This one has been in the works for a while but in honor of tonight’s season 9 premiere I have finally gotten my shit together. New Jersey was perhaps the breakout housewives franchise and Teresa the star after she flipped a table. With almost a decade on the screen under their belt (barring a jail-time hiatus year, of course) Jersey has had its ups and downs. Pop a bottle of Fabellini and let’s relive the best and worst.
8. Season 5
This one was a no brainer. Season five is probably best remembered for the Joe vs. Joe brawl at one of the endless family therapy sessions. In fact, the entire season was a painfully boring slog of Gorga/Giudice therapy sessions, the worst of all being the interminable trip to Arizona where they had to scrape shit out of a horse’s hoof and talk about their problems. The Giudices were obviously on the path to their indictment but nobody was allowed to talk about it. I’ve watched a lot of housewives and I’ve watched a lot of crappy housewives, but damn this season was garbage. I think the sole highlight was Kim D. putting in her star effort work with her friend Penny to fuck up Melissa for fun, but that was a brief stint and far from enough to salvage this wasteland of a season.
7. Season 7
The much hyped return of Teresa brought about the return of Jersey but sadly it fell pretty flat. Tre coming home was genuinely sweet and emotional but it was a single episode’s worth of material and then it just segued into preparing for Joe to go away which was kind of a rehash of season 6. Newcomers Siggy and Dolores didn’t bring anything to the table with their solo footage nor as Jacqueline’s allies. This season was the story of Jacqueline’s full descent into insanity, as per her obsession with Teresa. Unfortunately, even at peak unbalanced I just don’t find Jacqueline interesting enough! There is also an endless amount of Kathy/Rosie scenes that have nothing to do with anything and really clog up the pace. If I had to note my favourite moment from the season it would be the very end when Jacqueline stormed off from the ambush lunch with Teresa and Melissa while Siggy and Dolores run barefoot through the parking lot chasing her car.
6. Season 3
I think people still kind of consider season three the golden age of Jersey, but let me tell you: I disagree. With the departure of Danielle, season three brings us into the eternal Gorga vs. Giudice era of Jersey. The season does start off with a bang, what with the Joes getting into it at a christening, and I will never not laugh at Joe Gorga sobbing about his father at the end of all of it. Alas, that was the high point of the season. Teresa’s mania hasn’t peaked yet, there is fucking endless Manzo children footage, and of course the addition of Kathy Wakile does nothing but make me never want to eat a cannoli again. Between that and the sprinkle cookies, Jersey is putting me on a no-sweets diet.
5. Season 6
And now for a dip into an alternate universe! At the end of season 5 the Giudices were indicted for their million counts of fraud, and I believe it was a surprise that the hammer came down on Tre and not just Joe. So now we end up in this weird-ass, yet oddly enjoyable season. The Giudice family is preparing for Tre to go to camp and it’s very affecting, but it completely pulls Tre out of all of the drama of the past 3 seasons. Worry not! Kathy, Caroline and Jacqueline have been axed so Bravo cast us some new housewives and I am love them. Amber Marchese is probably best known for her awful, awful husband Jim but she hit so many notes right with me. I love her insane Shannon Beador level of anxiety (like a fun Aviva) and her quest to fuck up Melissa for not knowing she had cancer years ago. In addition we get the twins Teresa (pronounced: Ter-ess-a, very key) and Nicole who are a delightful trashy duo. Reminder: Victoria Gotti shows up to accuse Teresa’s husband of fucking her mother just for shits and giggles. Looking for a blast from the past? Don’t forget Dina returned this season. She’s a joy and reminded me of why I liked her so much in the early seasons. Don’t sleep on season 6! It’s a fun romp even if it is completely tangential.
