You’re wandering along, minding your own business, when suddenly you’re in a lavish mansion or kicking sand off your feet on the boardwalk, and someone is shouting at you about hair and trying to throw a table. Never fear! You’re just in a reality show based in New Jersey.
Even though The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Jersey Shore, and Jerseylicious – coming back tonight at 8 p.m. EST on Style — are set in different locales, there are some cultural similarities to ground you as you pass from billion-dollar homes and country clubs to the Shore to the salon. Based on our knowledge of various programs, we’ve compiled a list of identifying characteristics and ground rules.
The cast is huge. It takes a seasoned viewer to stay on top of the various rivalries, romantic entanglements, and outright fights occurring between these social groups. From identifying the three Manzo sisters to figuring out which girls The Situation hasn’t smushed with, you’ll be too caught up to notice anything else. But both of those casts are child’s play compared to the twenty-one ”characters” listed on Jerselylicious‘ Wikipedia page. Similar to the feud that begins Romeo & Juliet, there seems to be bad blood between the Gatsby Salon and Glam Fairy, with employees switching between the two establishments and resentments festering. Plus, for every main character there’s an on-again/off-again boyfriend, an intern or assistant, and an ex.
Family is key. Similarly, each of these unique little “clans” treats themselves like a nontraditional family. Obviously there are the blood and marital ties among the RHONJ group. (I still can’t get over how Caroline and Dina Manzo married brothers.) But the Jersey Shore kids, despite their hookups, seem to consider each other to be weird family members since they all live under the same roof; and the Gatsby’s employees are all comrades-in-arms.
They have their own lingo. If you don’t know what “smush” means, you’ve got a ways to go. Add “GTL” and “grenade” to your vocabulary when discussing your daily routine — more on that below — and you’ll have all the trappings to get your own reality-show mate. You’ll be so proud once you can use “prostitution whore” in a sentence a) with Teresa Giudice‘s pronunciation and b) with some approximation of what she meant when she shouted it at Danielle Staub.
Big hair, dark eyes, orange skin. This one’s a freebie; if you see signs of tanning-bed abuse and hair you’re dying to tug to see if it’s real, then Toto, you’re definitely not in Kansas anymore. (Oh, and duckbill nails. Those are here to stay.)
An obsession with reputation. Although the Jersey Shore crew isn’t quite as self-aware as the others, they’re equally obsessed with looking good and hooking up as much as possible. It seems that every conflict on RHONJ revolved around one of the ladies’ anxiety over how the rest of the Franklin Lakes crew saw her: Danielle’s secret past as a dancer and her jail time; Teresa’s bankruptcy; Caroline’s family, etc. Similarly, the Jerseylicious season 4 premiere is called “You’re Fired, Now What?” has Tracy DiMarco and Gigi Liscio struggling with unemployment — having gotten canned at last season’s reunion — and trying to either get their jobs back at Gatsby or start anew somewhere else.
Jerseylicious starts up again tonight at 8 p.m. EST on Style; here’s a preview of makeup artist Olivia Blois Sharpe trying her hand at hair because the salon is short-staffed.