Say what you like about "Sex and the City", the one thing that I dislike most isn't the series itself so much as what followed right along afterwards: the "Real Housewives" series. The (not always, but at least fairly often) superficial actions of Carrie and the gang were fiction and at least those four seemed genuinely nice to each other, as the series often focused on friendship.
"Real Housewives" takes the superficial aspects of "Sex and the City" and takes them to extremes. However, the difference is that these are real people and there are children always present as the behavior becomes worse. One of the first sentences of this season is: "I'm not fake, I don't try to be someone I'm not...I want to get breast implants." It's then explained to the young children that the mother wants implants so she can hang out with her friends who have them. Classy. A few scenes later, the mother notes, proudly, "My little girls are divas like their momma." In another episode, one of the women confronts her daughter about her grades and she responds, "I thought you were going to take care of that."
This particular "Real Housewives" features: Teresa Giudice, Jacqueline Laurita, Caroline Manzo, Dina Manzo, and Danielle Staub. The series has plot threads and tries to distinguish the "characters", but the series is largely focused on generating drama, drama, drama. One of the funniest moments of the series has Jacqueline stating that she "doesn't need the drama today." While I can have problems with the series and what it represents, it's a reality show.
Understandably, it doesn't proclaim to present the Flanders family. Still, I've watched episodes from this season here-and-there and found them to be just silly and ridiculous, but watching the season as a whole becomes something else - ugly and troubling. It's just a lot of awkwardness and unpleasantness. Seriously, Dr Drew could do a spin-off with people from the various "Real Housewives", as each of these people have some honest-to-goodness issues.
The only one of the five who's rather remarkable in her differing approach is Caroline, a tough woman who wasn't always well-off and, as a result, displays at least some appreciation for her situation. She's certainly not without flaw, either - and there's more than a few times when her claws come out. Still, she seems to have the most sense of the group. Danielle faces divorce and if a settlement isn't reached, she won't be able to continue to live the lifestyle and support her daughters.
One of the show's elements that I actually do find rather compelling is the tension that occasionally lurks under the surface - while these women and tee-hee and chuckle to one another, there's more than a few rumors that start to fly and moments that appear all smiles occasionally look as if they're something else entirely different going on underneath - the series feels genuinely mean at times.
As shown more than a few times by now, the underlying tension comes out by the season finale, where a book about one of the women comes out in the open and then all hell breaks loose - of course, while the kids watch and look sad, because in this series, no one seems to ever consider that their children are watching. At that moment, all the fake tee-hees are out the window and down the street, as tables eventually get flipped. It's about the book, but one gets the sense that these women are taking it as the chance to say what they've always wanted to say to each other. I'm not sure how there's a season 2 after this, but then I have to realize that these people are in it for their 15 minutes and nothing else matters.
I'm certainly guilty of watching loads of reality shows. At worst, they offer a few laughs and pass the time. While "Real Housewives Of New Jersey" always seemed ridiculous when I watched a couple of episodes previously, watching the entire season back-to-back is uncomfortable and becomes hard-to-watch - at the core of it, shallow people being mean wears thin very quickly.
VIDEO: "Real Housewives of New Jersey" is presented in 1.33:1 full-frame by A & E. The presentation is, with few exceptions, crisp and detailed. Some minor shimmering appears at times, but no edge enhancement or other concerns are seen. Colors look bright and warm, with fine saturation.
SOUND: Clear, reasonably well-recorded stereo soundtrack. All the shrill dialogue is easily heard.
EXTRAS: A director's cut edition of "The Last Supper" episode, as well as the "Watch What Happens" reunion episodes, lost footage and a quiz.
Final Thoughts: Watching one or two episodes seemed passable as reality shows go, but watching the entire first season of "Real Housewives of New Jersey" proved uncomfortable, as the behavior gets progressively worse over the season, leading up to the infamous incident over dinner. Audio/video quality are fine, and the set does offer a decent set of supplements.