Reality Rundown: Real Housewives Of New Jersey, Saw Dogs & Next Food Network Star

After writing about Shark Tank, The Devils Ride and the suspiciously missing Real World, I kept thinking of more and more reality shows I wanted to say a few quick things about. This time we’ve got The Real Housewives of New Jersey, a show I used to blog about pretty consistently but have changed thoughts on greatly in the past few seasons, Discovery’s Saw Dogs and Next Food Network Star. Let’s jump in, shall we?

There was a scene in the most recent episode of Jersey Housewives where, after Teresa’s daughter freaks out about cheating at a bunch of games in the yard (huh, wonder why the word CHEATING is such a trigger for her, Joe), Caroline’s daughter Lauren essentially lays out my thoughts on the current situation: why can’t we stop inviting all these crazy people to our family events and just have fun as a family? After four seasons of crazy, I’m all filled on up Teresa’s particular brand. She’s clearly incapable of seeing the world from any perspective but her own skewed one and it feels a little sad to continually see her try to make reality (and reality TV) bend around her to her will to form her life.

I’ve said before that I’d be perfectly happy watching a series about just Caroline and her extended family, but even that doesn’t sound like the most appealing thing at this point. Is anyone else sick to death of hearing Lauren talk about losing weight while seeing her do things that will not help her in any way? Lazily slapping golf balls with her dad and hanging around a kitchen just isn’t going to cut it. This episode in particular seemed PACKED with her bitching and honestly, who cares? Losing weight sucks, either do it or don’t, but stop talking about it either way. The rest of them are fine, I’m glad to be done with Jacqueline’s daughter for the time being, she’s just awful, and I like Kathy and her crew enough, same with the Gorga’s, but I’m starting to think the bloom is off the rose on this one. And, no Bravo, I don’t need more “housewives” shoehorned in, starting over completely makes the most sense to me and still give Caroline her own show!

And now for something completely different, we’ve got Discovery’s Saw Dogs, a show about chainsaw carvers who make beautiful pieces. Some of my favorite reality shows are the ones that follow artistic people who use their talents to sell pieces and the process they go through in first figuring out what to do and then doing it. The fact that this job even exists is amazing to me, let alone the fact that these guys are so damn good at it. In one marathon a few weekends back, I saw them make an amazing tree house, a giant eagle and plenty of other amazing things.

My only problem with the series is that they have a Chumlee. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it comes from History Channel’s Pawn Stars which features a  spacey character of the same name who seemingly has no business being anywhere near the job. If it were a regular TV show you’d just assume this is the goofball people keep around to make or bounce jokes off of, but in reality you’re constantly thinking, “Why don’t they fire this idiot?” In the case of Saw Dogs, the Chumlee is named Ryan. He looks and acts like a Will Ferrell character which is odd in its own right, but then you add in the fact that he’s not great at his job (he ran the forklift through one of the barn walls) and bitches way too much for an apprentice and you wonder if he’s there because he was really there or because the producers wanted a Chumlee. I’m more in favor of the natural method, but even if it is a set-up, there’s enough coolness going on to keep me coming back for more.

Lastly I want to say a few things about The Next Food Network Star that I didn’t say over on my food blog Monkeying Around The Kitchen. First off, while I like the idea of switching the format up — three teams with Food Network stars talking them through the challenges with the bottom two going into a room with FN execs and trying to keep themselves in the game assisted by their team leader — it feels like the show is spinning its wheels a bit. The challenges I’ve seen so far have been great, but doesn’t it seem like there’s an awful lot of fat this season that’s just waiting to be trimmed? I bet if you watched just the first episode, you could probably make a list of the first five or six people who will be let go with a pretty darn good level of accuracey. Sure, it’s possible that one of them will really find a place to shine, but I highly doubt it.

The other huge strike against the show is the length. Does it really need to be 90 minutes? Worse yet, those last 3o minutes go up against Mad Men. I don’t think there’s a show I would watch instead of MM. I know people out there are exactly the opposite, but it also seems like these episodes are padded like those guys who train attack dogs. Do we need to spend so much time not only showing everyone’s everything, but also laying it on so thick that you really don’t have a choice but to understand who’s being thrown to the wolves about half way through. At the end of the day, the show is more boring than it has any reason to be. I highly recommend following Alton Brown on twitter, though, if you are a fan as he has some excellent behind the scenes commentary during the airings.

