Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fist-Pumping All Over Again...

Remember last year between August and October? For me, it was all a blur of fake tans, rippling muscles, and drunks falling all over themselves trying to put on a show for the camera. Because for those three glorious months, I reviewed every single episode of the second season of MTV's The Jersey Shore. I was so engrossed in that world that it wasn't at all out of the ordinary to hear me burst into song about T-Shirt Time or exclaim for all the world to hear that the "Cabs ah heah!" So imagine my surprise when I heard that Season 3 of SallyAnn Salsano's megahit premiered to record numbers, and I didn't even notice!

I know, I know, for someone who works in the reality television field, I'm hopelessly (blissfully?) unaware of what's going on in the industry. It was mostly by accident that I stumbled upon the first season of Jersey Shore and a pure act of will to stick with my "Fist-Pump Gazette" feature for an entire season. I mean, after my experience watching Season 2 cover to cover, I've had enough guidos and guidettes to last a lifetime. But when I heard that episode 301 was MTV's highest rated broadcast EVER, I decided I had to check it out via the magic of MTV.com.

What did I discover? Hit the jump to find out.


That was actually a pretty unfair tease seeing as Season 3 just looks to offer more of the same. Everyone who hated each other at the end of Season 2 still hates each other. There's drama right from the start about who picked which bedrooms, who's laughing at whom, who wants to hook up with the new girl, who's gonna get punched in the face. It immediately brought back the question that I couldn't keep from my mind throughout all of Season 2: Why do we care about these particular individuals going through their ridiculous foolish escapades?

And then it dawned on me, as I was watching the preview of what's to come on Season 3, that we care about them because they are characters in a television show. We care about Snooki and Pauly and The Situation for the same reason as we care about Don Draper and Dr. House and Barney Stinson - because they show up on TV every week and act out their story. What does it matter that the Jersey Shore cast are the same characters off-screen as they are on the show, or that they create their own story rather than working from a script painstakingly crafted by professional writers? The routine is there, and that's all that matters to keep people tuned in.

As soon as I stopped thinking of the Jersey Shore characters as real people who got picked for a reality show and started looking at them as characters involved in a plot, I could start to appreciate such character related things as story arcs over an entire season. According to the preview, (<>) both Jenni and Ronnie go through difficult breakups, Sammi becomes the new Angelina and leaves the show, and new roommate/Rookie of the Year candidate Deena is such a bad influence on Snooki that she gets taken to jail. Looks like some pretty heavy stuff will happen in the months to come!

<> But after all these juicy plot points had been revealed, I realized that I wouldn't ever watch a scripted show with a plot like this, even despite the catfights and censored nudity. Part of the reason you tune in is because of the collective personality and celebrity of the cast. Which then brings you right back to asking yourself why you feel compelled to watch a show about regular people who just happen to get book deals and command thousands of dollars for public appearances, no matter how rich their imagined private lives may be. It's a vicious cycle that I find it much easier and healthier to run away from than to try to reconcile.

So, no, I will not be watching Season 3 of Jersey Shore anything close to regularly. But I'm glad that it's still out there and that it's doing well in the ratings (as long as it stays away from Sunday night), because it shows that America can still be captivated by a completely preposterous cultural phenomenon for no apparent reason. And it shows that one can still realize the American Dream through sheer personality and persistence alone.