Don't be fooled: This isn't the end of Jersey Shore. Not just because there’s a new season of Snooki & JWOWW on the horizon (three whole weeks from now!), but if there's anything we've learned from this whole experience, it's that when you cut the head off one reality television phenomenon, there will be at least two boozy replacements lying in wait. Of course, there’s no guarantee that any of these replacements will become cultural addictions. In other words: Not everyone can be Honey Boo Boo.
It might be hard to remember it all these years and catchphrases and .gifs later, but Jersey Shore was practically refreshing when it first premiered. The Real World had devolved into The Aggressively Fake World, MTV’s version of Survivor where the drunkest mess of a person won the grand prize (notoriety and a spot on Road Rules). Everyone played each other, and to the camera. In the most visceral, personal way possible, the camera became The Real World’s eighth housemate. It was everyone's best friend, and everyone’s most bitter enemy. It was impossible not to see the producers’ strings pulling everyone along, smashing the cast into each other, off of curbs, and onto beds, solely for the sake of creating drama.
So when MTV unveiled a newer, tanner group in Seaside Heights, we were already used to the fistfights and drunken shitshows; they were already a part of the reality show routine. Sure, Snooki crawling around on a nightclub floor while The Situation (TM) licked girls' faces gave MTV the disgusting stock footage it wanted, but that wasn't the worst, or even the most shocking part of Jersey Shore. No, that honor went to the fact that this cast had no interest in playing to the camera. For them, the Jersey Shore WAS the real world.
And it was awesome.
For all their faults, most of the Jersey Shore castmembers are intrinsically hilarious. Sammi and JWOWW’s trips to the grocery store were funnier than most sitcoms on air, The Situation was perfectly oblivious to his lack of charm, and the unlikely Pauly D/Vinny friendship was one of the most natural examples of an “opposites attract” relationship that MTV had had in years. They weren’t trying to be anything specific—they just were.
But that blissful lack of self-awareness couldn’t—and didn’t—last. As the cast’s fame catapulted through Neilsen ratings and Twitterspheres, they became all too aware of their quirks. With every subsequent, gimmicky season (yikes, Italy), Jersey Shore became less about a ragtag group of summer partiers than about the Reality Show Machine.
In short, it became totally boring.
The series tried its best to spice things up, but you know you’re in trouble when neither spinoffs, pregnancy, nor rehab can elicit much of a response beyond a shrug, and for the past couple years, a shrug is exactly what Jersey Shore evolved into… and exactly how the series ended.
Seriously, could the show have actually picked more boring things to revisit in this last hour? Yes, The Shore Store, GTL, and hilarious pranks (LOL letting the air out of a mattress!) were once part of the Jersey Shore “charm,” but everyone might as well have been running errands. It was as if the producers knew they wouldn’t be able to reach the debauchery of golden seasons past, and just handed the cast a grocery list of Moderately Great-ish Hits to check off. Not even the show’s routine Instagram filters could make this shit interesting.
Hell, half the episode was devoted to Situation’s former hookup Paula tampering with his birthday cake (or in Deena’s words, his “fucking teabag ball cake”). Otherwise, we got yet another heavy dose of Ronnie and Sammi drama, none of which I could understand beyond the bleeps and completely nonexistent origin. Not even Sammi’s dad could muster up a single shit to give. Pauly claimed to have been “waiting for a Ronnie and Sammi fight all year,” but I’m pretty sure the rest of us would have been happy going our entire lives without trying to decipher another one of their arguments. (Ronnie: “It’s called sucking up your pride and being in love with apologizing.” I rewound and analyzed this sentence way more times than any human should have to pay attention to a sentence Ronnie said, and I still have exactly zero idea of what it means.)
There’s also the unavoidable fact that while the cast might have started out prioritizing partying above all else, three years of accelerated fame and fortune shifted things in a more sober direction for the finale. Snooki was pregnant, Vinny had come and gone to deal with his depression, The Situation went to rehab, and the others were crying into their sleeve tattoos. I mean, not a single punch was thrown at that family bonfire. It was practically wholesome! In season one, celebrating the Situation and Pauly D’s joint birthdays would have been cause for a week of going out and blacking out; in season six, the cast members baked cakes and watched fireworks from the comfort of their own roof. It was a quiet moment, and probably the best part of the finale. It wasn’t a staged goodbye, but it felt like a goodbye nonetheless.
This, of course, is exactly why the relentless cycle of the Reality Show Machine exists. Now that the Jersey Shore cast members have moved past the reasons they got cast in the first place and, more importantly, become too famous for the show to pretend otherwise, it’s time to recycle. There are plenty of binge drinkers in the sea(side Heights), and if all goes according to plan, they’re sure as hell going to get their own shows. But this time, they’ll know exactly what they’re getting into, and the novelty will wear off much more quickly.
- As a New Jersey native myself, I’ve spent the last few years gritting my teeth whenever someone assumed we’re all like the Jersey Shore cast (“ONLY SAMMI AND DEANNA ARE EVEN FROM JERSEY, GOD”), but I can admit the cast members seem to have gone against their “never fall in love at the Jersey shore” and fallen hard for the place. At the very least, they get points for raising $1 million to rebuild Hurricane Sandy’s devastation of the still uninhabitable shore. More of that and less of this, please.
- R.I.P. duck phone. The Situation didn’t deserve you.
- "But I'm just more older now."
- "Never judge a book by its blowout."
- "That's fucked up, bro. Let's go piss on her car."