When The OG (Old Giudice) of The Real Housewives of New Jersey Teresa Giudice went “away” to federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut in January of 2015 for committing fraud, the future of the popular installment of Bravo’s franchise was the subject of much speculation. Could anyone fill Giudice’s shoes? Would people tune in to watch if the hot-tempered, controversial, felonious, table-flipping, Garden State’s Italian version of Martha Stewart was MIA? The network apparently felt the answer was no and put the show on hiatus until Teresa was released in December 2015, meaning no new episodes for almost two years.

But out of sight meant out of mind because the season 7 premiere earned the show’s lowest ratings since it debuted in 2009. Pretty bleak news for the franchise installment that used to run ratings circles around it’s Orange County and New York City counterparts. The show never rebounded, and once again, the future of The Real Housewives of New Jersey and it’s very Botoxed cast is up in the air. Even though it’s been rumored the show and all of the ladies will return for an eighth season, nothing has been confirmed by Bravo. It seems it’s time for The Real Housewives of New Jersey to get a much-needed facelift if it hopes to woo back viewers. Here’s a few ways we think the show can get its groove back and avoid cancellation.

A Little Less Namaste

Everybody loves a bad girl, and Teresa will go down as one of the all-time greats, having gone toe-to-toe with castmates – current and former – Caroline Manzo, Kathy Wakile, Melissa Gorga, Jacqueline Laurita and Danielle Staub. But season 7 introduced a kinder more Zen Teresa. Teresa claimed that prison changed her for the better. She prayed, she did yoga and she was determined to keep the peace.

Did all those days at “camp” makeTeresa a calmer, more self-actualized person, or it could be that the decimation of her brand and the fact that she’s still on probation leave Teresa no choice but to at least fake it until she makes it? There were glimmers of the old gal – she called Jacqueline Laurita a “c**t in the season finale – but she ditched her signature outbursts altogether.

It’s hard to imagine the show going on without Teresa, and watching her face the challenges ahead without husband Joe would make for compelling television. She has her fair share of detractors, but many fans would love to see Teresa make good after her fall from grace. But Teresa needs to get her bite back, preferably unleashing her wrath on a new nemesis.

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Better Villains

Not everybody bought the new and improved Giudice, especially Laurita whose sole purpose for returning this season was to become the new HBIC. The catalyst for almost all of the dried-up drama this season was Jacqueline who has been Teresa’s on-again, off-again frenemy since season 3. The two took tentative steps toward reconciliation early on, but old issues resurfaced, and Jacqueline went into full-on attack mode on a group trip to Vermont, calling Teresa a “fucking criminal” and a “twisted bitch” and drudging up conflicts that have been ongoing for years. Did we really need to rehash “Strippergate” for the hundredth time?

A more menacing and enticing figure and feather rustler is boutique owner Kim D. whose emaciated frame would suggest she subsists entirely on a diet of gossip and alcohol. She has a yet to be revealed motive for wanting to take down Gorga and Giudice, but she’s openly accused Joe Giudice of infidelity and has been gunning for Gorga forever. Casting rumors always run rampant prior to filming, but her name has been batted around as a potential full-timer. She’s got a proven track record as a shit stirrer and has the potential to be a woman viewers would love to hate.

Stop Bringing Back Ex-Cast Members

Jacqueline, a mother of three including autistic son Nicholas, resurfaced without much fanfare. Throughout the season she appeared to be emotionally erratic, crying one minute and screaming the next. Her obsession with Teresa became tiresome to watch. Her motives and timing for returning are questionable given that her husband Chris launched his latest financial venture during filming (The couple’s ongoing financial woes have been no secret.)

Maybe Bravo was hoping for lightening to strike twice. Bringing Bethenny Frankel back for season 7 of The Real Housewives of New York City was a big success, but in addition to rekindling old rivalries, Bethenny was thrown in with women whom she had little if any history, introducing new personal dynamics and storylines. And Jacqueline is no Bethenny. Laurita ceased to be relevant once she left the show after season 5.

Talk has swirled around the possible return of Danielle Staub who was recently photographed doing yoga with Teresa. Let’s just hope this was a photo op to reinforce Teresa’s new attitude, and there’s no chance that season 8 could reintroduce Staub as Teresa’s new bestie. Jersey needs an infusion of new blood because if this season proved anything, it is that viewers have grown tired of the ladies’ longstanding grudges and grievances.

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Dump Siggy and Dolores

Siggy Flicker and Dolores Catania were disappointing additions to The Real Housewives of New Jersey cast. Siggy made her debut what appeared to be days after getting a facelift, and Dolores was an around-the-way girl (by way of Patterson) who has been in the Jersey housewives social circle for years.

There was chatter that Dolores was very similar to Teresa, hinting that Dolores might be the heir apparent to Teresa’s craziness, but all Dolores brought to the table was an extremely sick dog, a home makeover and a relationship with her ex-husband that made independent women everywhere cringe in disbelief. Dolores got into a tiff with Jacqueline that took place almost entirely off-camera, and other than that, her main purpose was to translate what it means to be Italian to the rest of us.

Siggy is a pretty well-known and respected relationship expert, but her career accomplishments were eclipsed when Siggy was relegated to running around pushing the women into attending parties and going on getaways trying to instill comradery that came across as forced and awkward. It didn’t take long for viewers to realize that Siggy was in over her head. Her failure to keep the peace caused her to dissolve into tears on multiple occasions.

There’s no doubt The Real Housewives of New Jersey is in a slump, and Teresa Giudice is no longer enough of a draw to keep things status quo. Here’s hoping Bravo shakes things up moving forward.

What did you think of season 7? Are you hoping for a season 8? Who should stay and who should go? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

The Real Housewives of New Jersey reunion airs Sunday at 10/9c on Bravo. Want more news? Like our Real Housewives of New Jersey Facebook page.

(Image courtesy of Bravo)

Jennifer Lind-Westbrook

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Jennifer has worked as a freelance writer in the entertainment field since 2012. In addition to currently writing feature articles for Screen Rant, Jennifer has contributed content ranging from recaps to listicles to reviews for BuddyTV, PopMatters, TVRage, TVOvermind, and Tell-Tale TV. Links to some of Jennifer’s reviews can be found on Rotten Tomatoes.