Teresa Giudice, Joe Giudice, Gia, Audriana, Milania, Gabriella


Reality TV gets knocked all the time for how contrived it can feel, but there's no way anyone's arguing that about The Real Housewives of New Jersey: Teresa Checks In.

No, tonight's premiere episode (the first of three to check in with Teresa Giudice and her family while she's behind bars) was serving up prison drama realness from the jump. While the cameras focused on Tre's husband Joe and their four daughters (Danbury Correctional has a strict "no reality TV cameras" policy, apparently), the Garden State diva's presence was felt heavily through the many, many phone calls she makes to her family. But viewers hoping for some schadenfreude fun were in for a shock when the episode revealed itself to be a bit of a sobering downer.

So, just how real did things get? Let's count the ways.

1. We learn quickly that, while Teresa has unlimited email access in the joint, she only gets 300 minutes of phone time a month. So, while it seemed like she was calling a lot during the hour, she's only got about 10 minutes a day. The family mentions that there are some months where she runs out of minutes before she's out of month. That's rough. 

2. Hubby Joe, who's awaiting his own prison stay once Teresa gets out, doesn't have a driver's license thanks to his previous arrest and license suspension. Meanwhile, he's trying to care for his four daughters on his own. As viewers see, it's not easy. There's a lot of family being relied on to help Joe out, including another Teresa and Joe—because, if there's one thing we've always said RHONJ needs more of, it's people named Teresa and Joe.

3. While Joe's leaning on his family, Teresa's brother Joe Gorga and wife Melissa admit that the Giudices aren't reaching out to them as much as they'd like. You know, because that vicious feud chronicled for the past few seasons on the show has deeply poisoned the family well. Gia even admits that she's "not comfortable" with Melissa yet. Her own aunt.

4. Gia's eighth grade dance and the one-year anniversary of Joe's dad's passing on the same day? Talk about piling it on for ol' Juicy.

5. When Teresa calls before Gia's dance, her father has to leave the room so he doesn't see his grandchildren cry because everyone's afraid it might KILL HIM.

6. Crazy Milania, still as much real-life Tasmanian Devil as ever, announces she won a spelling bee even though she's "the dumbest people in her class." (Her words!) She then proceeds to spell juror, her winning word, "g-u-r-o-r."

7. Teresa plans both parties we see at the house via meticulous e-mails, down to the color of tablecloths. You know what they say: You can take the felon off of the Housewives, but you can't take the housewife out of the felon. Or something like that.

8. Without comment, Joe, on sex behind bars: "Even in the men's place, if you want to be a corndogger, they're gonna give it to you."

9. Joe admits since Teresa's been gone he can't stand to be in their bedroom. Instead, he chooses to sleep on their couch. 

10. Tre's attorney reveals that his client is keeping up with Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Atlanta during her time at Danbury. Imprisoned Housewives, they're just like us!

11. In all seriousness, it's hard to feel too bad for Teresa and Joe because, you know, they broke the law. But, seeing the effect this is having on their kids gave us a case of the feels. Gia's only just starting high school, but she shows the strength and maturity of a much older person in the face of her family's troubles. While it's great she's able to be so strong, it's a little heartbreaking, too. No kid should be crying while getting ready for their eighth grade prom because their mom is in prison.And even though the younger three have been told Mom's just away for work, you can tell they know something else is going on. Audriana may be too young to put the pieces together, but Milania and Gabriella have to be struggling too.

What did you think of the special? Do you feel sorry for Teresa and Joe? Or are they getting what they deserve? Sound off in the comments below!

The Real Housewives of New Jersey: Teresa Checks In continues Sunday at 8 p.m. on Bravo.

(E! and Bravo are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)

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