Well, it finally happened. After reports that Teresa and Joe Giudice could face years (if not decades) of jail time for concealing income and lying during bankruptcy proceedings, the couple we love to hate on “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” has pleaded guilty to an assortment of the bad deeds with which they've been charged (but far fewer than the 40 counts originally laid down). The couple will be sentenced July 8.
Some people are wondering what impact this will have on the survival of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.” Since the show is already filming season 6 (and, most notably, the Giudices are part of it), it might not have much impact at all. Though federal sentencing guidelines indicate Joe faces 37 to 46 months in prison and Teresa 21 to 27 months, the buzz is that Teresa will get probation (meaning she will be available for the rest of the season and any that come afterward), while Joe may not face the maximum (and definitely won't be deported to Italy). Not great, but hardly the worst possible scenario.
If nothing else, the Giudice drama has the potential to add a new dimension to a show that's become increasingly flat. The real question is whether or not fans will want to watch.
I suspect that when the show returns ratings will be through the roof, at least initially. If a more sympathetic character had submitted a guilty plea for shady dealings (not that there are too many of those on this show), it might have been the nail in the coffin after five seasons. The bickering between Teresa and Melissa Gorga has gotten old, Caroline Manzo seems to want to step back from the fighting, and Kathy Wakile is too busy making cannolis to care. It seems horrible to say it, but this dramatic setback for Teresa may be the best thing for the show, if not for her personally.
The guilty pleas also aren't likely to change how most people see the Giudices. Let's face it — thought Teresa and Joe have their loyal defenders, most fans of the show don't think much of Teresa, to say the least. As the “character” at the heart of almost every dust up, she's been portrayed as the villain since the show began.
The guilty pleas seem to fit squarely with what some viewers think of the Giudices, though it could be argued (and likely will be by their lawyers) that pleading guilty was the only reasonable option they had. Though initially the pair said they would never consider anything but a not guilty plea, it was likely hard to hold that stance in the face of 40 counts — and the reality that the Feds had huge amounts of filmed evidence to poke holes in some of the Giudice's bankruptcy claims.
The legacy of this debacle could be one we won't see, at least not on our televisions. Men and women who choose to get involved in any reality show, especially ones that focus on wealth and luxury, may hesitate before they sign up. There was plenty of talk that the Feds wanted to make a high profile example of the Giudices in part because they're public figures — and all of that footage can and would (and possibly will) be used against them. Anyone who signs up for a Bravo show from now on will likely be careful about what they show the cameras and even more careful about their legal dealings.
Whether or not the Giudices were singled out, 2014 is going to be a tough year for the couple and their four daughters. But it's not hard to imagine that some Bravo executives are quietly celebrating what's sure to be a ratings win.
Will you watch season six? Do you think Teresa and Joe should go to jail? Were you surprised by the guilty pleas?