Tu Vuo’ Fa’ L’Italiano


by James Killough

I’m not a big reality TV person.  In fact, that’s Tuttle’s purview, so I won’t encroach on his turf too much other than to say that I caught a couple of episodes of Jerseylicious the other night.  At one point I realized I was sitting on the edge of my seat with my mouth hanging open in awe, as if I were witnessing some spectacular natural disaster, or a dramatization of Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

An apparent spin-off of Jersey Shore, this particular reality show focuses on a clutch of “glamour” cosmetologists from a hair and makeup salon called Gatsby’s in Green Brook, New Jersey.  This is very much Reality TV 2.0: most of the show is set up and staged.  There are too many over-the-shoulder reaction shots with no second camera behind the person being spoken to for it to be completely impromptu, and there always seems to be a camera on the other end of the phone to record the person being called in an “unexpected” emergency.  However, just in terms of the styling and the lifestyle, there is little doubt that this is slice-of-life; in other words, these caricatures really do dress and talk like a version of Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean set in Jersey starring Fran Drescher in all of the roles.

Olivia and Tracey from "Jerseylicious" don't just redefine glamour, they take it out back and beat it to a pulp with a spiked club.

Even though I’m a native New Yorker, and Green Brook is near the City, I’ve had very little contact with these outlandish creatures.  They must be all at least fourth generation Italo-Americans, but like almost everyone from that ethnic group they identify as Italians, as if they’re all here on extended work visas and plan to return once they’ve saved enough money to fix up the old farm in Reggio Calabria.  Every so often they use some word that sounds Italianate, which is probably some mash up between southern dialect and English, but I can’t make out what it is.