Last Night’s Shows, Today: Real Housewives Of New Jersey Season 3 Reunion Part 1

I look back on the pair of posts I wrote about this third season of Real Housewives Of New Jersey and cringe. Because I’ve been following Teresa’s exploits for two seasons before this and generally liked her, even given her bouts of ostrich like avoidance and dim bulb moments, I automatically sided with her when presented with the conflict between her, her sister-in-law Melissa and her cousin Kathy, who happened to join the RHONJ this season.

I realize now that, whatever has happened between Teresa and her brother, she’s completely unable to see how her actions have made things worse. Absolutely nothing she does is wrong and she never sees where anyone else is coming from. That was made abundantly clear during last night’s reunion. The season finale ended with the women reading Teresa’s cookbook which was filled with insults flung at the other women, which was the first topic at the reunion. Teresa explained everything away as a joke (“You know, ha ha?”) even though she’s never actually displayed even the remotest sense of humor. Ever.

I can see how some people would think the first part of this reunion was a “pile-up on Teresa” kind of thing, but it seems like she’s pretty much burned all the bridges she had on the show. I trust Caroline as a good judge of character, so when she said she wanted to be out of friendship with Teresa two years ago, it was a pretty eye-opening experience. Also, as you can tell by the picture above, Jacqueline didn’t show up and is possibly off the show now. See, they’re filming season four right now, so whatever happened between everyone and Teresa will be on next season, which is interesting because we’ll be able to see it, but annoying because we’ll have to wait until that season airs to see what’s happening!

With all this in mind, I’m wearing thin on the concept of Jersey Housewives. If they got rid of Teresa, I think I’d be fine with it because she’s basically taken the bitchy, manipulative spot previously held by Danielle and that’s not what I like about the show. I initially liked the extended family/friend feel of things, but that’s clearly ruined and will be even moreso during the fourth season which will make us relive all this petty nonsense while also showing us what happened. It’s kind of a double edged sword for me because I’m both sick of the nonsense and ridiculously curious. I’ve been saying this for two seasons now, but just give Caroline her own show and we’ll live in that world for a while. Heck, they introduced Greg this year, he could just sit around making comments and I’d be happy.

Last Night’s Shows Today: Next Food Network Star & Real Housewives Of New Jersey

NEXT FOOD NETWORK STAR (9:00PM, Food Network)Not to toot my own horn too much, but I totally knew that Penny wasn’t going to win Next Food Network Star. I was getting kind of worried I’d be proven wrong as the season rolled on and it turned out that she’s actually a really good cook. I’d been so busy disliking her on a basic level that I wasn’t noticing how poorly she did on-camera (their excuse for bouncing her). I’m guessing they realized they could only keep such a volatile character on the show for so long without losing credibility with viewers. It’s too bad, actually, because it sounds like her food was great. Had she been a little nicer, I wouldn’t have minded trying them out. Also, no big shocker about Chris being sent home. The BroChef routine doesn’t really work on Food Network, but maybe he can get a gig on Spike. With these two gone, it looks like the judges are done messing around and ready to really narrow things down to the people with actual potential.

I’ve got a few other points about the show that I’ve been thinking about all season. First off, the house they’re staying in was on another reality show–something skanky–but I can’t remember what. I think it was a VH1 show, Charm School, Flavor Of Love, maybe A Shot At Love? Anyone know? I did some Google image searching and came up with nothing.

The other thing I’ve been thinking about is how inappropriate some of the challenges on this show tend to be. Take the previous episode for instance where the contestants had to break down into teams and work a food truck. They filmed a commercial for their truck (something that doesn’t happen), then the people had to choose which truck to go to based on the commercial and stick with their choice even when their chosen trucks wound up being slow or bad or whatever. It  just seemed a little strange because it’s not like the next Food Network star will be forced into doing these things. I get that Food Network is testing their camera presence and is just plugging the return of their food truck race show (which I actually liked) but it seemed a little silly. Last night’s challenge made sense as they were preparing food for a big time chef, but they had to do it in a tiny kitchen with only the ingredients available in the house they’re living in. I appreciate the producers being creative with the challenges, but to hamstring the contestants so specifically and then berate them for screwing up doesn’t seem like the best way to test the people who will be on our TV sets every week telling us how to cook. I guess watching a bunch of people cook in a nice, well-stocked kitchen all the time might be a little boring though.

THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF NEW JERSEY (10:00PM, Bravo)It was Christmas time in Housewivesland (Jersey) last night. Overall the episode was nice, showing everyone getting ready for Christmas, having parties and making smaller amounts of drama than expected. I don’t have a lot to say about the episode, but of course have a few things. The restaurant that they had Ashley’s birthday party at is called Mt. Fuji. I’ve been there. With people from New Jersey, no less. I got a kick out of that.

I’m still not very impressed with the Housewives producers for picking up new cast members Kathy and Melissa seemingly for the sole purpose of aiming them at Teresa and firing that gun. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Teresa’s completely in the right here. I think her and her brother Joe are both lunatics who need to get over their egos and either make up or let it go. The Siblings Gorga don’t seem to be the brightest, most enlightened people around and watching their blank stares navigate through life is getting old. I’m still not sure what Teresa’s problem with her cousin Kathy is. That’s another simple squashing that needs to happen.

The only reason I care enough about the show to write about it is because I actually think this version of the Housewives franchise has the potentially to be something better than it is. We don’t need to get mired in awful bickering, the show could be about women and their actual relationships with one another and their families. All of this revolves around Caroline and her calming influence as well as her solid family. She’s the lynchpin as far as I’m concerned. I know it’s probably ridiculous of me to hope from a show of actual quality from Bravo, but a dude who can’t seem to stop watching this network can hope.

Oh, I nearly forgot about the big party at the end of the episode. All of the women actually went to Melissa’s house and Caroline’s daughter Lauren very astutely points out that it looked a lot like Teresa’s housewarming party (which Melissa and Joe were at). I love how Lauren has become the voice of reason when thrown into all the craziness of the Teresa/BroJoe/Melissa drama. There was a fight between Teresa and her cousin Kathy that I actually missed and then a big stink made because desperate-to-be-on-TV Kim G showed up with a woman whose husband is suing Teresa and Joe. This broad is pathetic and then acts shocked when everyone gets upset and Melissa asks the woman to leave. Stop trying to be Danielle and just go away. Also, good on Melissa and Joe for standing up for Teresa. Bad on Teresa for demanding it.

Last Night’s Shows, Today: Real Housewives Of New Jersey

REAL HOUSEWIVES OF NEW JERSEY “In The Name Of The Father” & “Drop Dead Gorgas” (Bravo, 9:00PM)

Last night the missus and I caught the first 90 minute episode of the new Real Housewives Of New Jersey season as well as the second ep which was new. The first one revolved around a wild Christening that lead to shouting and punching while the second revolved around Halloween and a fashion show with several of the Housewives walking. With Dina still gone (bummed about that) and Danielle kicked off the show, we’ve got Melissa and Kathy as the new Housewives and their sole responsibility seems to be talking smack about Teresa without actually trying to talk to her.

Two episodes in and this season is already starting to lose me, but in a completely different way than it was losing me last season. Last season completely revolved around the housewives reacting to Danielle’s craziness, which was seriously strange and seemingly close to dangerous (at least on a social if not legal level). Anyway, I was kind of hoping for something a little more relaxed with the third season, but that’s not the case and, in fact, Danielle’s specter still hangs over the gang in a weird way. Remember in the reunion when Danielle slyly brought up some problems between Teresa and her family? Well, the producers went out and got Teresa’s brother’s wife Melissa to be on the show as well as one of her cousins, Kathy, in a seeming effort to make these episodes all about how evil Teresa is. There’s some static between Teresa and her brother who like every other man in her life is named Joe, which makes everything super confusing. Anyway, said static is never really explained well. Brother Joe is upset because his father like’s Husband Joe and feels betrayed by seemingly everyone. Really it seems to boil down to most of these people being childish adults who can’t take any blame for anything and always lay it on the other person. Teresa blames Brother Joe and Melissa, Brother Joe blames Husband Joe and Teresa. No one wants to meet the other halfway. Brother Joe acts like such a, pardon my french, pussy throughout the first two episodes he might as well be one of the housewives. I was near tears laughing when he was screeching at his dad during the first episode’s chaotic Christening. Either man up and have a real conversation with your sister that doesn’t involve copious amounts of booze and fix things or just cut her out of your life completely. Which, for the record, would not include going on a reality show with her.

