“Chelsea Lately” goes Johnny Weir and “Jerseylicious”

What things come immediately to mind when you think of New Jersey?

If it’s a lack of U-turns, then you have something in common with male figure skater/reality television star Johnny Weir. The Lyndhurst resident (who trains at an ice rink in Wayne) gracefully defended the Garden State during a conversation with Livingston native Chelsea Handler on her E! talk show “Chelsea Lately” Tuesday night.

Chelsea’s interview with Johnny veered onto the New Jersey Turnpike as he spoke about the rigors of practicing on ice for hours on end.

“On top of it, you have to live in New Jersey,” Chelsea pointed out.

“Well, you’re a Jersey girl, too,” Johnny replied with a laugh.

“And you know where I went when I was 19 years old?” Chelsea quipped. “Out of New Jersey!”

“I love New Jersey, though,” Johnny responded. “There’s something very special and aggressive and ‘no U-turning’ about it.”

“There’s something very special and aggressive and it’s called the ‘Jersey Shore,'” Chelsea shot back. “Have you ever met anybody from that show?”

“No,” said Johnny. “And I don’t really need to.”

This was the second time Chelsea has mentioned her home state within a week. She recently turned her critical eye toward the Style Network’s “Jerseylicious” about a “gross hair salon” in Green Brook. Take a look:

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“New Jersey, would you please stop embarrassing me?” Chelsea pleads. “I know you’re New York’s chunkier, sluttier younger sister, but pull yourself together, girl.”

New Jersey & TV: Perfect together

Quick!  How many television shows can you name that either a) take place in New Jersey or b) feature a New Jersey native?

Greetings from my hometown, New Jersey's Franklin Township (Somerset County), No. 5 on Money Magazine's 2008 Best Places to Live list!

These days, you only have to turn on your television and New Jersey is all up in your face. I can think of a whopping 26 shows off the top of my head, but I’m sure there are others. (Obviously, I am only including current shows, otherwise “The Sopranos” would be at the top of this list.)

In addition to this list, at least three more will join the ranks this year: the tentatively titled “Jersey Couture” (about a dress shop in Freehold/Monmouth County) from Oxygen, “Jerseylicious” (about a hair salon in Green Brook/Somerset County) from The Style Network, and Martin Scorsese’s “Boardwalk Empire” (a historical look back at Atlantic City/Atlantic County) from HBO.

And now, without further ado, is my list of the Top 26 Jersey-centric TV shows:

26. National Geographic Channel’s “The Dog Whisperer”

Pooch communicator Cesar Millan may be from Mexico, but his right-hand man, Daddy the pit bull, was Jersey born and bred.

That’s right: The lovable, gentle giant who’s helped Cesar reform countless pups was originally owned by rapper Redman from Newark (Essex County). When Redman’s tour schedule took him away from Daddy for long stretches of time, Cesar stepped in and offered to adopt him. Nowadays, the 16-year-old cancer survivor is retired from Cesar’s grueling TV schedule, but on any given day you can find repeats that include him.

*Sadly, Daddy died in February 2010.

25. CNBC’s “Mad Money”

“Mad Money” host Jim Cramer may be from Pennsylvania, but it’s Summit (Union County) he calls home. The author, former hedge fund manager and co-founder of TheStreet.com gained perhaps the most notoriety (and not in a good way) last year when he received a public smackdown courtesy of another Jersey boy, “The Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart.

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24. Fine Living Network’s “Closet Cases”

New Brunswick (Middlesex County) native Lloyd Boston puts his best fashion foot forward and helps the clueless sort out their wardrobe.

(Note: The above clip features Lloyd making over his mom, Lynell Kollar. I was present for part of this episode’s shoot, which took place in North Brunswick. You can read all about it on my website.)

23. TLC’s “Table for 12”

The Gosselins aren’t the only family of multiples with their own TV show. “Table for 12” focuses on the mostly harmonious day-to-day lives of the Hayes family – Eric and Betty and their 10 children (two sets of twins and sextuplets) – as they live out their lives in Marlboro (Monmouth County).

(Note: The above video features the Hayes’ trip to Essex County’s Turtle Back Zoo.)

