What the good people of Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge, and Gravesend, Brooklyn, did to deserve a plague like Oxygen’s new Jersey Shore wannabe Brooklyn 11223 is unclear, but boy, does it tie locusts and blood rain for wretchedness upon the earth. As a Brooklyner of a few years myself (though of the 11238 and 11225 variety), I was wary but hopeful that Oxygen might have ventured into more interesting territory than its last atrocious Shore-aping series Russian Dolls. Alas, it's not to be. Brooklyn has its share of reality show-worthy characters—hip-hop magicians, yarn artists, sideshow freaks and their fire-eating students—but the crew that represents the weird and wonderful world of South Brooklyn on 11223 is a bunch of fairly boring Bay Bridge 20-somethings whose main concern is where to find more Corona light. If anything, 11223 hews closer than ever to the MTV formula, zeroing in on a social group of “full Italians” with fake nails and deep Brooklyn accents, where “everybody knows each other, [and] everybody talks.”
The problem is that the members of this group don’t have any of Snooki’s pizazz or the weird blowhard magnetism that The Situation carefully cultivates. The whole premiere centers on a spat between former best friends Joey Lynn and Christie. The crisis: Joey Lynn may or may not have fooled around with Christie’s then-boyfriend Roberto. Joey Lynn denies it, Roberto has wisely run for the hills, and the girls in either crew can’t stop gossiping about how it probably went down (or didn't). On Christie’s side is the buxom Angelina, who attempts to play rumor detective with some dudes down at the auto shop, and charitably describes her friend that she’s going to bat for as having “the personality of a wet mop.” At the car shop is Chris, who’s full of bluster but not very much information. His contribution: “I got two hands. I can slap you with either one of them.” Nick, “the mayor” of the group, proceeds to tell Angelina that she has it all wrong. Christie made Joey Lynn and another girl give Roberto sexual favors while she watched. But it doesn’t matter, because in Nick’s opinion Christie “looks like a walking parakeet.” That’s some Degrassi Junior High detective work there, sleuth.
Between blurry shots of the Brooklyn Bridge and footage of some guys hot-wheeling on ATVs, Christie and Joey Lynn vent, complain, and go out clubbing. Joey Lynn has some humdingers on her team, like Valona who finds fighting disgusting but has her nails trimmed down just in case it comes to that. But the whole production is flat. The most serious confrontation that happens in the whole first episode is a prolonged Coney Island standoff which culminates in a brief tiff between Joey Lynn and Christie and both crews retreating to drink heavily somewhere off camera.
The problem with Brooklyn 11223 isn’t that it’s exploitative or completely cartoonish or potentially offensive. It is those things, sure. The real offense of 11223 is that it’s tedious. The problems with a show like Jersey Shore are manifold, but at least it can't be accused of holding back. If Jersey Shore is an over-the-top technicolor pageant of people behaving badly, 11223 is a sad, wilted Xerox of the pageant program. The drama that 11223 is built on isn’t so much all-consuming as it is headache-inducing. Further crises the characters face include: a debate over crabmeat salad being “too fishy,” Angelina hunting for a lost bracelet in the backseat of a car, Christie’s boyfriend getting into a fight with his twin brother over how clean his room is, and gentle customer harassment at the tavern where Joey Lynn tends bar. No doubt the next stretch of episodes will include other life-consuming problems like selecting the right brand of vanilla vodka. At best, 11223 may keep you afloat until the Pauly D show premieres later this week. But I would advise you to take Angelina's oft-repeated exhortation and, you know, fuhgeddaboudit.
- I did like the toast that Joey Lynn’s crew had to the summer: “No lost wallets, no fighting.” Amen to that.
- Joey Lynn, readying her defense if Christie asks about her encounter with Roberto: “Were you in my vagina?” Eesh.