MTV's Jersey Shore, a new reality show about self-described Guidos and Guidettes sharing a house in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, caught my eye. Not just because I spent the first two decades of my life in New Jersey, but because I've been looking for something just like this show for a long time, because it finally means we can move on: MTV's Jersey Shore is the Worst Thing to Happen to the East Coast Since 9/11. Unlike MTV's sponsors, New Jersey residents and Italian-American organizations I'm not worried that normal, thinking human beings will see the show and think "That must be what Jersey is like." I'm worried that idiots will see the show and think "Finally! A place where I can be with others! I'm gonna spend my summers in Jersey now, too!" That doesn't change the fact that after only two weeks on the air, I friggin love this show. MTV found eight of the most ridiculously absurd humans on the East Coast, put them in a house together and built a jacuzzi on top of that house. Whereas the The Real World is usually good for a train wreck or two once it picks up enough steam, from a standing start Jersey Shore impossibly begins mid-train wreck, and promises to only get worse. By the first night, the young Italian caricatures are all gathering around the kitchen, cooking up homemade Italian food and eating together. It's exactly like the Corleone family, except there's no morality and everyone is Fredo.
Daniel O'Brien is a Professor of Media Studies at Harvard University.
To help you catch up, I decided to get some of the heavy lifting out of the way for you. Here's who you'll meet on Jersey Shore. Mike "The Situation" Mike "The Situation" is what happens when Luca Brasi tried to have a baby by mating with failure. (It's a boy!) He describes himself as "sensitive" but also with "a ton of game to back it up." "The Situation" is sometimes his nickname, as when he tells people at dinner that "Situation sits at the head of the house." It's also the name he uses to describe his ab muscles, as when he asks strangers if they've "seen The Situation yet," and then removes his shirt if they say no. He also will occasionally use the word "situation" in its traditional sense, which doesn't seem to matter because he's an idiot who doesn't understand how words work. Outstanding Moment: This sentence, taken verbatim, used on the show to describe what happens when three skanks get in a hot tub ... I think: "This situation is gonna be indescribable you can't even describe the situation that you're about to get into the situation." That sentence happened. Vinny Vinny is the closest thing Jersey Shore has to a human being. He's the only one of the guys who doesn't look like he's part of some bizarre viral marketing campaign aimed at selling some kind of Hair Gel/HGH Combo Package. He even thinks it's strange when people introduce themselves as "Situation" and "J-WOWW." This is his first summer as a 21-year-old, so he's the only one whose manic excitement and drunk antics can be justified. He's the smartest member of the house, and it's not really even close. Outstanding Moment: Getting pinkeye on the second day. Children are the only people in the world who get pinkeye. This is because pinkeye is the result of getting fecal matter (poop) in your eye, and children are the only people stupid enough to put themselves in situations wherein that might actually happen. Well, other than Vinny. (The smart one.) Paul "DJ Pauly D" I'm actually just going to directly quote his cast bio, because it does more damage than any synonyms for douchebag I'll be able to invent while I'm furious. "Pauly D is Rhode Island's most well known DJ and keeps a tanning bed in his house. He orders gel by the case and does his hair twice a day--once in the morning and once before hitting the town." DJ Pauly D has the mouth of a shark, the hair of a house fire and the subtlety and class of neither. He also has the pierced junk of... someone with their junk pierced. He's got a dick ring, is my point, and he loves himself for it. It's been a while since I priced home tanning beds in Rhode Island, but I'd imagine it's not a buyer's market. I don't know how much Pauly makes DJ'ing and grinning like a piranha, but it's evidently enough that he can both afford a tanning bed and resent his new job as a t-shirt salesman (he feels it doesn't effectively utilize his DJ skills). While Jersey Shore promises to be just riddled with fights, the only one that's occurred within the first two hours involved Pauly, who threw one of the most hilarious sucker punches I've ever seen. He described it as a "clean right cross." Anyone viewing described it as some light nose-pawing at a non-fighting opponent whose arms are being held back. Pauly left the club immediately thereafter.
