Post 2 – The Ground Rules, Real Housewives and the saddest show of all…

A couple of thoughts on last nights programming, plus a couple of preliminary notes.

First, the name change. As it often occurs, my wife will suggest a great idea and then I’ll misremember it. Hence the change in blog title which I believe reflects a certain “with-it-ness,” (or, at least a Sarah Palin folksy-ness) as well as a slightly more universal appeal (?)

Second, some ground rules.  As TV and media are fairly fluid and there’s so much to talk about, occasionally I may commandeer the blog to work out a couple of thoughts related to my own research, but rendered with the aforementioned folksiness – you betcha!

I’ve also promised to do my best not to reveal “the wife’s” identity, though most of you pretty much know it already. I’ll do my best not to paint her as a stereotypical figure (as often occur in blogs about other people) but to treat her and her opinions fairly.

Third, I’m hoping to post as often as possible so that the shows stay fresh in my mind and to account for the rapid movement of opinions and posts about TV and so that I’m not unduly influenced by others’ thoughts.

So, onto last night’s programming

The Real Housewives of New Jersey

Admittedly, I’m a sucker for this show, which I find both repellent and amazing to watch. As far as I’m concerned, the last episode of the last season made for amazing TV, especially with the climax where Theresa threw the table.

Last night’s “Super-sized Reunion Show” offered more of the same, although last week’s episode featured Andy Cohen physically restraining Teresa from attacking Danielle.

(note – my apologies for the link view, it’s only my second day on the job – if anyone can tell me how to properly embed clips, I would be greatly appreciative!)

What is so fascinating to me is the legal background (all the stuff they can’t talk about) and their constant references to things that did not happen on camera.

In the latest episode, the strangest exchange was between Teresa, Danielle and Jacqueline, who all talked about what was and was not stated on their blogs, their replies to tweets, and their inclusion of all sorts of new media.

Teresa constantly says “read my blog!” and a pivotal moment in the episode comes as Jacqueline passes Danielle her iPod to show her that Danielle replied to a tweet from a fan who said that she wished Danielle’s daughter would commit suicide. Too complicated to explain, but also somehow reflective of our current state of media overexposure.

(this last point is the wife’s – who turned and said “who knew that we’d be talking about this technology even two years ago” but probably put it much smarter than that )

I’m not sure what to make of all of this, or the proliferation of the Housewives franchise to Washington and soon to Beverly Hills. While others have commented that the New Jersey edition reflects America in the post-recession, it doesn’t seem to me that it represents any adjustments to the new austerity, if anything, it presents the opposite.

In terms of what this means to (and for) women, what is so upsetting to me is the show’s revelry in what would seem to be terrible values. Capitalism and its indifference to the people’s lives (the housewives themselves) would seem to point to a celebration of surface values, while simultaneously reinforcing the bonds of family.

Also, the show’s emphasis on plastic surgery and botox makes for insane continuity between the shows as the characters’ botox and breast implants seems to create just one model of femininity – a false one. Even more than this, I’m not quite sure what is “Real” about any of these women anymore.

On the other hand, this makes for really amazing TV – conflict, drama, intensified story arcs and a newsworthy set of pseudo events (such as Danielle’s budding music career). Also curious is the report that the NJ housewives are somehow better representatives of Italians than those found on the Jersey Shore – another story altogether.

I will likely come back to this, and especially Andy Cohen’s role as the producer (ringmaster?) of the show, but he, Bravo, and the franchise all deserve much more weight in separate posts.


My first encounter with the saddest show ever. It seems to me that it presents the same problem, but with an eye to the other side of social class. In other words, it’s still about the same embrace of commodity culture, but (for lack of a better term) by the lower class.

Moreover, it seems to me that A & E’s whole strategy is to cater to the same audience as Bravo (middle class) but present them with the issues of poorer people (addicts and hoarders). In these cases the accumulation is of garbage and drugs rather than spending tens of thousands of dollars on trips, McMansions and Sweet Sixteens.

More to come, thanks for reading.


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