But the housewives may be getting the last laugh. Many aren't housewives at all, but rather savvy businesswomen hoping to use the show as a launching platform for their careers.
Giudice is starting a line of hair products for kids. Staub, seen in one episode throwing a Botox party, plans to create an exercise video to explain how to get her youthful appearance.
New York housewife Luann de Lesseps, wife of a Count (though they are currently separated), wrote a book on etiquette called "Class with the Countess," and another New York housewife, Ramona Singer, launched a skincare line.
Frankel chose to go on the show to expand her image as a celebrity chef. "Two years ago, I couldn't pay my rent," she says.
"I thought it was a 50-50 shot. It would be completely horrendous for me or the best thing that ever happened to me. And bravo to Bravo -- it's the best thing that ever happened to me."
Frankel now has a best-selling cookbook, "Naturally Thin," and a line of bakery products. She's about to launch her own line of low-calorie margaritas.
"I am on TV because I want to build a brand," she says, "and I want to speak to women and help them lose weight."
Unlike the other series in the "Housewives" franchise, the New Jersey housewives aren't just friends. Most of them are family. And they claim this is the real them.
"We are just, we are who we are," Dina Manzo says. "We are not trying to be anybody we are not, we shoot from the hip, we are not ashamed. You know, I said I was sweating my balls off while I was playing tennis with my daughters. I mean, did I love that I said that?
"I'm like, 'No,' but I say it all the time."