Don’t rip the “Jersey Shore,” because the MTV reality show isn’t about anything other than a bunch of kids having a good time, understand?
This was the message that six members of the cast of the hit show brought to New York Monday, where Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Paul “DJ Pauly D” DelVecchio, Jenni “JWoww” Farley, Sammi “Sweetheart” Giancola and Vinny Guadagnino talked with TODAY’s Meredith Vieira about the just-announced second season of the show coming up. MTV has said that shooting will start soon, but wouldn’t say where, other than that it will be someplace warmer than the Jersey Shore in March.
The big surprise was seeing Snooki, who made a hit at the Grammys Sunday night, wearing her hair in a simple blowout instead of her signature pouf. DelVecchio and Sorrentino made up for it with their own heavily gelled hair.
The self-described “guidos” and “guidettes” have come under heavy fire as promoting negative stereotypes — not only of Italian-Americans, but also of New Jersey and its celebrated shore. But the stars said they don’t pretend to be role models.
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“We’re not representing anybody,” said Sammi “Sweetheart” Giancola.
“We’re just being ourselves,” agreed Sorrentino, the de facto spokesman for the group and owner of the six-pack abs he calls “The Situation.” “We’re not saying we’re the definition of Jersey, the definition of New York, the definition of Italian or what have you. I just happen to be Italian. I happen to have spiky hair and a six-pack and I’m proud to have that, and if you don’t like me, I don’t care. I’ve still got 5 million viewers on Thursday nights at 10 p.m.”
“It’s different. It’s a different show,” said DelVecchio. “You put a bunch of like, teenage people together — we’re in our 20s and stuff — and it’s summer and the Jersey Shore and we’re just having a good time. There’s no other show around that’s like that. It’s just different.”
“Jersey Shore” debuted last December on MTV and drew something over a million viewers for its first episode. By the eighth and final episode in January, the show was drawing nearly 5 million, making it the highest-rated show in MTV history.
The eight original cast members were paid a reported $200 per episode to share a house in Seaside Heights and let cameras record their lives. The seven who are returning banded together a la the cast of “Friends” to negotiate a new pay package that reportedly will pay each of them $10,000 an episode.
“I would like to find somebody in their 40s or 50s that didn’t go out and go to a bar and have some drinks and, if you’re single, look for a guy or a girl or what have you,” Sorrentino told Vieira. “It just so happens that there’s a camera behind us watching our every move, OK? This is not a secret, that young people go out and have fun.”
On “Jersey Shore,” “fun” involves liberal applications of alcohol and plenty of hookups, including some between various cast members. At the end of season 1, Ronnie Ortiz-Magro (who didn’t make it to the New York interview) and Sammi were an item.
Vieira asked if they are still together.
“Like, we’re both happy,” “Sweetheart” said sweetly.
Does that mean they’re still together?
“Like, me and Ronnie are good,” she said as her housemates laughed.
Keeping it real
Vieira returned to the criticisms the group has taken, reading from a column by Linda Stasi, an Italian-American and a columnist for the New York Post. Stasi blasted “Jersey Shore” as a show “in which Italian-Americans are stereotyped into degrading and debasing themselves — and, by extension, all Italian-Americans — and furthering the popular TV notion that Italian-Americans are gel-haired, thuggish ignoramuses with fake tans, no manners, no diction, no taste, no education, no sexual discretion, no hairdressers (for sure), no real knowledge of Italian culture and no ambition beyond expanding steroid- and silicone-enhanced bodies into sizes best suited for floating over Macy’s on Thanksgiving.”
The show has also thoroughly insinuated its way into pop culture, providing grist for a “Saturday Night Live” drag impersonation just this past weekend, for example. And “The Jay Leno Show” has offered a geriatric spin-off titled “Florida Shore.”
To all of which Vieira added her own observation: “Those who watch it say basically the same thing — ‘Jersey Shore’ has no redeeming social value whatsoever, but we can’t stop watching it.”
“We’re all just real people, and whatever you see on TV is what you get,” Mike said.
Jenni “JWoww” Farley pointed at Vinny Guadagnino and Giancola and noted that both are going to college. “I have two bachelor’s [degrees] and two businesses, so no education?” she observed.
“I just took my LSAT,” pointed out the buzz-cut Guadagnino, referring to the Law School Admission Test. “And I don’t use gel on my hair.”
So if you don’t like it, like you don’t gotta watch it, know what I mean? Cuz there are plenty of others who think “Jersey Shore” is the best reality show on television.
“There’s a lot of people who do like it,” Paulie D said. “They’re fist-pumping like us, doing their hair like us now, dressing like us. We’re obviously doing something right.”
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