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'The Real Housewives of New Jersey' recap: Makin' up

August 8, 2011 | 10:40 am

When I'm a professional artist, I won't have clients. It will be all my vision and the general public.

--Ashley Holmes

Ah, my sweet, deluded grasshopper. Yes, it was another week on "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" to watch not only the wives but now their offspring Catty Catty Rrrow Rrrow at each other about their "work,"  a development which can only be welcomed if one considers the obvious alternative: Housewives arguing over whose looks, husband, children, or -- yegads -- houses are better. (Score one for feminism.)

First up on the Career-o-Meter was poor 20-year-old Ashley, Jacqueline's daughter, with whom, although she is inarguably sullen and spoiled, I can only increasingly sympathize. We first met her toiling in the offices of notorious publicist Lizzie Grubman, angling for a car so she would not have to ride public transportation with the great unwashed -- wait, she said it actually was so she could make it to work on time.  After Grubman let her go -- presumably because she realized her firm would not be receiving adequate Bravo camera time -- we heard tell of another mysterious "job," which yours truly speculated was becoming a paid member of the "RHONJ cast." (I'm convinced this is the true source of her mother's boundless rage for the girl, but more on that anon.)

Throughout these travails, Ashley's mother and grim stepfather have bullied her with naked self-righteousness in the guise of Tough Love, with first cousins Albie and Chris, fond but impatient, piling on. Dimly aware that she's being used, not advised, Ashley has responded with a mixture of self-pity, self-aggrandizement, and indifference.

This week cousin Lauren, a newly minted makeup artist with an alleged store that sells her makeup line, FACE, and her handbag line, Chateau Face, joined the spree. The setup was thus. Ashley, per a few grandfather-praised sketches shown for our benefit, is apparently a talented artist. (The sketches revealed pastels of women's faces in the tradition of Virginia Slims ads in the '70s, which is to say Ashley is still miles ahead of any Housewife in the entire franchise in terms of native talent.) Lauren needs a T-shirt design for her alleged makeup line. Ashley is tapped.

I'm not even going to get into how a half-hour of Google-searching -- decades  in pre-digital research years -- yielded no further information on Lauren's lines other than that they may be procured at a pre-existing salon in Franklin Lakes. (If anyone can find more than the bare-bones Facebook page with 17 Likes and a brief mention of a "launch" with her brothers and mother present, please talk to me.) I'm only going to point out that flipping through Ashley's sketchbook and cuttingly saying, "No. No. No," is only appropriate if you're auditioning for the role of Anna Wintour in a community theater production of "The Devil Wears Prada" and already playing to the cheap seats.

Speaking of playing to the cheap seats, it was another week for Teresa to express her love and caring for family by challenging her sister-in-law's singing ability and declaring that cousin Kathy got the idea of her catering business from Teresa's successful line of Skinny Italian cookbooks. OK. Tre, first of all, you stole "Skinny" from Bethenny with all the finesse of a 12-year-old purse-snatcher. Second, we all know Melissa can't sing. No Housewife can sing.  But remember how you pronounce "cumin"? Game over.

But back to Ashley's declaration of artistic freedom, above -- a brave echo of the famous declaration by "The Real Housewives of Atlanta's" "Tardy for the Party" hitmaker Kim:  "I don't have to know how to sing. I'm an artist."

Shaky logic? Certainly, but only borne out by the market, which dependably, if briefly, rewards Housewives for their non-talents in exchange for a peek into their aggressively non-life lives, in which half the time they don't even own the clothes on their backs, to say nothing of knowing how to pronounce "cumin."

An odd calculus, to be sure, but the Housewives shouldn't get too comfortable in their "total request live" seats. Sunday, Bravo TV listings mistakenly touted this season's "Giuliana and Bill" show instead of "RHONJ," and during the aftershow, Andy Cohen, the brains of the franchise, kept slipping and calling it "the finale." ("Why does everyone keep calling it the finale? It's not!" Lauren Manzo, star for a day, tweeted.)

Wishful thinking on Bravo's part -- even a harbinger of doom? Ladies, it's not like Bravo didn't ax the "Real Housewives" of Washington and Miami with all the ceremony of crumpling a paper cup. So enjoy your cookbooks, your sketches, your purse lines, your one-hit wonders, and other intimations of artistry for the time being.

But as far as your vision being embraced by the general public? Sorry. That's all still up to @bravoandy.

-- Lizzie Skurnick

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