Unless you have been in a coma or a convent, chances are you have at least heard of the recent hit show on MTV, Jersey Shore, the latest reality show that manages to straddle the fence between repellent and addictive as it follows a group of eight twentysomething Guidos and Guidettes in their summer adventures shacking up on the Boardwalk at the Jersey Shore, working in a novelty tee shirt store by day and cruising for sex, love and good times every night. Like any reality show, what ultimately hooks you is the cast.
First, a brief and sincere disclaimer. I well appreciate that some Italians consider the terms Guidos and Guidettes as ethnic insults. I intend no insult. I am half-Sicilian myself. More importantly, I am only using the designations because that is how the Jersey Shore cast repeatedly and proudly characterizes themselves.
The Guidos: Ronnie, Vinnie, DJ Paulie D and Mike "The Situation"
Ronnie is the brooder, the romantic, an unstable keg of dynamite with a short fuse who actually looks like a muscled keg of dynamite. In virtually every episode Ronnie is fuming at some point and before the summer is over -- to no one's surprise -- Ronnie is arrested for aggravated assault after he cold cocks a guy who was verbally harassing the Jersey Shore group at a bar.
At the start of the summer, Ronnie announced his two firm rules: don't fall in love at the Jersey Shore and don't date women in the house. His dual convictions evaporated like the morning dew the second Sammi "Sweetheart" (see Guidettes below) whispered sweet nothings in his ear while doing a full body press on the dance floor. Sure to be voted most likely to serve hard time for involuntary manslaughter, Ronnie still exudes a little brother sweetness that makes it easy to excuse his predisposition to violent outbursts.
Vinnie is the only Guido in the house who does not go to the gym daily and he has the body to prove it. Having just turned 21, Vinnie is the baby of the house, unabashedly excited to christen his passage into adulthood at every bar at the Jersey Shore. All charm and no drama, Vinnie goes through the summer with a constant and genuine smile on his face, never forgetting for one second what a lucky Guido he is to have scored this gig for his 21st birthday. Vinnie easily wins best roommate award, but plans to live with him mama until he's married and seems in no hurry whatsoever to make any changes with what is so obviously working well for him.
DJ Pauli D is the oldest and most driven of the Guidos. Whether its blowing out and lacquering his trademark hairdo, pumping iron at the gym, selling Tee shirts on the Boardwalk or spinning vinyl, Pauli D aims to make the biggest splash and at least in the relatively small pond that is the Jersey Shore, he generally succeeds. As wing man to Mike 'The Situation' horndog's constant quest to score some midnight booty, Pauli D is probably at his lamest, frequently walking off mid-flight, leaving Mike holding only one more dashed dream of scoring. DJ Pauli D wins the vote for most likely not to go quietly into the anonymous oblivion of night when the lights of Jersey Shore are finally turned off.
Mike 'The Situation', the self proclaimed man of the house, has three main passions: staying ripped, staying tanned and getting laid. While Mike scores less than a priest at Bingo, he is pretty handy around the kitchen. At 27, Mike is the second oldest housemate, but he generally behaves like a 12 year old, masterminding late night pickle pranks, and objectifying women as notches in a belt he doesn't even own. Mike's best hope for getting laid: turn gay.
The Guidettes: Angelina, Jenni 'J-WOWW', Sammi 'Sweetheart' and Nicole 'Snooki'
Angelina is a sad story that was never told and can only be imagined. She arrived at the Jersey Shore house with her clothes in a green plastic trash bag. Maybe that said it all. The Guidos immediately reacted with disdain. "Look," they whispered, "doesn't anyone in her family have any luggage she could borrow." I suspect if Angelina had access to luggage she would have used it. She wasn't making a political statement by using a trash bag to carry her clothes; it was the sad necessity of her circumstance. From that outset, Angelina was alienated from the rest of the Jersey Shore cast and things went downhill fast.
Angelina's married boyfriend showed up at the Jersey Shore where Angelina and the rest of the cast were partying. The summer was just starting for Angelina. Who knows where it might have gone, whom she might have met, what modest amount of fame and possible fortune she might have earned as a result. The threat of Angelina finding a life of her own was obviously too much of a risk for her married boyfriend so he forced the situation, presssed the right buttons and within 24 hours, Angelina self destructed and left show to return to the non-life she has with her married boyfriend. Angelina's imagined story is probably no sadder than the truth and should be a lesson to women everywhere. If he is married: move on. If he is cheating on her, he will cheat on you if he isn't already.
