalty, conflict and hurt feelings than simply the fact that the players are on a reality show and have a job to do.
As opposed to the cast of the other RH series, who seem hyper-aware of the cameras at all times, there is something unaffected about RHONJ’s cast—the way they talk, gently (and not so gently) prod each other, and frankly enjoy the fruits of their wealth, from big houses to plastic surgery, without the need to rationalize them or put on airs. And when old family resentments, they genuinely seem to feel them—and yeah, I know “seem” is the operative word; they may just be good actors.
But from what I’ve seen, RHONJ’s love and agita are as big as its bubbies. If they’re fake—eh!—I’m willing to overlook it.