‘Mob Wives Chicago,’ worst of da worst
These dames get physical, yanking hair and throwing punches on this VH1 series
June 8, 2012
Most of reality TV is more of the same. Usually it's more of the same and a little bit worse.
"Mob Wives Chicago" is the latest cookie-cutter show in VH1's "[Something] Wives” franchise (e.g., “Basketball Wives,” “Football Wives,” “Mob Wives”), which is a blatant copy of Bravo’s “Real Housewives of [Somewhere]" franchise. All of these shows focus on stupid, crass, idle women who devote their vast amounts of excess time and energy to feuding with one another, probably egged on by the shows' producers. Premiering this Sunday, June 10, at 8 p.m., "Chicago" has probably found the stupidest, most crass and most idle cast ever, and the feuding explodes into what may be the ugliest catfight ever shown on TV.
Although most viewers have probably said, "Enough!" by this point, there must be some who are saying, "More!" They will get it.
To assemble a cast this perfect, the producers had to bend their own rules. None of the women is currently a wife. Their primary connection to the Mob comes from either their fathers or, in one case, an uncle.
As in almost every premiere episode of a "Housewives"/"Wives" show, we meet a group of women with one obvious outcast who is nonetheless invited to a get-together. Among the other invitees is always at least one woman with whom the outcast has a beef. After too much drinking, harsh words are exchanged, heads bob and fingers are thrust at faces. In "Mob Wives Chicago," however, it gets physical.
The outcast is Pia Rizza, who is shunned because her father testified against his former Mob associates. Ever since, Pia has been known as the daughter of a rat, which sounds worse when "rat" is pronounced in that harsh Chicago accent.
The other women condemn her for working as a stripper, which, in their social milieu, is worse than theft, extortion and murder but not as bad as testifying truthfully in court.
Pia's best friend is Nora Schweihs, who, as if often the case with at least one cast member on these shows, has recently moved to the location for a dubious reason, the real reason probably being so that she could be on TV. Her father was a notorious Chicago hitman, but don't say that to Nora, who has only fond memories of her childhood. "We had so much class," she tells us. "I was drinking Dom Perignon when I was five."
Nora, who has been living in Florida, says that the feds confiscated her father's body the day of his funeral and that she wants to find out where the body is. For some reason, she refuses to believe the funeral director, who says that shortly after the funeral, her father was buried in the grave the family had purchased.
The other three principals are united against Pia. Renee Fecarotta Russo is the niece of an alleged loan collector and hitman. Her first ex-husband is serving life in prison for murder; her second ex-husband, whom she alleges to be a "felon," is suing her for custody of their daughter.
Christina Scoleri is the daugher of an alleged burglar who was arrested more than 20 times. She is recently divorced but is still living with her husband. "In this lifestyle," she says, "divorce is frowned on. It's like a sin." Unlike, say, theft, extortion and murder. She also says that her family doesn't know she's divorced. Let's hope cable TV is also considered a sin.
Finally, Leah DeSimone is the daughter of an alleged Mob associate who is still alive, so let's stress the "alleged." A giant-haired single woman, she is one of those ethnic people who have an insult in their own language for everyone. Nora, for example, is a "scoozimod." After a while, it sounds as if Leah were simply stringing together Italian-sounding phonemes.
The premiere is mostly taken up with the women's self-introductions until we get to the big blow-up. Nora says she (and not the producers) has decided to invite her friends to meet at a bar. Leah is out of town and misses the fun.
All dolled up and traveling in limousines, the women proceed to take too many shots and then try to clear the air. Renee tells Pia, "A rat is a rat." Then she tells the camera, "I don't associate with rats, not even the daughter of a rat," as if we hadn't just seen her associating with Pia.
Christina, for no reason, mentions that people say Nora's father was a hitman, but this too fails to set off sparks.
But then they all discuss the rumor that Nora called Pia a whore. Somehow Pia and Nora kiss and make up, until Christina brings it up again. When Pia stands up to make a point, Christina's fight reflex kicks in.
In most "Wives" shows, the only thing thrown would be gestures, but Christina hurls her drink at Pia, soaking Nora. Christina and Pia start beating on each other until the bouncers try to separate them. Christina grabs Pia's hair and holds on to it as if she were waterskiing and the hair were the towline.
As on all of these shows, each commercial break is preceded with a "coming up" tease. Usually the action that is being teased fails to live up to the hype. This time it doesn't.
The second episode provided for review deals with the start of Nora's search for her father's remains and Renee's custody battle, but mostly it's a series of scenes in which the women get together in pairs and discuss what happened in the bar. If the fight seemed irrational while it was happening, it only seems more so as the women try to make sense of it.
We also get to see the immediate aftermath of the brawl. Nora picks up an enormous clump of Pia's hair. One hopes it was an extension.
Renee, who would never associate with the daughter of a rat, nonetheless invites Pia over for coffee and tells her she should apologize to Christina. When Nora and Christina meet, Christina acts hurt because, she says, Nora unfriended her on Facebook. Nora denies this.
In turn, Christina denies disparaging Nora's father at the bar. In an interview bite, she tells the camera, "I didn't say anything about Nora's father. All I said was 'I heard your father was a hitman.' "
And so on and so on.
It's not easy to find people who are equally illogical whether they're drunk or sober, but the creators of the "Wives"/"Housewives" shows keep doing it. Where that falls on the moral spectrum between snitching and stripping is not for us to judge.
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