In honor of the fourth-season finale of Jersey Shore, your two TV Club reviewers, Genevieve Koski and Marah Eakin, have teamed up for a back-and-forth discussion about the season, the finale, and the state of Jersey Shore.
Genevieve Koski: Here we are at the end of the fourth season of Jersey Shore, less than two years after the show debuted to an audience that was either genuinely interested in, morbidly curious about, or outright scornful of (or some combination of the three) this tribe of silly-haired, leather-skinned weirdos parading around for our amusement. In the ensuing years, that audience has grown larger, and yet we as a society seem to care less than ever about the phenomenon that once sparked so much online discourse about what it all means, a flurry of hilarious animated GIFs of Snooki getting punched, and gleefully scornful episode recaps from seemingly every online entertainment outlet. (Ahem.) And yet Marah and I have been here every week to watch this lumbering corpse slowly decay and report back to you readers about the state of Jersey Shore, and it's been… well, honestly, it's been not so great. This is my third season recapping this show and Marah's second, and it gets harder each week to find the spark of whatever it was that initially delighted us so much about this show. Is this just the fatigue that comes with doing weekly recaps of a show that barely seems to take a breath before plunging into a new season, or has Jersey Shore gotten fundamentally worse since it debuted? What do you think, Marah?
Marah Eakin: I think it's a little combination of both, honestly. The easiest way to make something fun not fun is to make it an obligation. That being said, there are plenty of shows that have been on for far longer than this one that are still just as fun as they were at the beginning. I think this season, what's soured the whole thing for me is just how little the whole gang seem to care. In the beginning, their dramas seemed real, as did their personalities. They were just doin' them, out on the boardwalk. Now, paid not just by MTV but by Xenadrine, a pistachio company, clubs around the country, whatever, to be these characters, these over-the-top party animals, it just feels a little bit icky. You told me about that NY Mag interview with Vinny today where he talks about playing a character and how he's really excited about getting into acting. He also mentioned a "storyline" continuing to next season. I mean, I get that reality TV is not life, and I'm sure these kids are conscious about storylines and keeping their jobs, but I don't know. I'm just not that into it anymore. What about you, GK? What's bringing you down?
GK: I've brought this up many times over the years—months, whatever—but the cancer of Jersey Shore is self-awareness, and that self-awareness has grown especially malignant this season. We see it in the way Pauly and Vinny hang back until it's time to make a quip or put on a production of guido theater for the cameras' sake; we see it in Sam and Ronnie's endless pas de deux of terribleness, as they continue circling each other like sharks because they realize they're stuck with each other through the duration of this show, unless they choose to leave and give up their fat paychecks; we see it in the way the cast members are referred to by their actual, given names rather than nicknames in my cable guide (Who is this “Paul Del Vecchio”?). And we see it in tonight's episode, with Mike styling himself as the "villain" because at this point he knows the whole illusion of "deep down it's all love between roommates" isn't holding up. And despite what Vinny said in that interview, we saw it last week with the Italians—or rather, the current inhabitants of tourist-town Florence—turning on our crew of guidos in the club. That was not a simple drunken butting of heads on the dance floor; that was a society's—American or Italian, it's hard to say—frustration with these assholes' fame bubbling over in a public display of shame. It's just not fun anymore.
I think the biggest bellwether of this change has been Snooki. She and Mike were the two housemates that became immediately infamous, two love-'em-or-hate-'em figures that stood for everything that was good AND bad about the show. A lot of people hated Snooki, but I never did. She was young and dumb and did stupid things when she got drunk, but she was FUN and seemed mostly benign and actually—I can't believe I'm saying this—pretty genuine. She was obnoxious, but she wasn't pretending to be obnoxious for the camera; she was just doing her. But this season, with the whole Jionni and Mike drama, it became clear that the Snooki of Jersey Shore and the Snooki of Hollywood/tabloid/MTV culture—Nicole Polizzi, if you will—were at massively destructive odds, and it stopped being fun and started being sad. There are still moments of genuine ("genuine") fun (Schadenfreude) to be had this season, though. So let's go all Pauly on this bitch and look at the positive side of things: What did you like about this finale, Marah?
ME: I liked that they finally saw some of Italy, other than just the inside of the house and some skeevy clubs. I thought one of the highlights of this season was when Vinny took the guys to Sicily, because it just seemed so "genuine," and like these were people he didn't want to just get drunk, sleep with, and then kick out of the house. These were actual family members that he had a vested interest in, so the guys used actual human emotion to get to know them. That's one thing I liked about the sightseeing, not so much what happened on it because, of course, they embarrassed themselves and all Americans, but just that they went at all.
I also liked how upset they were about not being tan. What about you? What did you like?
GK: This is weird to say, because it's played such a minor role this season, but I liked all the stuff at the pizza place! Every other time we've followed a cast member to work, it's resulted in cringeworthy displays like Snooki and Deena drinking in the bathroom and hiding in trash cans or Pauly obnoxiously shouting at passersby. The scene of their last day working DID have Pauly shouting—into a megaphone, no less—but everyone seemed to be enjoying his antics, whereas every other time we've glimpsed the staff and clientele of that pizza shop, they've appeared to be barely tolerating these terrible Americans. And the goodbye ceremony, involving each of the castmates hanging a piece of laundry from Marco's (apparently that's their boss' name? Okay, cool.) clothesline as part of an apparent Italian custom that doubles as a tribute to one of the guidos' top three favorite pastimes. Whether it was solely for the cameras' benefit or if they did actually have good times at the pizza place—apparently Sammi loves working there? Okay, sure—it was nice to get an indication that maybe, just maybe, people other than the MTV production crew can tolerate being in these people's presence for extended periods of time.
Then again, Mike's claims about how much he would miss everyone at the parlor, how they had become like family, reeked of BS, and highlighted the fact that these people can no longer say those sorts of platitudes about one another. A season of Jersey Shore used to end with some stock "Oh, I'm gonna miss you guys so much, you're like family" statements, but they know and we know that they're gonna be thrown back together at Seaside Heights in a couple weeks—hell, they were already picking rooms last week. The fact that we know the next season is already wrapped makes Mike's hinting that he might not "go back to Seaside"—read, sign on for another season—seem as pathetic as… well, as pathetic as everything else Mike does.
Quite frankly, I wish he wouldn't come back. I'd be happy if next season was nothing but Deena falling down and trying to get it in with Pauly, Pauly and Vinny wisecracking on the sidelines, and Sam and Ron having furtive, 5-minute encounters in the smoosh room. Wait, scratch that last one, and replace it with THE DUCK PHONE. Man, will I be glad to have that guy back on the show. What about you, Marah? Do you think there's anything left to look forward to next season?
ME: Did Mike somehow manage to fall into the Atlantic on the way back to Jersey from Florence? If not, then frankly no, I'm not all that interested in next season. I think we already know how the whole thing's going to go, from drunk nights at Karma to fights between couples that shouldn't be together in the first place. It'll be the same show, different year, and I'd rather just remember Jersey Shore how it was all those (three) years ago: Pure, untainted, and very, very tan.
- I like how at this point JWoww is just like, “I’m just gonna sleep for 21 hours while you idiots go be idiots.”
- The cast’s contributions to the clothesline: a thong, a leopard-print bra, shorty-shorts, a T-shirt with the cleavage cut out. If nothing else, these people definitely know their aesthetic and stick to it.
- Deena falling while mopping was the perfect cap on a season full of amazing pratfalls by Meatball No. 2. Bravo, Deena. Now clean off your feet, they’re disgusting.
- No, we won’t be covering tonight’s reunion special. Give us a break; we’re only human.