Meanwhile Caroline and Jacqueline are dealing with real problems that adults can relate to. Caroline is really feeling the empty nest as her boys Albie and Chris tell her they’re moving into their own apartment. At the same time, Jacqueline continues to struggle with her daughter who has no concept of the real world and acts like an entitled spoiled jerk who completely expects her parents to pay for an apartment in the city so she won’t have to commute to her internship that she doesn’t show up to because it’s far away. This chick needs some serious reprogramming and boils my blood, but at the same time, that’s something that anyone with a teenager deals with.

I get that family drama is something that people deal with all the time, but the way the producers clearly went about casting this season as a Teresa hatchet job is insulting and boring. It doesn’t help that there’s no discernible reason for the drama that I’ve been able to make out aside from childishness or that everyone is just so petty about it. Melissa: “Teresa thinks she throws better parties than me, but she doesn’t.” Seriously? That’s what you’re worried about in life? Man, it must be awesome to be rich and able to worry about stupid shit that doesn’t really matter. And I don’t mean to canonize Teresa here. She doesn’t seem to have done much to mend the fences herself and, like her brother, blames everything on the other person. We’re just more familiar with her, so we’re on her side. Besides, every single thing that comes out of Melissa’s mouth seems to be an attack on Teresa which is just boring and catty.

I would imagine that Caroline is by far the most popular of the Housewives, and yet, instead of the producers trying to capture more of her realness by getting women like her, instead they go the other way and go for incendiary characters. Kathy seems like she might have some of this in her, but she seems to have really mired herself in the Melissa/Teresa nonsense, taking different sides at different times and coming off as a trouble maker. It’s disappointing because of all the Housewives iterations, this one has the most potential to not only feature the Bravo norm of rich people doing fabulous things, but also the addition of actual heart and family. Would the viewership die off if the cast consisted of people who didn’t hate each other? Hey, it’s possible, I’m no Bravo expert, I just know what I like. Maybe Caroline and her family just need their own series.

I don’t think I’ll be blogging about this season on its own or take notes during it, but will probably return to it a time or two in future LNST entries.

It’s Official, Danielle’s Off Jersey Housewives

Well, after a full two and a half hours of reunion episodes that promised to reveal who would be leaving Real Housewives of New Jersey permanently, viewers had to find out who it was through Bravo’s The Dish blog: “The reunion was Danielle’s last appearance on The Real Housewives of New Jersey. We thought the hugs were a great way to end two seasons of bitterness between the women,” Andy Cohen was quoted as saying on the blog. Wah, wah, real shocker there. I’ve gotta call bullshit again on their decision to leave on a high note after repeatedly playing up the already-existent drama between these women all season. Whatever. Good riddance to crazy ladies. Kick rocks, chick.

Jersey Housewives Season 2 Reunion Part 2

Last week’s episode showcased the first half of the Real Housewives of New Jersey Season 2 Reunion which covered about half the season, leading up to the incident at the Brownstone, but tonight’s episode really featured it and then moved on tot he last of the season: the legal trouble between Ashley and Danielle, Dina leaving the show, Caroline and Danielle’s last dinner and Kim G’s involvement in things. Hit the jump for the full live blog. Continue reading Jersey Housewives Season 2 Reunion Part 2

Jersey Housewives Season 2 Reunion Part 1

UPDATE: Now with complete sentences! Sorry, I posted then went right to bed last night. The show took a lot out of me.

This was an incredibly awkward episode with host–and apparently Bravo big wig producer–Andy Cohen trying to fit in lighthearted montages and audience questions while keeping Teresa and Jacqueline from jumping on Danielle both figuratively and literally. The whole thing was super awkward and tense, but pretty much what you’d expect. At least they didn’t break it up into three parts like the New York one last season. This time it was just a few minutes longer. Continue reading Jersey Housewives Season 2 Reunion Part 1