Outstanding Moment: Being almost 30. Almost 30 and picking up 19-year-olds in the same town that high schoolers flock to after their junior prom. Get some help, Pauly. We're worried about you. Ronnie Ronnie seems like a decent human being, at first. He's levelheaded, he's honest and terrifyingly enormous. His one rule is "Don't fall in love at the Jersey Shore," but will he break his own rule? More importantly, will anyone give a shit? It's too early to tell, but Ronnie is probably going to be my favorite character, a decision that's only 60 percent based on my fear that he could crush and eat me if he wanted to. His time in the house is mostly spent eating sandwiches without a shirt on, which is actually a lifestyle I can get behind. He might objectively be a bad human being, but there's something about him that makes you want to root for him. (Again, probably the "fear.") He says he likes to "pound out" women and that the house will make them "melt in their pants." He's always either shoulder deep in the fridge or making a smoothie. Life is never that simple, but Ronnie finds a way. Outstanding Moment:
Look at that guy, he's found the secret to happiness. Angelina "Jolie" She describes herself as a very proud and determined cock-blocker, which is the worst thing to be without actually being AIDS on purpose. Making good on her promise, whenever one of the guys brings a lady home for a sweet, romantic evening on their rooftop fuck-swing, Angelina is right there to shriek and stamp until the new lady gets dressed and goes home. She's also sort of a quote machine. She almost quit her job as a t-shirt saleswoman and justified it by saying "I'm a bartender. I do great things." Which I suppose is possible, if the PeaceCorps added a bar when nobody was looking. She packs her belongings in garbage bags, makes bizarre threats for no reason and, in all likelihood, will be a serial killer one day. I am more attracted to her than anyone else on this show. Outstanding Moment: When Angelina saw some random girls getting naked in the rooftop hot tub, she said "that's how we know we're classy girls, because we've been living in this house with these guys for two days and we haven't done anything." Bonus Outstanding Moment: Hours later, she went out and cheated on her boyfriend. Jenni J-WOWW J-WOWW describes herself as a "praying mantis," but she also demands to be called "J-WOWW" because "that's what people say in the club when they see me," proving that she is hearing disabled or totally insane. She looks like a statue I would make if I was commissioned to design a campaign around the idea that breast implants won't solve all of your problems, and she sounds like a 60-year-old chain-smoking diner hag. Outstanding Moment: Cheated on her boyfriend with the 45 year-old DJ Pauly D, and then forgot about it. In fairness to her, and as the Magic: The Gathering card I've created for her shows, she stopped from cheating on him a second time and found comfort in delicious, delicious ham. There's hope for this one yet. Nicole "Snooki" Snooki, Snooki, Snooki. Snooki is a cross between a goblin and another goblin. She is about three and a half feet of puffy-cheeked goblin. Her first night in the house, she stripped down to her underwear, hopped into the jacuzzi and played "Pass the Goblin" with every guy in the house. Since then, she's moped around by herself, shrieking like a goblin that no one "gets her" and if they really got to know her, they'd realize she wasn't a miserable, shrieking goblin. She complains to her dad on the phone, saying that everyone in the house thinks she's the kind of girl who gets drunk and decides to become the cracker in a bowl of dude soup. (You can see how they'd get that impression.) She's unhappy because she's used to being liked, which doesn't sound at all possible in any realm, Middle Earth or otherwise. Everyone in the house promises that they like her and are excited about living with her, a claim that is underscored slightly by the fact that they all refuse to learn her name or spend any time with her. In a house full of society's rejects, Snooki is Unclean. Outstanding Moment: She was late to her first day of work because she was puking alone in the bathroom. Bonus Outstanding Moment: On night two, her night of redemption, she brought home a guy so they could watch the sunrise together, and he celebrated by throwing up and passing out. Sammi "Sweetheart" Sammi's probably the most controversial person on the show. In the first week alone, it seemed like Sweetheart and the Situation were sweethearts, and a romantic situation seemed to be developing, but then Sweetheart decided to complicate Situation's situation by starting a new situation with Ronnie, Sweetheart's allegedly preferred sweetheart. When the Situation found out, the situation started to spin out of control, when The Situation started spinning out of control. The Situation stormed off, presumably, to take his mind off the situation by watching CNN's The Situation Room alone in The Situation's room. Meanwhile, Ronnie, Sweetheart's sweetheart, and Sweetheart sat in the kitchen eating (in a perfect world) sweet tarts. [It's pretty simple, really, in a buffalo sort of way.] I'm going to go ahead and change gears, because I'm interested in using some new words. Sammi receives special distinction because, as much as it pains me to say this, she is from my home town of Hazlet, New Jersey. In fact, I recently opened my high school yearbook to find that we went to goddamned high school together.
I'd like to state for the record that the real failure here lies with Sweetheart's parents who, upon discovering she was unsuitable as a human, should have thrown her off a cliff at birth, in accordance with strict Hazlet Law. (It's how we breed our warriors.) It is because Mr. and Mrs. Sweetheart wrongfully spared their daughter's life that we have to watch her fart her way across our television screens and talk about how she was "straight vibin' with mad guidos." I'd also like to point out that, since she's on a television show, this officially makes me the second most famous person from Hazlet, New Jersey, which is... ...which is the most depressing fucking thing I've ever heard. Outstanding Moment: Go to Hell, this isn't funny anymore.
Daniel O'Brien is a Professor of Media Studies at Harvard University.