What would JWoww do?

Sobering up after three years of the Jersey Shore

I haven’t had a working television set since moving away from my parent’s place more than 10 years ago, so I tend to miss what’s happening on TV.

By Ben Ricker

Sobering up after three years of the Jersey Shore

I haven’t had a working television set since moving away from my parent’s place more than 10 years ago, so I tend to miss what’s happening on TV.

Living without a television, though, hasn’t insulated me from Jersey Shore. Avoiding the Internet, grocery store checkout aisles and most other human beings for the past three years probably wouldn’t have done the trick, either.

At this point, the only surefire way to armor oneself against the Shore is to dig out your own eyeballs and plug your ears with something permanent.

TV critics like David Bianculli said Jersey Shore was by far the worst show on television. On a broadcast of Fresh Air from December 2010, Bianculli struggled to find words strong enough to express his disgust. “It makes me want to shower,” he said, giving up.

Despite strongly worded criticisms from people paid to watch TV, the show became MTV’s highest-rated program ever.

At its peak, the show—a reeling orgy of excess and blissful ignorance—dazzled close to 9 million viewers a week. A crowd that size could fill the world’s biggest stadium—the Rungrado May Day in Pyongyang, North Korea—60 times.

Jersey Shore is similar to MTV’s The Real World. Only, instead of cramming together a diverse group of youngsters, producers sought eight hard-drinking sex maniacs with roughly the same ethnic background to live together under the unblinking surveillance of 54 rolling cameras.

Cast member Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, in an interview with Rolling Stone, compared the house they lived in to “prison with cameras.”

The show immediately upset organizations like UNICO National and the National Italian American Foundation for its portrayal of Italian-Americans and liberal use of the ethnic slur “guido.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie worried that the show would give his state a bad rap, and complained that the cast consisted of New Yorkers. Christie, without a hint of irony, invited the viewing public to visit the state in order to witness its beauty firsthand.

Some ungovernable part of us can’t resist watching a disaster unfold. Working in a restaurant a few years ago, I watched a 5-foot tower of white dinner plates slowly tip and fall over. Standing only a few steps away, I could’ve prevented the fall. Instead, anticipating the noise and destruction, I let it go.

How is Jersey Shore like an avalanche of shattering flatware? A more difficult question to answer is: How is it different?
Morbid curiosity is a powerful thing, capable of muscling out traditionally held standards of decency and political correctness, not to mention the epicurean gag reflexes of guys like Bianculli.

Hysterical brawling, wanton hookups and strobing club montages continued giving New Jersey, America, Italians and young people everywhere a bad name. In the end, nothing other than our own eroding attention spans could bring down the Shore.

The Shore’s neon lifestyle made our own square, taxpaying-citizen lives feel sleepy and monochromatic by comparison. But apparently we grew tired of it.

The once-controversial reality TV powerhouse has lost much of its steam. In August, MTV promised to euthanize its cash cow at the end of its sixth season, which premiered last Thursday.

The never-ending party will soon be over. Barefoot, carrying our shoes in our hands and squinting at the sunrise, a bigger picture will hopefully emerge from the aftermath of a three-year spin-cycle melee as we begin a 9-million-man walk of shame.

Boo if you must, but when the room stops spinning and the feeling of nausea lifts, we’ll have our work cut out for us piecing it all together.

Or maybe we’ll fill our time watching shows about toddler pageants.