Editor’s note: David Caplan is an entertainment journalist and the founder of GossipDavid.com. Previously, he was a senior editor at People magazine and has worked at publications like Us Weekly, Star Magazine and HollywoodLIfe.com. He is on Twitter.
“The Real Housewives of New Jersey” never disappoints: Week after week, the show is full of foul-mouthed fights, shocking displays of crass and crude behavior, and plenty of accusations of adultery and other sexual improprieties. While the entire “Housewives” franchise celebrates this sort of dysfunction, the New Jersey series is truly in a category of its own.
Defined by such over-the-top antics, “ RHONJ” is no stranger to skeptics questioning its authenticity. But the morning after the ninth episode of the show’s fifth season aired, the drama got all too real for self-perceived punching bag Teresa Giudice and her teddy bear of a husband, Joe.
The couple was charged in a 39-count indictment, including conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, bank fraud, and bankruptcy fraud. Plus, Joe is accused of not filing tax returns from 2004 to 2008. Oh, and Italian-born Joe isn’t a U.S. citizen and faces possible deportation.
The couple was released on a $500,000 bond each and is prohibited from leaving New Jersey or New York.
“They’re serious charges,” U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said of the allegations against the Giudices.
You don’t say.
While this is bad news — from a legal standpoint — for Teresa and Joe, is it equally as devastating for the show? No way. The show exists and thrives because of such drama, although the drama usually takes place on-screen.
Just look at the ratings for the July 21 episode, during which the Giudices got into a physical, violent fight with Melissa and Joe Gorga (um, their family). That episode snagged 2.8 million total viewers and 1.6 million viewers in the lucrative, advertiser-friendly 18-49 demographic, making Bravo the No. 1 cable network in the 8 p.m. timeslot.
And when co-star Jacqueline Laurita visited Andy Cohen’s “ Watch What Happens Live” that night to talk about the episode’s antics, it ended up being the highest-rated episode of that show so far this season. Teresa and Joe themselves are also ratings gold: Last year’s season premiere of “WWHL” featured the couple and, at the time, it was the most-watched “WWHL” episode ever.
This latest off-screen scandal has only created a new cottage industry of friends, co-stars, and various detractors and supporters speaking to the press about their take on the charges, which is great for the show. It keeps the buzz going and further drives interest in the franchise and, ultimately, ratings.
Teresa’s friend Kim DePaola, for example, spoke “exclusively” to Us Weekly this week, saying, "Knowing Teresa as well as I know her, and I think I know her, I don't think she would ever willingly do any of this.”
Added Teresa’s rival Kim “Kim G” Granatell to The New York Post, “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”
Between the ratings boon this scandal will undoubtedly mean for the show, as well as the increased visibility and cultural relevance of Teresa and Joe (despite its unsavory nature), this opens up a slew of new money-generating opportunities for the embattled couple. Since the Giudices are so much more interesting now, a spin-off wouldn’t be unexpected. Then there are the sit-down TV interviews they’ll likely be offered by shows outside the traditional entertainment newsmagazine genre.
The Giudice brand is only stronger now. It might not be a brand that represents values inherent to most Americans, but it’s a money-making brand nonetheless.
And while it may seem tough for them to take advantage of the situation, considering they face 30-plus years in prison, there’s an uneasy precedence of many celebs never seeing the inside of a prison cell, or at least not for anywhere near that length of time.
So get ready for those Nielsen boxes to explode!