Andy Cohen, senior vice president of original programming and development for Bravo, argued that "Housewives" depicts "a real slice of life in New Jersey, without editorialization."
"I think it's fun that these women are committed to a level of taste that is purely their own," he said. Season 2 promises more of the same bling-heavy fashion and bare-knuckle rivalries. "It only takes one good smack to the head to make a person never walk again," housewife Danielle Staub warns in an upcoming episode.
But with "Jersey Couture," the newest arrival, the Scali family is determined to offer a more nuanced portrayal of the state.
"There's a stigma that someone from Jersey will wear a short leopard dress and look trashy," said Kimberly Gambale, 29, Diane Scali's eldest daughter. "Hopefully, they'll see that Jersey is more than that stereotype, so much more. We're not the girls who party and go dance on tables. We're workaholics."
"Someone called me Snooki during filming and I was like, 'There's nothing about me that's like that!' " her sister, Christina Scali, 27, added indignantly, referring to the MTV star who was punched in a bar last season.
The siblings, along with their 24-year-old brother, Anthony, work 80 hours a week in their mother's store, where they pride themselves on finding exactly the right dress for any woman.
"We're very in-your-face," admitted Gambale, who calls customers "hotness" and "sexy." "We're like, 'That looks gross, take it off.' We don't lie. 'You think you look skinny in that? Your mooper and your pooper are hanging out!' "
Such frankness, along with the family's high-volume banter, captured the attention of freelance producer Jacqueline Cardillo Garofano last year when she brought in her mother to find a dress for Garofano's wedding.
"It was loud and fun and reminded me of my home," she said. "I'm like, 'You guys are nuts, you guys need a show!' " She pitched the idea to producer Brian Flanagan, who was sold the instant he met the family.
"I don't consider this a Jersey show," Flanagan said.
"We have loud, we have fights, but it's couched in family and business in a way that's real and truthful."
That's the hope of Diane Scali, known in her family as "The Tornado," as she contemplated the family's imminent fame. "Maybe," she offered, snapping her fingers and singing, a la Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack," "we'll bring Jersey back!"