Like so many of you out there, I’m ridiculously compelled by Jersey Shore and its cast of characters. I have watched every episode at least twice a piece, some more than that. I’m always excited when Thursday rolls around, if only because it means The Situation, Pauly D and the rest of the crew will be in my life again. The series is awesome.
However, in recent days, I’ve been mulling over something and I’m ready to share it with the world: I don’t think Jersey Shore is a “guilty pleasure.” It should honestly be paid more respect than that. I know. I cannot believe I’m writing that statement either.
When the series debuted, I think this was absolutely the case. We weren’t ready for the nicknames, the catchphrases, the general lifestyle that the people from Jersey Shore brought into our lives. Those season one episodes were unbelievable to watch because we couldn’t believe that these people were so willing to be clichéd caricatures that made us feel both better about ourselves and sorry for the rest of the state of New Jersey because they now had to deal with this representation. Though it was certainly a great season, Jersey Shore felt like something of a culmination of reality television to that point — a lovely combination of Vh1’s awful content, The Real World and True Life — but not necessarily something revolutionary. Still awesome though.
Moving in to the second season, I totally expected the vibe and experience of that first season to be gone. In the subsequent months after the series debuted before the cast and crew went down to Miami, Jersey Shore became a phenomenon, its cast superstars of our do nothing, be famous anyway culture. For individuals that became famous for drinking lots of alcohol and doing lots of stupid things, being invited to swanky parties and red carpets sure as heck wasn’t going to help them become more like real people. Most of them already had outrageous nicknames for goodness sake. This is not a formula concocted to make the people of Jersey Shore seem more realistic. Thus, I expected the second and subsequent seasons to be much less enjoyable because everyone would be self-aware. The Situation and Snooki are legitimately famous, and there’s no way that they won’t ramp up their inherent Situation-ness and Snooki-ness.
And yet, in many ways, season two of the series has been much, much better than the first, mostly because the people not only don’t seem to be more self-aware, but are actually acting, well, more like people. Yes, the season has focused a lot on the stupidity of the Ronnie-Sammi pairing and still spends a lot of time in the club. But amid that, we have gotten more of a look inside the minds and feelings of some of the characters, especially Situation, Pauly D and Vinny. The recent episode that featured Pauly D and Vinny courting women in a more civilized manner and Vinny’s heartbreak from being stood up was…kind of moving? The season has gone a long way in showing us that despite all the clubbing and sexual trysts, these are fairly normal people who just happen to wear a certain kind of apparel and have a certain type of haircut. They’re actually not just walking stereotypes.
And the Situation, oh Sitch. This might sound over-the-top, but I do believe that Situation is the most interesting reality personality in the last five years, perhaps ever. He’s a man who oozes machismo and puts up this front full of suave-ness and sexual prowess, but whereas it seems like that would be a totally off-putting persona, he’s been embraced fully. I don’t know that many people or have too many posts that discuss Situation as some sort of piece of you-know-what dirt-bag. And I think a lot of that comes from his oddly complicated personality. He regularly strikes out with the ladies, and so it’s almost like a sigh of relief when he actually scores. I sarcastically tweeted a few episodes back that when Situation scores, America scores. But it’s kind of like that. Moreover, Situation appears to be a fairly nice guy. He’s a great cook. He always checks up on the ladies when they’re down and not just because he wants to have sex with them. It’s all second- and third-hand, but I’ve read or heard numerous stories about him visiting various media outlets and being one of the nicest and coolest guys to go around the circuit.
I don’t know, maybe this is me rationalizing my love for Jersey Shore. But I think the series could have easily went off the deep end to become some sort of lame parody of itself. But instead, the comfortableness with the cameras has almost, in a way, allowed the people to open up and let us see some of their real feelings. It’s certainly not wheel-reinvention or anything, but somehow, some way the Jersey Shore characters have become more human in a time when most reality personalities become, well, more like personalities (though they’re certainly not the most “normal” human beings either). Instead of being people we only make fun of, a good portion of the series’ cast has become people we just want to hang out with, which is a very important distinction to make when it comes to this type of reality television. I do think it will improve the longevity of the series. I’m not sure when we’ll tire of Jersey Shore, but I honestly hope it doesn’t come anytime soon.