Can We Stop Caring About RHONJ Now?

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Is anybody still watching the pathetic husk of a show that Real Housewives of New Jersey has become? Once a crown jewel in Bravo’s Housewives lineup, in the course of six seasons has devolved into a tepid sorrow-filled Giudice apology tour that only illustrates my previous post on the importance of casting to these reality shows.

For the sixth season, the producers of Bravo’s Real Housewives of New Jersey decided to take advantage of the drama of Teresa and Joe’s tax issues and rushed into production, filling holes left by the departing Caroline and the duller than dishwater Jacqueline and Kathy with new cast members Amber, a breast cancer survivor of five years who’s husband is a DA, identical twins Nicole (a jet broker?) and Teresa (Italian restaurant owner) and returning cast memeber Dina, sister of Caroline and Jacqueline’s husband Chris.

First off, that’s a huge cast change, but on paper all these make sense. With Teresa and Joe’s tax problem, a DA and his wife could provide insight and possible drama (if involved with the case) on what was going on, and his wife is a cancer survivor, which—not to be callous, storylines galore. Teresa runs an Italian restaurant with her husband (hello, Caroline 2.0) and hey, she has a twin! Even better than Caroline, and more built-in possibility of drama/conflict/emotion than a seasoned producer could hope for. Plus, the much hoped for return of Dina, an island of calm disassociation in Season 1 who counterbalanced the insanity of the Teresa/Caroline standoff with her adorable daughter Lexi and hairless cat, Grandma Wrinkles.

As good as it must’ve looked on paper though, the result has been an unqualified disaster. The new cast members have failed to gel with the seasoned veterans in any meaningful way, and Dina has barely appeared onscreen at most of the get-togethers, seeking the solace of Lexi, Grandma Wrinkles and her assorted disabled band of animals, and her assistant, whom she treats as a gay tchotchke. Rather, what we’ve been served up for this season is a lot of handwringing over Teresa and Joe’s predicament, some PR-friendly kid scenes with Gia, Milania, and the rest of the Giudice kids who’s names I cant remember. The new cast, when they’re not trying to create storylines out of a (likely) non-existent cancer scare and colonoscopy prep, has been acting as a greek chorus of pity for Teresa G. For some reason, the show has been edited as though what Teresa and Joe did wasn’t illegal, wasn’t hurting people, and wasn’t anything to face so much scrutiny for. The will of God and Jesus has been cited multiple times as their saviour and its pretty disgusting. I realize that since Teresa is the star she can’t be edited too harshly, but I’d hoped that the new cast would be far more critical of her then they’ve been, and would provide a counterbalance to the (natural) outpouring of support from Teresa’s family on the show. Even the bastion of good sense and tacky decor, Dina, has mostly stayed out of the fray, only getting involved when contractually required, like the Florida trip. Even her job as the greek chorus has been upstaged by multiple scenes and interview segments with Nicole and Teresa, Dunkin’ macchiatos in hand.

Things have gotten so bad, the producers were forced to bring back Jackie to film scenes with Kathy, both of whom are no longer cast members, but ‘friends of’ who’ve been called into film additional scenes to try to shore up storylines and possibly create drama with Dina, who’s no friend of Jackie. You know its gotten pretty desperate when Jacqueline Laurita has to be brought back. No cast member of this show is as insufferably boring or brattily self-indulgent than Jackie and her husband Chris. So not only do we have to suffer through even more scenes of her choking up over Nicholas’s autism, but we also have dumb scenes where Jackie is brought up to speed. Clearly someone was asleep at the wheel when planning out the season shooting schedule if Jackie and her increasingly cut-rate plastic surgery has to be brought back.

It’s doubtful that RHONJ will get much deeper into what Teresa and Joe did wrong than what was explored during the interview with Exec Producer Andy Cohen, which was a trainwreck any way you look at it and a hilarious misguided attempt by both Bravo and the Giudices to positively spin the guilty verdict handed them.

To say that Teresa’s sentence was unexpected is the height of condescension by Bravo and Andy to the audience. Teresa’s stonewalling questions and flat out denials, maintaining she and Joe didn’t know what they were signing, the papers were from the bank etc., is either an admission that somebody else was responsible for their crimes or a frightening stupid attempt to cover-up what they’ve done even after they’ve been found to be guilty.

Its frustrating that such a once entertaining show has fallen so quickly into being boring and complacent. The ratings have fallen so far from season five that Bravo cut its regular series order from the standard 22 to a mere 13. Talk about cutting your losses. With Caroline moving on to Manzo’d with Children, as I see it, the producers only have a few options. Either cancel this show, which would be my recommendation, or reboot the show with an entirely new cast, but bring back Danielle Staub for continuity and build the whole show around her. Nobody else on this show is as unpredictable and quick to fly off the handle as Danielle, which is always a guaranteed ratings boost.

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