The joke about the state of New Jersey used to be “what exit you from”, making reference to the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike which run through the state. The questions you hear now are “what show do you watch?” or “which channel do you watch it on?”. New Jersey seems to lead the nation in reality shows.
The most well known New Jersey based reality show is MTV’s Jersey Shore. The show, which is filmed in Seaside Heights, brings a group of twenty somethings together for the summer in a house located just off the beach. They go to the gym, tan, do laundry, fist pump at clubs, but mostly they fight. Whether it is Ronnie and Sammie, or JWow and Sammie, there is usually a fight on every episode involving Sammie. The rest of the cast mostly concentrate on trying to bring home members of the opposite sex. The show is a big hit for MTV with the premiere of the 2011 season having viewership exceeding 8 million people.
TLC’s reality show the Cake Boss is filmed at Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken NJ. It is just one of the three shows featuring Buddy Valestro, the others being the Next Great Baker, and Kitchen Boss. On Cake Boss Buddy leads a group of bakers through the challenges of creating some of the most unique cakes you will see anywhere. Many of the staff are either family or long time employees, all of which present their own set of problems.
The other reality show Buddy stars in involving baking is the Next Great Baker. The show starts with 10 baker/contestants who must complete a new elimination challenge each week until there is a winner. The winner receives $50,000, a new car, and a job at Carlo’s Bakery. The “Cake Boss” serves as both a mentor and judge on this show along with other members of his staff from the century old bakery.
While two reality shows would seem like enough to any sane person, Buddy actually has another show on TLC. The show Kitchen Boss gives us a much more relaxed Buddy sharing with his audience his other passion, cooking. He seems much more comfortable here letting the food be the star as he shares his recipes for many Italian dishes. His combination of charm, humor, and cooking skills may just give him another hit show.
The most talked about reality show based in the Garden State prior to the popularity of Jersey Shore was the Housewives of New Jersey. The show which features a group of women living in the area of Franklin Lakes brings us a lot of fighting among themselves much like Jersey Shore only these ladies dress better and live in nicer houses. While their lifestyles may not seem like reality to many viewers their problems may be. Caroline is a stay at home mom whose children are grown, but she doesn’t want to let go. Jaqcueline has not only a bratty teen daughter, but a newborn, and Teresa and her husband are facing hard times due to the economy and overspending. Danielle seems to have her own reality that I’m not sure anyone can relate to, especially outside of New Jersey.
A lesser known show than it’s other Jersey counterparts is Style Network’s Jerseylicious. The show centers around a Green Brook, NJ beauty salon Gatsby’s and the employees there. This just might be the show which perpetuates the sterotypes of New Jersey women more than any of the others. High hair, too much makeup, and dresses that seem two sizes too small are more the stars of this show than the people. The show seems to portray the inhabitants of the Garden State as stuck in the 1980’s.
The newest addition to the New Jersey reality show lineup is Jersey Couture on the Oxygen Network. Set in and around a dress shop, Diane & Co., in Freehold NJ it features the Scali family. Confrontations are the norm for this family as they all try to deal with a very opinionated mother. The shop is of course located in a very Jersey strip mall and does little to dispel that all New Jersey housewives do is live to shop.
Seems no matter what channel you watch your going to see a reality show based in New Jersey. Whether it’s at the shore, in a bakery, a beauty salon, or involving shopping the state has it covered. How long will it be before the Garden State has it’s own channel, much like Oprah. Maybe the governor, Chris Christie, should look into this, afterall, if the state could make Oprah money maybe they could lower the taxes, ah, but that’s just another show in the making. New Jersey already has enough.