A phrase comprised of two fairly innocuous words (well, the word ‘Jersey’s’ innocuity is debatable)– but when combined, are able to elicit a strong reaction out of just about anyone you ask.
So when MTV announced that the original cast of the hit reality show was getting back together for a reunion season, it got people talking, to say the least.
The original show premiered in December 2009 as a low-budget reality program focusing on “guido lifestyle,” to a limited fanfare. The series grew in popularity gradually, and soon would become the cultural phenomenon it is now known as.
And after a six year hiatus, “Jersey Shore” returns in what is being hailed as a glorious comeback.
The premiere of “Jersey Shore: Family Vacation” (which initially aired on April 5) establishes the now domesticated lives of its subjects, Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi, Jenny ‘JWoww’ Farley, Mike ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino, Paul ‘DJ Pauly D’ DelVecchio, Ronnie Ortiz-Magro, Vinny Guadagnino and Deena Cortese- a notable departure from their previous lifestyle depicted in the original series.
Taking place in Miami, there were plenty of classic “Jersey Shore” hijinks to be had, including but not limited to fistpumping, drunken arguments and a very messy Snooki. Even so, there was a definite change of tone compared to “Vacation’s” parent series.
This is no longer a group of eight 20-something year olds staying in a trashy house on the Atlantic coast of New Jersey. It’s a relatively-matured group of 30-something year olds with grown up issues, grown up lives and a lot more money.
And that inescapable reality- “Jersey Shore” ‘growing up’ completely changed the dynamic of the show- no matter how many times Snooki had to be peeled off the floor.
Gone are the days of trashy nights at Karma or The Bamboo Bar. The gang now prefers (and is able to afford) carousing the exclusive cocktail bars of Miami and are enjoying living accommodations that look better suited for Hollywood socialites than a band of “guidos” and “guidettes” made famous by a lack of composure.
Those bank accounts haven’t come without a little headache, though. Especially for Mike, “The Situation,” who is currently embroiled in a court case regarding charges for tax evasion. There was a point in the premiere where it was unclear if ‘The Situation’ would even be able to attend the reunion due to his own legal situation. Luckily, he caught a bit of a break and was able to join his companions, making a nearly complete reunion (Sammi was not present, although a sex doll who closely resembled her appearance and mannerisms was.)
Although these new problems do allow for a different appeal, there is a surprisingly level of authenticity that radiates from all this. MTV is essentially documenting a character arc of these lovable Garden Staters, now approaching midlife and the woes that come along with it. And it makes for a curiously thought provoking take on old favorites.
We are seeing Snooki and JWoww grapple with how to be good mothers and still be fun, ‘The Situation’ staying sober after developing alcoholism and Vinny trying to lose weight and stay in shape.
All of which would have been unimaginable six years ago.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the show was the simple fact that despite the superficial changes, this was a group of seven people who genuinely love each other and love to have fun- and aren’t letting life interfere with either one of those. The money, kids, paparazzi and legal troubles all seem to fade to the background as the gang gets faded themselves. And you know what, it’s nice to know that some things stay the same.
I guess what I’m getting at is that while the show’s production budgets and expectations are at their highest, so is its humility and humanity– mixed in with the same madness that got us watching in the first place.