Reality Bites: Mob Wives

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There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

The women of Mob Wives are the embodiment of Karen Hill's description from Goodfellas:

They had bad skin and wore too much make-up. I mean, they didn't look very good. They looked beat-up.

The title sequence of the show is simply the four principal wives strolling purposely through Battery Park, the camera briefly highlighting each of their faces, and your first thought is: here is Snooki and JWoww's endgame. But even beyond that, these faces are what one must assume you're left with after a life attached to organized crime: careworn, embittered, and..yes, a little surgically enhanced.

But I'll tell you what, I wouldn't even take odds on these women squaring off against any of the Real Housewives. It'd be like that time Manny Pacquiao annihilated David Diaz.

The episode begins with several of the wives on a vacation in the Poconos, where they've decided to hang out at a local bar, and subsequently get harassed by a local douchebag. Renee (Graziano, daughter of Bonanno consigliere Anthony Graziano) takes offense to his come-ons and threatens to leave him face down in one of the area's famous hot tubs. As a threat, it's not quite as elegant as making him "an offer he can't refuse," but these are vulgar times, and Renee looks like she means business.

Carla (Facciolo, her husband Joey is in prison for stock fraud) is left with Ramona and Karen at Shenanigan's (holy shit, is there really a bar in the Poconos called "Shenanigans?"), because Renee isn't satisfied that the bouncers removed their harasser. It's shocking, I know, to think traveling around with a camera crew in tow might lead to obnoxiousness. She storms out, only to return after realizing Junior, her...husband? Ex-husband? Who can keep track? - isn't going to drive 2 1/2 hours from Staten Island to come pick her up.

Meanwhile, back on SI (see? I'm learning the lingo), "Big Ang" Raiola (niece of deceased Genovese family captain Salvatore "Sally Dogs" Lombardi) hangs out with her pal Drita D'Avanzo. Ang is having thyroid issues, but seems amiable in spite of her terrible tranny voice. Drita is preparing for a swimwear modeling gig that will get her some post-divorce money (ex-husband Lee has been incarcerated numerous times for drugs and bank robbery). Big Ang has brought in someone to give them both spray tans, which is one of those Northeastern beauty rituals we Texans would laugh at if so many of our pickup drivers didn't adorn their vehicles with mock testicles.

As it turns out, Drita cleans up pretty well.

My understanding of the show is limited to the wives' often contradictory statements, but Karen is the daughter of famed informant Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, so her presence is obviously the source of some tension. There are different factions (Renee vs. Drita, Karen vs. Drita, Carla vs. Renee, Borg vs. McEnroe), but it's hard to keep track of, and even more difficult to give a shit about.

Is the Mob still feared? I'm not asking as a smart ass, nor do I want my favorite Old Navy fleece (I don't own a bulletproof vest) wrapped up in newspaper with a fish and delivered to my wife. It's just curious to me that a bunch of women with overt ties to organized crime would be so brazen about advertising it.

I realize that's the hook of the show, and it's a distinctly American thing. Our desire for publicity is too overwhelming, especially when there doesn't appear to be any negative repercussions. I mean, Henry Hill was kicked out of witness protection 20 years ago and nobody tries to rub him out during one of his infrequent visits to The Howard Stern Show. In the old days, the Gambinos would have wiped out everyone in Sammy The Bull's family. Maybe now it's too much effort. Or, more likely, there are just too many damn stool pigeons.

I think we just hit upon the solution to the Mexican drug war. Let the narcos move to the United States. Within five years they'll be too busy with their own Bravo series to commit crimes.

Back to the show. Carla is happy Joey will be home from the halfway house soon, and his arrival is rather emotional, once you get past the fact they likely won't be together by the end of season 3, or that we're talking about people's lives in terms of television time.

The only other event of note (I was dozing off at this point) was Renee's attempt at a birds-and-bees talk with her son A.J. Her college student son. Most parents I know give that talk some time before high school graduation, but different strokes and all that. Besides, advice this sage is pretty timeless:

Nobody wants to come home and say, "Mom, I caught crabs or herpes or gonorrhea or any other fucking thing. So do yourself a favor, protect your life, wear a condom, stay away from any girl who smells funny and any man who's got bumps on his dick.

My grandmother used to tell me the same thing.

It's hard in the age of teen pregnancy shows and "The Situation" to get too up in arms about this kind of crap anymore. These are mostly terrible people I wouldn't allow on my property, much less in my home, but you can say that about most celebrities, I've found.

Any anyway, things are going to get rather interesting when everyone finds out Renee's (ex?) husband is a rat.

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