If you haven’t watched an episode of Jersey Shore yet, now in its second season on MTV, you are missing something five million other viewers have decided is worth an hour of their week. What that something is, I’m not so sure anymore. I was a regular viewer of Jersey Shore’s first season and watched Snooki, the Situation and DJ Pauly fist pump their way through the clubs of Seaside Heights. I liked the train wreck that is Ronnie and Sammi’s relationship. I marveled at J-Woww’s rotation of stripper outfits. Now? Not so much.
Season two takes the friends to Miami to basically do what they did at the Jersey shore on a shore further south. Watching the first episode of season two, I wondered if Miami would change the gang. Would they become jaded? Start ordering bottles of Cristal at the clubs? Stop making drunk phone calls at 4am?
So far, nothing has changed. Well, Snooki had a boyfriend for a few episodes but she still called him drunk at 4AM. I have read reviews that suggest that the cast’s consistency is the reason for the show’s popularity. In their predictable patterns of behavior, they are real and genuine. Their ‘what you see is what you get’ persona is more appealing than the false performance of other participants in reality television. In other words, Snooki may fall out of clubs on a regular basis but she’s not crafting cunning plans to bring down her friends.
For me, all this ‘reality’ is more lamentable than commendable. Despite its name, unscripted television is not objective documentary. It is subjective drama with villains and heroes and story arcs. So I welcome an element of performance. I want on-camera love fests between two people who then talk trash about each other during their private interview sessions. This is what brings me into the action. The intimacy of the one-on-one interview encourages reality TV stars to say what they really think or feel in a way that lets me in on a secret. Then I get to watch the fallout when those hidden thoughts or feelings are revealed. The ensuing drama is unpredictable and this is the reason I want to tune in week after week.
Jersey Shore has become boring because it lacks variety and layered performance. Certainly, the role of each cast member was not multi-dimensional from the start but they had novelty on their side (and routinely displayed a surprising and often funny, lack of shame). The problem is that in season two, they are still one-dimensional and the novelty has worn off. The predictability of the cast is their Achilles’ heel. Ronnie and Sammi’s weekly dysfunctional hour of make-up/break-up is as expected as Snooki’s alcohol soaked antics and the Situation’s Sunday dinner of sausage and peppers. No one is the same all the time and that’s what makes people interesting and maybe even real.
I think the Situation understands. With his new spot on Dancing With The Stars, he may have realized that he can’t bank on his “GTL” persona forever. Here’s hoping he brings some backstage drama along with his six-pack abs.