22. USA’s “White Collar”

Though he may be forever typecast as Carrie Bradshaw’s fashion-forward friend Stanford Blatch in HBO’s “Sex and the City,” Highland Park (Middlesex County) native Willie Garson continues to find work on both the large and small screen. His latest is the series “White Collar,” in which he plays a con man.

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21. Sundance Channel’s “Be Good Johnny Weir”

Outlandish, outspoken male figure skater Johnny Weir may originally be from Pennsylvania, but his personality is a chip off his adopted state’s block. Johnny’s Garden State roots run deep: He lives in Lyndhurst (Bergen County) and trains in Wayne (Passaic County). He loves nothing more than vacuuming his apartment and doing dead-on impressions of his Ukrainian coach. And, as his reality show confirms, he’s a complete and utter pleasure to watch, both on and off the ice.

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20. “The Wendy Williams Show” (syndicated)

“How you doin’?” The phrase may be synonymous with Joey from “Friends,” but radio-turned-TV talk show host Wendy Williams has made it all her own. The host of the daily gab-fest “The Wendy Williams Show” is a Jersey girl through and through: Raised in Ocean Township (Monmouth County), she now makes her home in North Jersey.

19. FX’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”

Born in Neptune, raised in Asbury Park (Monmouth County) and boarded at school in Summit (Union County), Danny DeVito has never forgotten his Jersey roots (even after sucking down numerous limoncellos). In addition to his saucy role as Frank Reynolds on “Philadelphia,” Danny owns two production companies – Jersey Films and Jersey Television – which together have produced a variety of impressive titles, including “Pulp Fiction,” “Reno 911!,” “Freedom Writers” and a little film starring another Jersey boy called “Garden State.”

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18. TLC’s “Cake Boss”

Buddy Valastro creates art in his family-owned Hoboken (Hudson County) bake shop.

17. Travel Channel’s “No Reservations”

Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain is the epitome of a Jersey boy: sarcastic and wry, with a sharp wit.  Though the Leonia-born (Bergen County) Bourdain cops to wishing he’d lived his youth in “the city,” his love of the Garden State comes shining through in one of the first episodes of “No Reservations.” Take a peek:

16. HBO’s “The Life & Times of Tim”

This animated series – which finally returns for a second season Feb. 19 – is the brainchild of East Brunswick (Middlesex County) native son Steve Dildarian. In addition to thinking up all of the cringeworthy scenarios Tim finds himself in, Steve also voices the lead character.

15. Bravo’s “Millionaire Matchmaker”

The outspoken, no-holds-barred owner of The Millionaire’s Club is Short Hills (Essex County) native Patti Stanger, a third-generation matchmaker. “The Millionaire Matchmaker” returns for a third season Jan. 19.

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14. The CW’s “The Vampire Diaries”

TV hunks may come and go, but the pair of cold-blooded brothers stalking Mystic Falls, Va., in “The Vampire Diaries” has definitely heated up primetime this season. Playing good boy opposite former “Lost” star Ian Somerhalder, Marlboro (Monmouth County)-raised (New Brunswick born and Rutgers dropout) Paul Wesley – as 162-year-old Stefan Salvatore – sports chiseled, movie-star looks and a sensitive soul. Right now, he’s clearly won the heart of fair Elena. But brother Damon shares a certain chemistry with Elena, too. Who will ultimately wind up with her?

13. Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report”

Why is Southern-raised Stephen Colbert on this list? Because he’s a Jersey resident – Montclair (Essex County), to be exact.
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12. ABC’s “Scrubs”

You may already know that “Scrubs” star Zach Braff (who also put New Jersey on the movie map with “Garden State”) was raised in Maplewood (Essex County). But did you know that Zach’s co-star, John C. McGinley, grew up one town over in Millburn (Essex County)?
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11. “Regis and Kelly” (syndicated)

You know Kelly Ripa as the perky sidekick of the lovable curmudgeon Regis Philbin on “Regis and Kelly,” but years ago she was just another Jersey girl – albeit one (from Berlin in Camden County) who just happened to shake her groove-thing daily on a little local TV show called “Dancin’ On Air.” The show, filmed in Camden and aired on a Philly network, “Dancin’ On Air” (which morphed into “Dance Party USA” when the show went national), featured teased-out teens dancing to ’80s hits. Ms. Kelly a was a regular and her long, curly blond hair was the envy of many viewers (including me, who watched the show religiously in high school). Here she is (with Regis) poking fun at more Jersey girls on my list, “The Real Housewives of New Jersey”:

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10. HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher”

Comedian Bill Maher -a River Vale (Bergen County) native – hosts this informative, entertaining look at current events, politics and popular culture.