4. Season 4
Watching through Jersey for the first time this year, I had been warned about the 3-5 era. It’s a slog, it’s the same fight over and over, etc. And that wasn’t an inaccurate warning. Yet, I think my strongest opinion coming out of this is how much I fucking loved season 4. Don’t get me wrong, there is tons of garbage footage in here and yes it’s right smack dab in the middle of the painful Gorga/Giudice clash, but the highs here cancel out the lows for me. Teresa is at her absolute peak of delusional madness, scorching every single relationship she has. She makes her “joke, get it, ha-ha” about Caroline being as Italian as Olive Garden in her cookbook, she does a magazine interview posing with a dog (“Teresa is scared of dogs!!!” – Jacqueline) that sends Jacqueline spiraling down into the depths of her obsession, and just in general she’s a goddamn nightmare and that is why I watch this show. It also features Juicy Joe at his worst, as with the mounting pressure of their legal issues he sinks into drinking and berating Teresa, culminating in that insane Napa scene where he calls Tre a cunt to his mistress, then gets dragged into the vineyard for some sex just to make everyone uncomfortable. But really, the thing that tips season 4 over for me is the finale. It’s a masterpiece. Kim D. and Tre casually bring out Michael (RIP) a strip club owner to insinuate in front of everyone that Melissa used to strip. It’s pure madness watching it happen and everyone kind of whisper and text down the line about how this is obviously Tre’s doing, then a blowout outside of the party and the Gorgas storming off. It’s Kim D’s masterpiece. Give it a rewatch, you won’t regret it.
3. Season 8
Who knew Jersey had it in them? After the mega-flop of season 7, a renaissance takes place. Margaret is a great addition to the cast. She’s quick and witty and really aware of how to be subtly shady yet come off in the right. Teresa is finally getting back into the groove while Joe is off at camp. Melissa is still totally useless when she’s not at odds with Tre, but I guess there always has to be one. Danielle (!) is back in a low-key but hilarious friend of the housewives stint and she even manages to drag Dolores to the mat. But truly, season 8 is the season of Siggy. After a snoozey debut she really let the crazy fly, all fueled by the destruction of a very expensive, very special cake. I think I audibly gasped when she raked Melissa over the coals at a party with all of her friends, taking a vote on how heinous it was to ruin such a cake. This was not the last we would hear of the cake, though. Her ire then switched to Margaret, who was exceptional at prodding her into meltdowns, the greatest of course being Hitler-gate, which was an often-used yet poorly chosen analogy but not worthy of Siggy’s meltdown. And to top it off? She upstaged Margaret’s big bash in the finale by showing up super late with a broken foot. Sadly, the crazy was too real and she quit the show while the season was still airing.
2. Season 1
I was a bit torn on how to rank this season. It’s only a mere 6 episodes and has that early housewives focus on the families boring solo footage. Yet, I still love it. Teresa is instantly captivating, foreshadowing her future woes while she purchases $100,000 worth of furniture for her new, hideous home. The Manzos suck obviously, but Dina is a fun antagonist for Danielle (go rewatch, Danielle wasn’t being paranoid about her, shockingly) and Jacqueline is well…Jacqueline but keeping a lid on the crazy. Still, we have some great moments packed into these 6 episodes and the saga of Cop Without a Badge is epic. The table flip is endlessly quotable and rewatchable, and maybe my favourite moment is when Danielle insists her daughters stay to watch? Or when she casually yanks the book out and drops it down on the table, silently staring down everyone at the table for an eternity for speaking. I think every time I watch it, 9 years later, I find something new to enjoy. So pay attention, puh-lease.
1. Season 2
The queen stays queen. Nothing can touch the mania of Danielle Staub. The season starts off super dark with Danielle being completely cast out, except for ironically with Dina whom she will run off the show mid-season, after season one. She does an insane drive-by of a boring Manzo party in the first episode while her daughters beg and plead for her to just go home from the back seat. With nobody filming or speaking to Danielle, we get Kim G. as the go-between, gloriously shit-stirring with no true loyalties. Danielle rolls up to a charity event at the Brownstone for some sort of ailing baby with an entourage of Hell’s Angels in tow because she thinks the Manzos are going to kill her. Danny is a character from a 90s mob show. It begins the tradition of the Posche fashion show being a complete disaster creating amazing television viewing for us. Everything about this season is perfection. It’s so fucking weird, so dark, so beautiful.