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'Unpolished' returns for season 2 as the family deals with a tragedy

The stars of TLC's "Unpolished," in foreground, are

The stars of TLC's "Unpolished," in foreground, are sisters Lexi, left, and Bria, flanking their mother, Jennifer Martone. Pictured in the background are Jennifer's mother, Eleanor "Foxy" Varuzzi; and Bria's husband, Matt Mancuso. Credit: TLC

The Martone family of Dix Hills and their namesake hair and nail salon in East Northport have returned for a second season of the TLC reality-TV show "Unpolished" — having suffered a tragedy in the interim with the death of patriarch "Big Mike" Martone.

"So this has been a really tough year for our family," says widow Jennifer Martone, who turns 57 next month, in Tuesday's season premiere, which followed an hourlong catch-up special the week before. "The COVID-19 pandemic shut the salon down, shut Big Mike's business down," referring to Raytone Plumbing in Maspeth, Queens, "and the worst of everything is Big Mike just really got so sick." Turning tearful she adds, "It was really a horrible time."

Last February, explains Jennifer, mother of nail artist Lexi Martone, 28, and hair and makeup specialist Bria Martone, 24, Mike had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. "We started treatments, but I don't really think that Mike knew how sick he really was," she says. He died on May 9 at age 59.

The specter of Mike Martone's death hangs over the season, as his wife Jennifer faces bills and financial concerns with which her husband had always dealt. Additionally, Bria Martone would not have her father walk her down the aisle. She wrote on Instagram last year that her godfather filled the role at her September wedding to Matt Mancuso at Oheka Castle in Huntington.

The new season welcomes back the outrageously wardrobed Jennifer, Lexi and Bria Martone, as well as Mancuso; Jennifer's mom, Eleanor "Foxy" Varuzzi; and Foxy's husband, "Papa Joe." Priority One is reopening Salon Martone — where, notes Lexi in the catch-up special, "Nothing is subtle. Extra is our middle name." The season premiere sees her devise spectacular nails for professional magician Didi Maxx, of Merrick, with precise miniatures of playing cards and other illusionist tropes, with one nail containing a miniature rabbit that pops out and levitates with the aid of hidden magnets.

The season also sees Lexi begin dating again following her breakup with Joe Fraumeni, seen last season, and the new reality of pandemic precautions at the salon, shuttered for four months, complete with the installation of clear panels to help keep the masked staff and clients safe. In addition to Bria's wedding, the season also includes her over-the-top bridal shower at Huntington's Harbor Club at Prime. And of course, Foxy continues to pop into the salon occasionally for her Auntie Mame turns.

"Unpolished" airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on TLC. An accompanying web series, "Unpolished: Extensions," offers roughly 6- to 9-minute behind-the-scenes shorts, such as the recent "Martones House Tour" and "A Portrait of Lexi."

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