Prison-bound Teresa and Joe Giudice explain their behavior, reveal their naivete
The day after "Real Housewives of New Jersey" Teresa and Joe Giudice were sentenced to unexpectedly long prison terms (15 months and 41 months, respectively) after they pleaded guilty to mail fraud, wire fraud, and bankruptcy fraud, they gave their first interview to the man who made them famous: Bravo's Andy Cohen.
The usually jokey, cheesy turned serious and awkward--well, more awkward than usual--as Andy Cohen asked actual, journalistic questions and follow-ups. This was such unfamiliar territory for Bravo and "Watch What Happens Live" that we can forgive them for calling a pre-taped, two-part interview featuring three people "Watch What Happens Live: One on One."
During the first half-hour, Teresa's characteristic but still stunning naivety was front and center, starting with her incredible claim that she did not understand the plea deal she made: "I didn't understand that part," she said, and when Andy Cohen asked if her lawyer explained it to her, added, "I didn't fully understand it. ... I thought my lawyer was going to fight for me."
Teresa also admitted that while they told their older daughter, Gia, 13, they haven't yet told their daughter Milania, who's in third grade and went to school Monday. That prompted Andy Cohen to ask if they thought Milania would learn that her parents were going to prison from people at school. Teresa insisted: "No, I don't think so." Andy shot back, incredulous: "You don't?!"
And there it is, that disconnection from obvious reality--or is it inspiring optimism? or naive ignorance?--that makes Teresa such a fascinating television character. "I'm a trustworthy person," she said, talking about how she found her way into fraud.
It was only because she trusted people! Joe first tried to say that he gave Teresa "just whatever the bank gave me for her to sign." In Andy Cohen's best line of questioning, he quickly said, "but you were taking out false loans."
Joe admitted that but acted as if he'd admitted to picking up a penny on the sidewalk: "Alright, whatever, I was taking out false loans." Andy Cohen reminded him that the forms "were phony W-2 forms" and Joe finally admitted, "she had better credit so we used her."
Joe also said he plead guilty thinking Teresa wouldn't get prison time, and said their behavior wasn't to get Teresa more money to spend. That led to a strange conversation where Teresa said she doesn't pay retail for things such as a $3,000 purse, and Joe asked Andy how much he thought Joe's suit cost. (Answer: $250 for two suits plus two ties and two shirts.)
Andy admitted "this suit, I did not pay retail for," but swung back with this zinger: "but I paid my taxes on this suit."
That was the most typical Watch What Happens Live tangent, and the conversation turned somber again when Andy Cohen brought up their actual prison sentences--at least until Joe tried to make a prison assault joke: "What if another woman touches you? I'm kidding..."
Teresa will be remanded Jan. 5, and Joe will go only after she serves her time, so as to allow their kids to have one parent around at all times.
While Teresa was appreciative of that arrangement, she was also worried not about prison itself ("I'm just gonna take it and become a better person"), but being away from her kids. "I just want to be with my daughters. That's all I think about," she said.
Yet she mostly seemed concerned that Joe would be the sole parent while she was away, suggesting adherence to such traditional gender roles that her husband doesn't know how to parent. "I do everything with my daughters," she said, adding "I'm the one that's hands on."
Joe seemed resigned to his 15 months of parenting prison: "it's gonna be a lot of work, but they're my daughters, and I gotta do what I gotta do."
What didn't come up in part one of the interview, but was teased for part two, was Teresa's argument when she asked not to go to prison: that her image is "a carefully crafted fiction, engineered by Bravo TV."
For sure, "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" is carefully crafted and engineered, but while Teresa may not believe it, this "WWHL" and her prison sentence prove this is all very real.