Jenni 'J-WOWW' came to Jersey Shore to work, not play. This is her 15 minutes of fame and she is not about to waste a second. If anyone can parlay this opportunity into a career in adult entertainment, J-WOWW can. But even as determined and single minded as she is, J-WOWW still manages to show more genuine caring and sweetness than Sammi 'Sweetheart'. When Nicole 'Snooki' is intent on leaving the Jersey Shore house the morning after her first day debacle, J-WOWW convinces her to stay, promising she has her back. J-WOWW also tried to talk some sense into Ronnie's head, albeit unsucessfully, when Sammi 'Sweetheart' was playing her mind games on him. Word is J-WOWW will be doing a Playboy spread. I can only hope that with her heart and class and body to boot, she ultimately knocks Tila Tequila to the gutter where she belongs, but that's a blog for another day.
Sammi 'Sweetheart' is anything but and I have no doubt the name was self proclaimed, not bestowed upon her. While Sammi may have once upon a time been a sweet girl, that girl grew up and changed along the way. By the time Sammi arrived at the Jersey Shore, she was the biggest player of all.
Sammi teased Mike 'The Situation' into a full blown heat, then cold heartedly turned her back on him without so much as one word of warning or explanation. She then seduced Ronnie with a whisper and a grind. When Sammi left Mike hanging, I am sure painfully, she acted as if his reaction was completely unexpected and unjustified. To his credit, Mike was a gentleman and didn't call Sammi out for the manipulative **** she is. Throughout the summer, Sammi pitted Ronnie and Mike one against the other and when she bored with that, she egged on Ronnie's always simmering temper, goading strangers to lash out so that Ronnie would explode. Sammi 'Sweetheart' has some serious pathology going on that would take a lifetime of therapy to understand. She is without question the cast member most likely to have her husband murdered by her boyfriend for the life insurance. Ronnie and Mike: be thankful you escaped with your lives.
Nicole 'Snooki' is hands down my favorite of the Jersey Shore cast. Snooki is the only one of the group who can carry a spin-off all on her own and the only one who should have her own spin-off for this very reason. Snooki epitomizes a guidette, as she calls herself, at the Jersey Shore, yet at the same she is so much more. Snooki is vulnerable and insecure. She obsesses needlessly about her weight and is driven to tears when an equally insecure Mike 'The Situation' lashes out at her at dinner in Atlantic City, telling her she doesn't need a dinner roll, she already has rolls.
Snooki tries to overcome her nerves and insecurities the first day at the house by loosening up with alcohol. At 5' nothing (if even that), Snooki quickly becomes snookered and ends stripping down to her bra and panties and splashing in the hot tub, trying but miserably failing to pull off vixen.
To their collective credit and probably in not small part due to the scowling ever watchful eyes of Angelina, Jenni and Sammi, the Guidos do not take advantage of Snooki as she splashes from one to the next, trying to get a rise. The morning after, a mortified Snooki wants to go home and presumably crawl under a rock. Jenni 'J-WOWW' talks her into staying and the rest, as they say, is herstory.
Night after night, Snooki searches for Mr. Right or at least Mr. Right Now, but time and again, she fails and goes home alone. Even when she succeeds in bringing home a potential Mr. Right Now, fate intervenes and before Snooki can make a move, Mr. Not Right Now begins puking and keeps puking. Snooki, ever a trooper, grabs a trash bag and escorts Mr. Never Again home, politely declining his goodnight kiss.
At once and seamlessly, Snooki is a character and she is genuine. She is brash and she is sweet. She strikes out repeatedly at finding love, but her conviction that Mr. Right is out there never waivers. While she strives to exude the sex appeal that comes naturally to J-WOWW, Snooki should realize that her appeal is not based on sex. Its based on her heart.
When I first tuned in to Jersey Shore I had no expectation of becoming a fan. Mike 'The Situation' was so over the top he seemed like The Fonz of Happy Days reincarnated and I honestly did not think I could watch even the entire first episode. But the show is hard to turn off and next thing I knew the credits were running and I wanted to see how Snooki recovered from her disastrous first day. All in all, MTV put on a great show and I hope next summer we get another slice of life at the Jersey Shore.