(Note: The above clip features Princeton prof Cornel West.)

9. NBC’s “30 Rock”

Long Island may lay claim to funnyman Alec Baldwin, but it’s Parsippany (Morris County) that co-star Jane Krakowski calls home. This versatile actress – who met “Ally McBeal” co-star Calista Flockhart while they were students at Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts – is as much at home on the stage (she won a Tony for her performance in “Nine”) as she is playing a goofball on critics’ darling “30 Rock.”

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8. NBC’s “Mercy”

This medical drama about three nurses takes place in a fictional Jersey City (Hudson County) hospital and features numerous Garden State references throughout its episodes. In a brilliant crossover move, “Real Housewives of New Jersey’s” Jacqueline and Teresa added an extra dose of “Joisey” realism to an episode in this, its first, season.

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7. Fox’s “Glee”

I bet New Jersey has never been more happy to claim a geek as one of its own than Lea Michele’s character Rachel Berry in “Glee.” Not only does Lea, who grew up in Tenafly (Bergen County), have killer pipes (at 23, she’s a Broadway veteran), she’s also proven herself to be an adept actress and fashion maven.

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6. E!’s “Chelsea Lately”

If you think Patti Stanger is outspoken, check out Chelsea Handler, host of this nightly comedy/talk show. Chelsea, who is also a stand-up comedian and three-time author (her latest, “Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang,” drops March 9), is nothing but an old-fashioned (translation: sarcastic and snarky) Jersey girl from Livingston (Essex County). Hmmm… maybe there’s something about the water in Essex County?

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(Note: The above clip contains Jennifer Aniston’s fashion diss on Jersey.)

5. Fox’s “House”

It may not feature any actors from the Garden State (former Monmouth resident Kal Penn’s character was killed off last year), but “House” officially put Princeton – and Plainsboro (Mercer and Middlesex counties, respectively)- on the nation’s radar. The hospital may not exist in reality, but the series is sprinkled with occasional Garden State references. And, in an ironic twist of life imitating art, construction on a new Princeton hospital – in Plainsboro – is underway.

4. Bravo’s “Real Housewives of New Jersey”

If there’s one thing we can count on with “The Real Housewives” franchise, it’s confirmation that the rich live well no matter what their zip code. But this Franklin Lakes (Bergen County) bunch brought a breath of fresh air – and more than a few expletives – to the series’ formula. Prostitution whore, indeed!

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3. ABC’s “Lost”

While his character is not one of the original “Lost” castaways, there is no doubt that former Old Bridge resident (Middlesex County) Ken Leung (ghost buster Miles Straume) is a star of the most mammoth TV series, like, ever. His delicious sarcasm rivals Sawyer’s and proves that he’s a Jersey boy at heart.

2. Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”

Comedian/highly successful mock-talk-show host Jon Stewart was raised in Lawrenceville (Mercer County).
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1. MTV’s “Jersey Shore”

Love it or hate it, MTV has a bonafied hit on its hands with this controversial *reality* show, which has introduced an entirely new vernacular into popular culture. I guarantee most New Jerseyans have never before heard most – if not all – of these phrases before: creeping (hitting on), GTL (gym, tan, laundry), grenade and grenade launcher (and that’s just from one episode!). “Jersey Shore” may in actuality star only one Garden State native (Hazlet’s Sammi “Sweetheart”), but it’s put Seaside Heights (Ocean County) on the nation’s radar, for good or bad.

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Not all New Jerseyans are “pale and angry”

New Jersey has been taking a real beating on television lately.

First there was Jennifer Aniston asking Jersey girl Chelsea Handler what was up with the Garden State’s proliferation of scents along the Turnpike. (Ummm, they’re called refineries, Jennifer.)

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Then late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien took a swipe the state’s largest city, Newark, in a recent bit.

