South, meet Jaime. She’s not from around here. Not by a long shot. In fact, she’s from New Jersey--her association with the Garden State isn't quickly forgotten--and she’s the star of Bravo’s new reality series Jersey Belle, which debuted tonight.
Jaime’s story is one of true love, the sort of true love that involves enough frequent flyer miles to buy an airline. The New Jersey publicist met Michael while passing through through Mountain Brook. He offered to buy her a drink, and one thing led to another like they always do—soon enough he was flying up to Jersey once a month to spend a few days with her, before proposing after 10 months (incredible, considering it took him nine months to kiss her).
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes moving to Mountain Brook.
For those who don’t know, Mountain Brook is an extremely affluent suburb of Birmingham, about a 15-minute drive (and a world away) from the apartment where I type this very paragraph. According to one character, it’s the ninth or so best zip code in the country, but Jaime disagrees. “Mountain Brook, Alabama,” she says. “Some would say it's perfection. I say it ain’t Jersey.” We shouldn’t feign surprise, though. After all, she says, “before I met Michael, I imagined Alabama as a scene out of Deliverance.” And the reality doesn’t seem to have softened her. These words could be the show’s tagline: "I don’t fit in here. Most days I don’t really like it here.”
Even so, she's made more girlfriends than there are mentions of Prada throughout the episode. While Jaime delights in shocking these Southern belles with commentary best left in the gynecologist’s office, she loves them fiercely. She’s so fierce that when Michael says, “She hit me over the head, so to speak,” you’d be hard-pressed not to wonder if he means literally.
How much you like this show will depend on how you enjoy your stereotypes: with a side of pimiento cheese grits or potato latkes. The premiere centers around the upcoming tea of her friend Arden, who is “basically marrying into Mountain Brook” by wedding William Upton. Arden has the misfortune of growing up in Forest Park, an almost-as-affluent suburb a few minutes from M.B. that's graced with fewer horses and Ferraris. Luckily, Arden has found a perfect match—William doesn't have a taste for foreign cars and only rides the former.
The drama begins immediately when Jaime is asked to bring something to the tea. Proving that the fish isn’t out of water but actually in an entirely different sea, Jaime’s suggestions of lasagna and meatballs are scornfully rejected. When she offers to make the more sensible cannoli, none of these Alabama women knows what it is. A viewing of The Godfather is in order.
Eventually Jaime decides on an acceptable dish before blundering through several more pre-wedding activities before the tea itself. These include dress shopping, monogramming against her will, dress fitting, comparing oysters to _______________ (you can fill that in), and dress shopping. Somewhere between dress shopping and her 18th joke about this being Arden’s third wedding ("Southern wedding tradition calls for a white dress for the first marriage, not the third."), we meet a cast of other women.
Bearing the emotional weight of the series is Luci, a recently single mother who was married when she met Jaime. “I’m not one to encourage divorce,” Jaime tells us while recalling the time she encouraged Luci to get a divorce. Luci’s on a path of self-discovery, and Jaime will do everything she can to help.
But not before mistaking pimiento cheese at the wedding tea for meatballs. Arden shows up 30 minutes late, face streaked with the ghosts of tears. Before the final dress fitting, Jaime finds out why: William’s mother didn’t show up to the tea.
So many questions remain. Will Arden break into Mountain Brook, or will she forever be relegated to the Prius-dotted purgatory that is Forest Park? Will Luci realize she’s better off alone, or will she dash back to her ex? Will anyone ever find a dress that fits? Will the ladies of Alabama discover the richness that is cannoli? Will one of Jaime's scatological stories go too far? Only one way to find out.
- Do you not have to wear shoes in restaurants in New Jersey?
- While Arden really takes Jaime’s comment that she looks like Ellen DeGeneres as an insult, she seems most upset by the accusation that she wears pants.
- Jaime doesn’t seem to understand how last names (or monogramming) works.
- On accent alone, Jaime could be the child of Robert De Niro and Anthony Bourdain.
- Does Vegas have an over/under bet to see how many times the word “cannoli” is mentioned per episode?
- Am I the only one who agrees with Jaime when she says, “I feel like lasagna is one of those things you can bring anywhere”? Because that’s a world I’d like to live in.