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TV Series Review

Where to begin with Jersey Shore?

Must we reiterate that the MTV show, focusing on a clutch of party-hearty tanoholics from the Garden State, has rocketed well beyond cable's reality-show backwaters and into a pop culture phenomenon? Is it important to point out that in Season 1, several advertisers pulled money from the show because the "stars" referred to themselves as "Guidos" and "Guidettes"? Are we required to quote the overseas tagline of "Muscles+gel+tanning bed=sex"?

No, let's instead take our cue directly from Jersey Shore's cast by immediately cutting to the chase: This program marks the current low point in the broad genre known as "reality television"—a show so engrossed in its own self-absorbed inanity and depravity as to become a parody of itself and, oddly, a cogent touchstone of the culture at large. It makes Survivor look like Shakespeare, the Osbournes seem like the Cleavers,  The Hills appear passably redeemable. Watching it made me want to take antibiotics to ward off whatever infections were being pumped through my flat screen.

Jersey Shore is populated by folks bearing such nicknames as "JWoww," "Snooki" and "The Situation." All share an Italian-American heritage. All share a love of casual sex. All share a love of a "good" brawl. They fight, they hook up, they swear. Constantly. In scripted television, viewers expect to see a little growth and character development. Even in most reality shows, we're supposed to get some semblance of a point or purpose. In Jersey Shore, none of that matters. Because while the cast may have changed locales, there's still a lot of MTV-style Jersey on this new shore. Bronzers are still slathered on. Mirrors are stilled preened in front of. Comatose seems to be the only acceptable end to a rowdy night on the town.

The moral? Bad things happen when you're drunk. Not that the cast ever learns the lesson.

"Obviously, they're only going to put the good stuff in," star Nicole Polizzi told Rolling Stone, "and the good stuff is us drunk, so all I'm seeing is me drunk and falling down. … I look like a freakin' alcoholic. … I just look like s‑‑‑."

It's an hour a week on TV that's as sudsy and sleazy as you can get on TV without touching the pay-per-view button on your remote. There's more alcohol guzzled in one episode than in all 11 seasons of Cheers and more bleeped (but obvious) f-words than in a George Carlin comedy routine. Why? Because these are not just folks on a reality show … they're reality stars—and all of them want to take full advantage of their newfound celebrity. They've traveled to Miami, to Florence, Italy, and back to the actual Jersey Shore, getting drunk, getting in fights and bedding scads of partners in each location. As Vinny said in Season 2, he hoped to hook up with 60 girls during their 60 days down in Florida. "And, if there's ever a night where I can't get one," he added, "I'll just double up the next night."

Because of their shared interests, the Jersey Shore gang has bonded, and that's something. After all, they do try to protect each other, more or less, from the arrows and tweets the world might throw. Pauly D even refers to his buds as "family." I don't think he's kidding.

But the residents of this reality show haven't so much formed a family as they've merely accepted their lot in life: to drink, to hook up, to dance—and to be the willing fools of a weekly peep show, where video voyeurs alternatively mock them and live vicariously through them.

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Episode Reviews

JerseyShore: 8252011
JerseyShore: 342011
JerseyShore: 7292010
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