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.
"Crime and Punishment"
Lots of crime. Very little punishment. There's some strong language lobbed in Deena's direction after she steals Vinny's girl right out of his bed. She gives her back when they're done, so she doesn't see the problem. But The Situation does: "Somebody's in somebody's bed, you don't go and grab them," he says. After much drama, Deena apologizes. "That isn't me," she says. "Just drinking … then I do something stupid like last night, and instead of fixing it, I just keep drinking."
Lesson learned? Pish. Pauly, Snooki and Deena go to their day job at a pizza joint where Snooki and Deena are caught getting drunk. (They bribe a customer to buy them wine.) Later, Ronnie and Sammie get into another fight and break up. The Sitch gets dragged into the drama (caught in a lie from a previous episode), and he and Ronnie get into a physical fight. (If previews for the next episode can be believed, it ends with The Sitch being taken away in an ambulance.)
Smoking joins the drinking. The crew chatters about sex, sex toys and sexual body parts, while interjecting "h‑‑‑," "b‑‑ch," "c‑‑k" and 60 or 80 partially bleeped obscenities, most of which appear to be f- and s-words. God's name is abused.
"A Cheesy Situation"
Sammi returns to the house after taking time off to recover from her broken relationship with Ronnie. Snooki tries to woo Vinny but tells him she understands if he wants to bring another girl home for the night. When he does, she's devastated (and extremely drunk).
Alcohol flows freely at the house and whenever the group goes clubbing. Most cast members are seen intoxicated at some point. Snooki, Sammi and Ronnie choose to be sober one evening, and Snooki says it's the first time they haven't been drunk all summer.
Language includes multiple (partially bleeped) f-words and sexually charged terms. Profanities such as "d‑‑n," "h‑‑‑," "b‑‑ch" and "a‑‑" are uncensored and used liberally. Oral sex is briefly described and STDs are mentioned. Couples kiss and cuddle in bed. "Hooking up" is said to be better than being in a committed relationship. JWoww urinates on Deena's foot while drunk. Plumbers come to fix Vinny's faulty toilet and marvel at the foul-smelling fixture. Snooki, Sammi and Ron put cheese in Mike's bed, then blame the stench on a girl he brings home for sex.
Former lovers Ronnie and Sweetheart, who broke up between seasons, get into a huge fight during which Ronnie hurls obscenities at her. Sweetheart goes back to the apartment while Ronnie smooches, paws and dances (grinds) suggestively with other women while getting ever-more drunk. We see him fall down at one point.
Lots of girls wear very little clothing. (Note the conspicuous absence of women in the photos published along with this review.) Bikinis are common. Pole dancers get screen time (while men touch them). Folks make crude and obscene comments about various sexual body parts. Snooki has a new boyfriend—an "amazing gorilla juicehead," which means, among other things, that he takes steroids or HGH—and though she says she doesn't "want to cheat" on him in Miami, she admits that she might if she gets drunk. (She always gets drunk.)
Bleeped expletives include two pretty obvious c-words, at least 60 f-words and 25 s-words. Unbleeped profanities include "a‑‑," "h‑‑‑," "d‑‑n" and "b‑‑ch," along with about 10 misuses of God's name and two abuses of Jesus'.