Over eight million people can’t be wrong, can they?
You may profess to your closest friends that you don’t watch Jersey Shore, but someone is because it’s one of the highest rated programs on cable television. And, its most recent season opener had 8.8 million sets of eyes glued to the screen. Despite the looks of shame and finger-wagging I expect for saying this, I excitedly tune in to MTV on Thursday (known as Jersday to Shore fans).
For those unaware, the Jersey Shore is a “reality” show following a group of eight young adults who deal with being shoved into a house together and let the partying, drama, raunchy antics and fights ensue. This “cast” of characters includes Nicole (Snooki) Polizzi, Mike (The Situation) Sorrentino, Paul (DJ Pauly D) DelVecchio, Jennifer (JWoww) Farley, Vinny Guadagnino, Ronnie Ortiz-Magro, Deena Nicole Cortese and Sammi (Sweetheart) Giancola — Angelina Pivarnick left the show in season two. Their day-to-day lives circle around the mantra of gym, tan, laundry (GTL is one of their coined phrases) and to “never fall in love at the Shore,” in Seaside Heights, New Jersey — the cast also spent a season in Miami and currently are in Italy.
The show has been criticized for its portrayal of Italian-Americans (only two members are actually that) which some of the cast refer to ‘guidos’ and ‘guidettes’ and for giving those who frequent the Jersey Shore a bad name.
Still each week I tune in, or tune out if you look at it on the flip side. If I want to be distracted from the mess in the world with something it’s the Jersey Shore. But why has it become a pop culture phenomenon? If you look at it in terms of a traditional TV show, it has all the makings of a hit. One television critic goes as far as calling it today’s Friends, replacing the New York-based Central Perk crew with a group in Seaside working at a T-shirt shop.
The Jersey Shore also has all the characteristics of many popular young adult romp comedies. Think American Pie, Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Common threads are sex, romance, conflict, girlfriend/boyfriend drama, good looking cast members and the trials and tribulations of growing up. You name it and the Jersey Shore has it.
But it isn’t only just those themes that seem to keep people grasping for more. For all the shallowness the cast seems to have — fake boobs, endless bottles of bronzer and spray tanning sessions, guys spending hours blowing out their hair perfectly, skimpy outfits barely covering their bodies — they do have their moments of sweetness. The guys on this show cook a family dinner every Sunday for the housemates, some are self-professed mama’s boys and daddy’s girls, and who isn’t endeared with a cast member upset when grace isn’t said at the table.
The real reason for the Jersey Shore’s popularity, I believe, is being able to relate and distinguish yourself from the cast. At some point in time everyone has known the athletic guy who thinks he is God’s gift, the girl who is catty and pretentious and the friend at the nightclub who needs a babysitter. The cast has such obvious flaws that it also makes us feel better about ourselves while yelling advice at the TV on what they should do next.
For certain they are in on the joke. Snooki with her high pouf hair, Pauly D with his own unique hairdo, Ronnie’s muscular “juicehead” physique, Mike’s crazy-cut abs and on and on. Each of them play up their personalities and, as admitted by the producer of the show, sometimes get influenced — even if ever so slightly — to go a certain direction.
Endless reruns of Friends or spin-offs and spin-offs of crime dramas just don’t cut it. For me, I will proudly fist pump until my arm falls off. Yes, I watch the show and I know it’s idiotic, mindless and ridiculous. And that is what I like most about it.
Kristi Patton is a reporter with the Penticton Western News.