The Real Housewives of New Jersey doesn't premiere until Tuesday, but the matriarch of the new bunch, Caroline Manzo, is already a standout.
In a commercial for Bravo's latest installment of its hit franchise, Caroline barks in her thick Joisey accent, "Let me tell you something about my family, we're as thick as thieves. And we protect each other to the end." What follows is pure bridge-and-tunnel: table flipping, fists flying and a barrage of colorful Garden State language.
It's no wonder the show is being likened to a real-life Sopranos.
"Nonsense, nonsense, nonsense," Caroline says when asked about comparisons to HBO's hit mafia series. "We're Italian and geographically we happen to be where the Sopranos were set—brilliant marketing on Bravo's part. We have the same Italian traditions and values because Italians are all about values. But to put us in the same bed as that? On the business side of it? Stop it. That's nonsense."
If she's no Carmela, then who is this Caroline? Read on to find out…
Caroline is a mother of three who lives in wealthy (what recession?) Franklin Lakes, N.J. She's joined on the show by her sister and sister-in-law Dina Manzo (they married brothers), another sister-in-law, Jacqueline Laurita (she married one of Caroline and Dina's brothers) and longtime family friend Theresa Giudice.
The fifth, Danielle Staub, is the resident outsider and villainess. A wildly self-assured MILF, Danielle appears to be the target of that "thick as thieves" proclamation.
"I'm a tough cookie when I have to be, and I'm not running away from what I said or what I did," Caroline explains. "It was a very tense moment." (She declined to elaborate, saying we have to tune it to find out what happens. Natch!)
Catfights aside, Caroline insists she's a throwback to a '50s housewife. Sure, she owns a real estate firm and a children's accessories company, but as she says, "I live for my children. I live for my husband."
Daughter Lauren manages the wedding department at the Brownstone, their family-owned banquet hall. Son Christopher works there too, but he dreams of opening up a "recession-proof" side-by-side strip club and car wash. Then there's Albie, the first and only one of the Manzo kids to go to college. Now a first-year law student, he's well on his way to becoming the show's lovable hottie.
"Is that the buzz?" Caroline excitedly asks about Albie's impending heartthrob status. "Albie is just this charming little guy. To me, he's still a baby. Obviously he's a man, but he'll always be my baby—even when he's 50."
In other words, you want to get to Albie, ya gotta get through mama first or you could, well, fuhgeddaboudit.
Caroline recently met New York City Housewife Alex McCord. "Alex told me to get a thick skin and enjoy the ride," Caroline says. "She said great things come with it, so enjoy it. And you know what? She couldn't be more right…I will take the good out of it, and with the lemons, I will make lemonade."
(Coming up tomorrow, more Real Housewives of New Jersey for ya. Make sure to come on back.)
Follow Marc on Twitter @marcmalkin