“Why would you want to write about that?” That’s the biggest question we get about our coverage of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New Jersey.
We both take The Real Housewives, whether they are in New Jersey, Orange County, New York, Atlanta, or now Washington, D.C., very seriously. In a greater sense, we take reality TV very seriously, much to the dismay of a number of our friends.
But reality culture was practically invented by one of our idols, Andy Warhol, and his style of smooth surveillance emerged as television culture in 1973 (way before The Real World) with coverage of the Loud clan on the now-classic An American Family. Sure, everyone’s a little fatigued with the urge to document even the dullest of activities and the resulting tendency to make words like “true” and “real” feel nearly meaningless. But just as in Warhol’s idiosyncratic films, many of them little more than screen tests or fragments, there are other kinds of truth in the distortion and exaggeration of everyday activities.
One kind of truth comes from a subject we both find fascinating. Let’s call it the metaphysics of New Jersey. What else is New Jersey, as seen through the lives of these women, if not one great concentration of all the terror, hope, fear, ambition, and absurdity of suburbia? No wonder their MTV counterparts on Jersey Shore, spend so much time wasted and oblivious. They see the writing on the wall. Even in Miami, they can’t get away from their likely Jersey destinies.
And while Lady Liberty may gaze out to sea, her huddled masses have already made good in Jersey. The pursuit of some American “wealth through hard work” dream perversely results in the aspiration to idleness, charity events, stay-at-home moms (with nannies and other support staff), and outrageous consumption in the wake of financial collapse and in the midst of a still-faltering economy. These women — and their families — are so thoroughly “American” we might have to give up apple pie.
The second common question, “how do you write about that together?” is related to the first. We don’t pass the computer back and forth. We both have our own laptops, and we prefer to send each other e-mail, even if we’re sitting together on the same microfiber sofa. At some point one of us ends up with a more complete version of the column, and then we start passing the laptop back and forth. The conversation between us, which is sometimes frustrated or even heated, usually centers on two things.
As Theodore, a longtime journalist, always says, “What’s the news?” Secondly, what is Bravo up to when it preps and pushes these women in front of the cameras each week?
This week we had high hopes for the second installment of the Real Housewives of New Jersey reunion, but there were tired montages, almost-assaults, and a hasty (if not forced) peace between Danielle and Jacqueline. The feel-good factor was high as Danielle tried to hug everyone on the set, except for Caroline, of course, who begrudgingly agreed to a handshake.
Oh Lord, Kumbaya. This episode made us feel like we were left with merely the odd waste products of a tumultuous second season.
A long conversation ensued about Danielle’s allegiance, or not, to the gay community when she tolerated her bodyguard Danny’s characterization of Caroline’s son, Christopher, as a faggot. Oh, we can’t believe we actually wrote that word.
Of course, you can’t hear it on Bravo, where it is bleeped out along with the other “F” words. And Danielle should have to defend her position, since last season she went ballistic when Teresa’s husband Joe called their dance teacher a “Gaylord,” and subsequently described herself as “a gay advocate.” This season she appears to have given up men for her new paramour, lesbian singer Lori Michaels.
Here’s the bigger problem, as we see it: Why is the Real Housewives of New Jersey the only franchise without a prominent gay character? Couldn’t Andy Cohen find anyone better than Danielle’s intermittent and depressing gay friend Tommy in season one? Atlanta has Dwight Eubanks, the unofficial ‘Sixth Housewife” in that city. In New York, there is Jill’s “gay husband” Brad Boles and his unfortunate outfits. The D.C. franchise is already swimming with gays.
Isn’t it time for a Real Gay Housewives of San Francisco? Haven’t we been dancing around this long enough?
The ladies from Franklin Lakes can proudly claim the weirdest prop on any Bravo reunion show, thanks to the mannequin’s head Danielle pulled out of a bag as “Exhibit A” in her ongoing dispute with Ashley. Let’s recall that “Exhibit A” was not present to witness Ashley allegedly pull hair from Danielle’s head at Kim D’s fashion show and can give no testimony on the subject. Danielle forced Andy Cohen to tug as hard as he could on the head.
After two or three failed tries, a patch of blond came away in his hands, proving only that it seems unlikely Ashley harmed Danielle in the least. This tells us three things. Danielle is as certifiable as her New York counterpart Kelly Bensimon. Danielle has a real future should there be another sequel to Mannequin, perhaps Mannequin 3: Beyond the Jersey Shore. And finally, a little knowledge, especially a little legal knowledge, is a dangerous thing.
The biggest odd remainder of the reunion might be the New Jersey franchise itself. Where could it possibly go next?
Life is still hopping in New York and Atlanta, and D.C. is just getting off the ground. But here in the Garden State, problems abound. The glamorous Dina is gone, the best scapegoat Bravo ever found, Danielle, is no longer part of the cast, and heir-apparent Kim G. isn’t interesting enough to sustain the show. The continuing chokehold of clan Manzo makes casting new housewives hard to imagine.
Like their Orange County counterparts, these ladies might have jumped the shark after only two fairly successful seasons.