Real Housewives gets a new star and an unexpectedly sweet one: It's kids vs. oldtrolls
New Year’s Eve: Forgive and forget, or flip someone off?
As Franklin Lakes rings in 2011 on The Real Housewives of New Jersey, there seem to be mixed opinions about what the occasion represents. For Melissa Gorga, it’s a time to heal old wounds. For Teresa Giudice’s husband Joe, it’s a different story: “New year, same assholes.”
The only person who actually makes a genuine New Year’s resolution is sweet Melissa. We’re as surprised as you might be that she’s won our hearts and is turning out to be the only New Jersey housewife with appeal and, more importantly, a heart. Of course, we’ve enjoyed making fun of her alleged singing career and her endless malapropisms. But Melissa resolves to “be the bigger person” in her dealings with her thoughtless sister-in-law and to not let Teresa “get to her.”
We also resolve to stop commenting on the state of Caroline’s hair. This is going to be a very difficult resolution to keep, but we will bite the bullet the next time we see her looking like an aged David Bowie.
This makes us take a second look at Melissa and at ourselves. As loyal viewers of the show, we’re inspired to make a few resolutions of our own.
We solemnly resolve not to underestimate Teresa’s children, especially 4-year-old Milania. All season Gia, the darling child of last season, has been trying to slink out of the camera’s eye as if she has fantasies of escaping from that loony bin. We feel much the same way whenever the cameras zoom-in on Casa Giudice, especially given the frequent shirtlessness of the oafish Joe this season.
But our weariness with unattractive husbands and screaming children nearly blinded us to Milania’s new-found star power. When Teresa tries to hurry her daughters to a playdate in outfits not of their choosing, Milania throws a fit and tosses a drawer full of clothes on the floor.
Later, as Teresa enthuses in a video diary about how well-behaved her children are, Milania slides her mother’s knee-high leopard-print spike-heeled boots over her little legs and stomps around the room spraying a water bottle at no one in particular, while shouting and making fun of her shrewish mother.
When her father threatens to throw her in a snow bank, Milania utters the best line of the episode, and perhaps of the season: “Gimme some pizza, you old troll.” Bravo, Milania. Keep up the good work, and soon you’ll have your own show.
We also resolve to be less naïve, trusting, and fondly affectionate when watching The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Teresa is our prime example. How lovely she seemed in the first season — crass and loud, yes, but somehow sweet. And when she added spicy to the mix by flipping a table a Danielle “Garbage” Staub, we were in love. Oh, how things change! This season Teresa is ruder, cruder, and often vile.
A little fame and a lot of debt are no recipe for humility in Franklin Lakes.
After showing up more than two hours late to a play date at Melissa’s, she blames her own daughters. When she hears of Melissa’s ambition for a singing career, Teresa says, “Nowadays anyone can be a singer.” When Melissa refuses to sing on Teresa’s command, so as to rest her voice, Teresa says “What, does she think she’s Beyoncé and just did a concert?”
When Melissa expresses gratitude to her husband Joe for building her an in-home recording studio, Teresa says, “He just doesn’t want you going to New York” and besides, “Joe’s happy as long as you’re making money, since that’s all he cares about.” Ouch.
Melissa bears insult after insult and lets it go in one ear and out the other with complete equanimity. Melissa isn’t just the bigger person. She’s a giant looming over Franklin Lakes, smiling all the while. Meanwhile, the only thing big about Teresa is her $11 million bankruptcy settlement, her massive mane of mostly fake hair, and her ever-growing ego. We doubt all the hairspray in Jersey could keep it all in check.
We resolve to give up all hope that Jacqueline’s daughter Ashley will ever get a life. Now, in her terrible twenties and still a year off from having the legal right to get drunk, Ashley has yet to find a job or make anything of herself. When her grandfather tries to give her a pep talk, Ashley is pre-occupied with a pencil drawing. It’s a simple sketch of Marilyn Monroe, and she doesn’t bother to look at old granddad when he encourages her to “do something” with her talent.
Melissa isn’t just the bigger person. She’s a giant looming over Franklin Lakes, smiling all the while.
As a montage of her “recent work” flies across the screen, however, we wondered if Ashley has any talent at all. Two sad portraits and a painting of a peacock aren’t exactly going to get her into the Whitney Biennial.
When her cousin Lauren asks Ashley to design promotional T-shirts for her new makeup bar, Face, the results are even less promising.
“I think she drew those in the car on the way over,” Lauren confesses in her video diary.
“When I’m an artist, I won’t need to work with clients,” Ashley confides in hers. “I’m just going to follow my artistic vision and what the general public wants,” she adds. Alas, Ashley, we’re not sure the public wants anything from you.
We also resolve to stop commenting on the state of Caroline’s hair. This is going to be a very difficult resolution to keep, but we will bite the bullet the next time we see her looking like an aged David Bowie or when we fondly recall Danielle calling Caroline a clown.
Besides, Caroline’s own sons call her hair out with wit we never suspected to find in Franklin Lakes.
“My mom is going for the 1950s greaser look,” Albie says in his video diary. “She looks like she’s going to pull out a razor blade at a milkshake place or something,” he continues and then insists that she looks like someone willing “to date a Duran Duran person.” Christopher suggests Wyatt Earp or “an old English princess.” Finally, an exasperated Albie says, “I don’t know what the hell she’s trying to do.” We don’t either, and we couldn’t have said it any better.
Just as midnight approaches on this fateful New Year’s Eve, Caroline gets sentimental and the viewer must hear her solemn voiceover. “Every year, I stand on this same spot, the second step on the stairway,” she laments. And then we endure her ruminations as she watches the young and the old, contemplates the laughter and the tears, the humanity and the tenderness. It all starts to feel like a community theater production of a lesser play by Thornton Wilder’s cousin.
As the camera pans the room, all we could see were bad clothes and drunken dancers.