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Bienvenido a Miami

Filed Under: TV Reviews

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I can’t believe it was only six months ago that I wrote my first post on RA about Jersey Shore, when the show was just a few episodes in and the media/pop culture firestorm surrounding it hadn’t yet reached its peak. Oh, how things have changed.

The first episode of the much-anticipated second season premiered on MTV last night, and unless you live under a rock (or are older than 35) you know that the network’s eagerness to get the now-famous cast back on air led them to shoot Season 2 in Miami when it was still snowing buckets on the East Coast.

So far, the geographic change seems at worst harmless, and at best necessary. Since JS Season 1 only ended a few months ago, it would be exceedingly hard to revive the novelty of the show’s first weeks in the same house and at the same bars. Indeed, it’s not such a bad idea to test the legs of the cast—can they be as interesting, or perhaps more interesting, when removed from the very scene that gave the show its name? Answer: yes.

Watching The Situation, Pauly D, Vinny, Ronnie, Sammi, Snooki and JWoww (more on Angelina later) reunite was like meeting up with old friends again, and even though we know many of the cast members have spent the last four months within arms’ length of one-another, it still felt like they were all excited to be re-living the very experience that got them here in the first place. Sort of like how the three months you spend planning the prom (what, you guys didn’t have overanxious female friends in high school?) didn’t manage to undermine the greatness of seeing your peers in evening wear. (Well, that, and the drinking; everyone’s looking forward to the drinking.)

So far, MTV has approached JS2 with a balance reminiscent of its Real World/Road Rules Challenges – playing up the drama laid out in Season 1 (and over the last few months), but still promising the kind of off-the-cuff hilarity that made JS popular in the first place. To be honest, MTV doesn’t have to do much—the “give them a bed, a bar and a beverage” production model, which has floundered on Real World in the last few seasons, is perfectly suited to Jersey Shore’s characters, who are at their best when simply permitted to speak freely to each other, or to strangers, or really at all (see: every mainstream media interview Snooki has ever done). Extensive trailers for this season, shown repeatedly over the last few months, reassure me that JS will be just as good this time around as before; there promise to be fights, hookups and one-liners galore. All in all, I’m pumped, (no pun intended).

That said, watching JS now, after the media explosion, makes for an interesting anthropological study in the trajectory of reality TV stars. After all, part of what made the cast endearing in Season 1 was how their overwhelming vanity clashed with their relative obscurity. This is an entire culture (I refer here to guidos and –ettes) centered on looking and feeling fresh, getting women, fist-pumping and making a general spectacle of yourself. The show’s cast is just a microcosm of something going on in midtown literally every night of the week, and in that sense it was novel simply to peer into the lifestyle at all, whether we were watching its most hilarious ambassadors (Mike, Snooki) or least vociferous adherents (Vinny).

All of that is different these days. We know how famous the group is now and, more importantly, they know. The cast has gone on countless television shows, been the subject of at-length media coverage and even showed up in Manhattan this week to ring the bell at the stock exchange. To ring. The bell. At the stock exchange. In other words, their universe has flipped upside down.

To this end, MTV has an interesting approach, one I’m not yet decided on. On the one hand, there were times last night I wished they’d just up and acknowledge how things have changed. Like why is the group staying in relatively cramped digs in Miami, when Real World cast members, whose show has, let’s face it, become about a third as popular as JS (if that) are still shacked up in pimped-out mansions? Why did the network spend the first 15 minutes pretending the JS crew had randomly decided to take a trip to Miami together? Why didn’t they know Angelina was coming (when we certainly did)? Why the fuck did anyone actually carpool? (To this end, for all the press attention that the cast members’ $30,000/episode paychecks have gotten, they’re not exactly living it up). The overwhelming attempt to play off their fame is particularly noticeable when the group goes out—gone are the shots of an empty bar shore-side, where JWoww nurses a drink and Snooki dances by herself. More than once I got the distinct impression the group was being photographed, and the boys’ unadulterated confidence in their ability to get hot girls (Vinny ponders bedding 60 women in the 60 days of filming) suggests they are reaping the benefits of pop culture fandom.

On the other hand, Jersey Shore wouldn’t be the same if everyone  started talking about their newfound celebrity. Not to mention, most of the cast members still live in their home states—as of yet, no one has moved to LA to pursue an acting career—and those who lived with mom and dad apparently still do. Their clothes are just as tight, tans just as fake. Unlike The Hills, whose cast members were more or less encouraged by fame to become glossy plastic versions of themselves, the crew of Jersey Shore started out glossy and plastic; changing who they are to suit some Hollywood perception of beauty or class would be anathema to the source of their celebrity.

But just in case you think watching 20-somethings lounge around in deck chairs won’t be as entertaining now that they’re “famous,” there’s plenty of semi-fabricated drama to distract you. Ronnie and Sammi have broken up, though there are already less-than-discreet references to what I imagine will be an eventual reunion. Along the same lines, MTV deftly invited Angelina back this season (perhaps the truest testament to JS‘ unexpected popularity was Angelina’s Season 1 departure, something she has clearly been kicking herself for over the last year). In the first few minutes she pathetically tells the camera that she’ll do anything to ingratiate herself with the cast; by the end of the episode she’s gotten into a screaming match with JWoww and become the second person in one episode to refer to Sammi as a c-word. All in all, very promising.

If you don’t watch JS, you should definitely start now, before it’s too late and you’re like one of those weird people who somehow missed major television bandwagons like Lost and The Wire. And if you do watch Jersey Shore, and you didn’t intend to watch this season already, well, I don’t know you, and I don’t like you.

 
kira

11:18 AM on July 30th, 2010 | 

Posted by kira

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