And now it’s “Mercy’s” turn. The new NBC drama – which takes place at a fictional New Jersey hospital (wow, what an original idea!) – went all-out against the Garden State in a pivotal scene last week between two Iraq War vets, nurse Veronica (the wonderful Taylor Schilling) and doctor Chris (James Tupper), who also happen to be former lovers.

First, a quick set-up of the scene: The doctor is none too happy to be stuck in a two-year contract with the Jersey City hospital. But that’s his own fault, since he signed it just to be near Veronica, who’s in the process of reconciling with her estranged hubby.

“Don’t defend New Jersey,” says the doctor. “It’s marginally better than Iraq is the best thing you can say about it.”

“That is your snobby opinion,” Veronica shoots back. (She can’t do any better than that?)

“The Earth is round, the sun rises in the east, and New Jersey sucks,” he continues. “I’d like to get a fresh plum. I’d like to get decent Mexican food. I’d like to go surfing, but I can’t because I live in New Jersey.

“I’d like to actually see a face that’s not pale and angry, but I can’t because I live in New Jersey. And do you know why the faces are pale and angry? Because the people live in New Jersey!”

Oh yeah? Well, if I really was pale and angry, I’d be thinking that NBC has an ax to grind with New Jersey…

Jennifer Aniston to Chelsea Handler: Can’t you smell that (Garden State) smell?

So how did Chelsea Handler begin her much-touted “Chelsea Lately” interview with Jennifer Aniston? By discussing the unpleasant odors in New Jersey, of course!

Forget about promoting "Love Happens"; where are those smells coming from?/Credit E!

Forget about promoting "Love Happens"; where are those smells coming from?/Credit E!

I can forgive Chelsea, though, because she knows of what she speaks. As a Livingston native, I’m sure she too has had plenty of encounters with the stench that hangs in a perpetual fog over the Elizabeth exits on the New Jersey Turnpike. (Which, to clarify, is because it’s an industrial area full of refineries.)

The Garden State exchange happened almost immediately, when Chelsea asks Jennifer about her time in Atlantic City (she was filming “The Bounty” with hot hottie hot Gerard Butler).

“You know, I’m from New Jersey,” Chelsea points out. “And it’s very disgusting there in the summertime.”

While I presume she’s talking about the humidity, Jennifer interprets it a bit differently.

“What is with the smell?” she immediately replies (evidently thinking she’s found someone else who thinks New Jersey is pretty foul). But when the audience starts laughing, she quickly adds, “No, no, I don’t mean all over. You know the drive from Manhattan, and then there’s that one area…”

Thank goodness for Chelsea’s quick-wittedness.

“It’s my father,” the comedian explains. “It’s usually coming from his driveway.”

(Chelsea’s father is the frequent butt – I know, poor choice of words – of her jokes.)

She goes on to tell Jennifer, “It’s New Jersey in general. There are certain areas that really smell bad. It’s not all of New Jersey, but there are areas that could really use a boost. And Atlantic City is one of them.”

Watch the whole interview:

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Update

I’m sure Jennifer didn’t intentionally mean to insult New Jerseyans, but one resident’s nose is definitely out of joint – and it’s not because of any smell: Danielle Staub.

That’s right – the star of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” is sharing her displeasure at Jennifer’s words with Us Weekly.

Danielle's house doesn't look like it would be stinky./Credit The New York Times

Danielle's house doesn't look like it would be stinky./Credit The New York Times

“Why don’t you see more of New Jersey before you say it smells?” Danielle asks.

She pontificates: “I would love to hang out with (Jennifer). I hear she is really fabulous — but she really shouldn’t say that. If you land in Newark (Liberty International Airport) and leave out of Newark, yeah, you will think New Jersey smells. But you can’t judge it by one part. If it was so bad, I wouldn’t be living here for 22 years.”

Danielle’s $1.5 million home is located in Wayne, aka “the good-smelling part” of New Jersey. (I don’t know about the rest of you New Jerseyans, but it doesn’t stink by my house, either. And no, my sinuses are not clogged.)

Danielle isn’t demanding an apology from Jennifer, oh no. She’s offering to reward her:

“I will personalize a tour and take her to a fabulous lunch on me afterwards,” she tells Us Weekly. ” All homemade Italian food and a tour of all the wonderfully smelling places in New Jersey before I take you to a luncheon, my treat.”

Well, at least I’m sure Danielle believes it’s a reward…

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