‘Real Housewives of New Jersey’ recap: Love’s Labors Lost
This is not, as you suspect, a quote from Bette Davis’s searing discourse on sexism from that unforgettable car scene in "All About Eve." It’s actually the digest version of the same from our very own cannoli-crafting Kathy, who finally states what has been obvious to the "Real Housewives" viewership from Day 1: The women — see: Housewives — don’t work. (The men “work,” I guess, if you define “work” as driving your families into bankruptcy while living beyond your means and conducting unusual all-cash deals that allow your wife to blow 100K in Benjamins in one sitting on padded headboards, Carrara marble and gold vanities for your soon-to-be-foreclosed property, *cough Joe Giudice cough*. But I digress.)
Yes, frying up the bacon and serving it up in a pan was the theme of this week’s show, in which the previously unemployed ladies of the hour contemplated becoming, respectively, a singer (Melissa) and a radio-advice jockey (Caroline), while even Kathy’s children were made to sign official contracts on their future performance as offspring and Ashley triumphantly secured the vehicle needed to go to her “part-time job,” the details to which we are not privy. (More on that in a sec.)
The episode launches with the benign warblings of Melissa Gorga, who, while folding clothes in the closet, softly begins a totally high school assembly–worthy rendition of “Amazing Grace” with the apropos, if unintentional, substitution of “wench” for “wretch.” (Where oh where is our definitive concordance and usage guide to Housewife Misnomers, Neologisms, and Mangled Expatiation?)
Having secured the awed compliments of her husband, Melissa, still in last week’s silken pink bodice thingie, once again brings out the waterworks on how husband Joe’s support reminds her of her dead father’s (how long did this interview go on? Are we going to see this bodice every week?), complete with a photo montage of her pre-pubescent self dancing and singing, possibly slightly less made-up than usual.
Operation Melissa “Gaga” Gorga begins. At a local shop, she buys a gold lame mini dress while her sister tells the saleswomen how Melissa was always the one “dancing on tables,” and a breathless Melissa wonders if she can really DO it (what?). Joe seals the deal by gifting her with a grand piano and the use of a songwriter, saving an actual audience for the big finale.
At the same time, on the empty-nester side of Wayne, Caroline Manzo has lost at least 25 pounds but gained some resolve: She’s not going to spend her golden years absent her sons playing golf with her silent, if solvent, husband. Luckily, she’s got a plan — her blog might make her a great candidate for a host for a radio-advice show. She calls up NJ 101.5 (I know it well!), travels from her massive digs to the industrial outskirts of Trenton, and enters a dun building to meet the executives of the station, who give her a one-question tryout and tell her they’ll call in the next three days. (Caroline’s contribution to the interview, aside from sexually harassing the first man she meets by telling him he has “beautiful blue eyes”: “Do I have experience in radio? No. Do I have experience in life? Yes.”)
And here’s where we come to the enormous gilt vanity in the room: Everyone on the show already is employed — by Bravo.
Reports on what the network pays each housewife vary. Teresa (owner of said gilt vanity) has already copped to using her Bravo and cookbook earnings to keep her family afloat, but one senses us hearing this was merely a necessity in the face of viewers clamoring why, $11 million in debt, the Giudices get to stay in that house. Caroline and Melissa’s efforts are more comical. Yes — 101.5 always responds immediately to bloggers pitching advice shows, assembling the brass for an in-depth meeting! How on Earth would Melissa ever get exposure to become the singer she dreams of? Obviously performing in front of 6 million Bravo fans on a franchise that has already made a cottage industry of one-hit wonders will be only a grace note to the mighty force of her undeniable talent.
Have Caroline and Melissa cannily figured this out, or are they still maintaining the happy delusion that Bravo is not the means by which they will achieve their long-deferred dreams, but merely an inconsequential sideline in a destiny long-decided, like Kathy’s skill with cannolis? (Yes, yes, I am obsessed with those! Sprinkle and pignoli cookies BE DAMNED.) We’ve gone beyond the question of whether the observer affects the observed. We’ve even gone beyond the question of whether anyone has talent. We’re in a wormhole that even Andy Warhol was unable to foresee — a show where everyone is busy capitalizing on their 15 minutes of fame, but no one is allowed to say so.
Oh, right — that “part-time job” for which Ashley needs the car? It’s to drive to her mother’s house to appear as a regular character on the show, having earned, through her antics, a space alongside the other housewives. I sense a dark horse, possibly a young Bethenny in the mix. Let’s hope Melissa, Caroline and Jacqueline can keep up.
Photo: Melissa Gorga. Credit: Andrei Jacakmets.