Sep. 30, 2013 at 12:37 PM ET
Something dangerous happens to people who have been on reality TV for a long time: they start to believe what they see onscreen. To viewers of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Joe and Teresa Giudice appear to be a wealthy, loving couple, who owe their success to hard work and good old-fashioned Italian values. The real story is that they went bankrupt the year that RHONJ premiered, and they're now facing 50 years in prison for defrauding banks, creditors and the IRS. Guess which version of the truth Teresa believes?
"I'm sad. I can't believe this is happening to us. I feel like this is a dream," Teresa told Andy Cohen on a special episode of Watch What Happens Live.
She's acting like it's a dream, too: She'll wake up one morning, and the 39 indictment charges will be gone. Throughout the course of the interview, it became incredibly clear that Teresa and Joe have no intention of dealing with the consequences of their actions.
"We pleaded 'not guilty' for a reason, because we're not guilty," said Joe. "If we were guilty, we would have pleaded."
Later on, however, Joe claimed that he doesn't actually understand the charges. ("I don't even know what half the charges are. I don't understand that stuff, but whatever.") And then he implied that he was being unfairly targeted because of his reality stardom ("If I wasn't on the show, nobody would care."). Then he said that the current charges "stem" from his 2010 DUI, for which he went to jail, even though he says he "wasn't even drunk."
Here's a reminder of how not-drunk Joe was: on the night in question, Joe was driving with a revoked license and slammed his car into a telephone pole. But hey, that pole was probably only there because he's on reality TV, right?
Even if Joe was unfairly sentenced for that particular incident—which he wasn't, because his blood alcohol level is on the record—it would be completely unrelated to these financial fraud charges. And he still claims complete ignorance of any wrongdoing, or any financial problems, period.
"We've never lived beyond our means. I'm a businessman. I make money," said Joe, conveniently forgetting that whole bankruptcy thing.
Perhaps the most disturbing part of the Giudices' interview was when Cohen pointed out, as gently as possible, that the two of them could be headed to prison for 50 years.
"I thought it was 100," Joe said off-handedly.
"It's 50 all together, hon. That's what they say in the magazines," Teresa told her husband. (Click here to watch!)
We don't know which is worse: that Teresa is getting the legal information about her own case from Us Weekly, or that Joe literally has no idea what kind of sentence he's facing. He's not even considering the possibility that he could be found guilty of any charges—and remember, there are 39 charges, which means there are a lot of potential outcomes.
Even if Teresa and Joe only went to jail for a few months, or a year, that's going to have a massive impact on their four young daughters. Teresa says she's "staying strong" for the kids, but what she's actually doing is pretending that nothing is wrong. What she needs to do is prepare those kids for a possible future where she and/or Joe are not around. (Click here for a clip)
The trial is set to begin in February, which gives the Giudices four months to snap out of their stupor and watch what's happening live—outside of Bravo.
Donna Kaufman is a freelance writer and iVillage contributor—find her on Twitter.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.