Monday, October 4, 2010

I Need To Wash The Jersey Shore Off Me...And It's Sticky...

the class act cast of the Jersey Shore
I know that my blog is primarily on cinema, but I would like to branch out into television as well, as it is just becoming a bit too interesting not to address.
In the last few years, there has been a revolution in how we watch television, as well as the content itself. And I am not talking about the obvious juggernaut of reality TV that has evolved from schadenfreudeian opus 'Survivor' (2000), to scraping the back of Flavor Flav's gold teeth. I guess one could refer to it as devolution rather than evolution. This is most notable with the show that continues to live in delightful infamy, premiered last September on MTV, 'The Jersey Shore'.
It is formatted after the wildly successful 'The Real World', which originally premiered in 1992 and believe it or not is still running, despite its dwindling relevance. MTV decided to one up itself in what it will stoop to, and search far and wide for the next big fatwa of outrageousness. It finally settled on Jersey, the armpit of the United States and the turd seeping from Pennsylvania's asshole. Brave executives at MTV got together with a bunch of their CUNY dropout interns and laborously discussed what aspect of pop culture they wanted to exploit next.
I can imagine an early 20's something douchebag with dirt under his fingernails, an Ed Hardy t-shirt, and plastic sunglasses adorning his unkempt hair coming up with a way to economize the franchise by focusing on just one state and the culture within rather than tirelessly searching the country day night 'Broken Flowers' style in order to find a bunch of impressionable shmucks to fit roles of; 'the mormon', the 'jerk', the 'artist', the 'drunk ho', and the 'player' (there are probably more variants to it, but those are the ones I remember best).
They bravely decided to look to the future, and that future was spray tans, stripper heels, blow outs, fist pumping, and Valtrex.
One would expect that this show was one that even the likes of VH1 turned down for being 'too trashy'. Remember, VH1 aired the ultimate in classless sleaze including but not limited to 'Rock of Love Bus' (2009), 'I Love New York' (2007, 2008), and 'Megan Wants a Millionaire'(2007). MTV would have to fight the brave fight alone, and convince all of us that this is something worth our attention. And you know what? It was.
Aside from being an obvious ironic commentary on the depravity of our culture, it really is just so much fun to watch, if you can sustain your gag reflex for long enough. Instead of the usual stock characters that change with every new season and location of 'The Real World', 'Jersey Shore' focused on choosing people they knew would be consistently annoying, and consistently fabulous.
From most tan to least tan, there's Snooki, J-Woww, Paulie, The Situation (Mike), Sammi, Ronni, Angelina (who was gone for most of the 1st season), and Vinnie.
There are your classic cat fights, douchebaggery, and drunken rages that invoke that delicious guilt within all of us that makes us feel better that whatever we are, at least we are not at that level. But what's so deliciously gross about The Shore is how they changed sexual behaviors and attitudes for the rest of us. After a while I feel like I'm watching a Nova special, where I felt like I was observing a new and rare species in their first heat. And soon enough, I found myself using a lot of their slang...proudly. I even asked a friend if she thought i was a grenade the other day.
And if you thought the 'shore house' was nasty during Season 1, if you were to take an infrared light to it a la 'Dateline', it's probably nothing compared to the shmorgasbord of bodily fluids that lay siege to their Miami house of Season 2.
It is a den of vice that rivals the Roman harems of Bob Guccioni's 'Caligula' (1972). Eloquently nicknamed 'the smash room' by the roommies, I don't even want to imagine the shenanigans that goes on in there.
And amidst how nasty each of them appear to be (with the exception of Vinnie, he can stay) and how increasingly ridiculous the stuff that comes out of their mouths is, and how much we all want to despise sweaty, greasy, spray tanned nimrods, they turned out to be one of the most interesting and original presences on television.
Right now, they all seem to be DTF (that means 'down to fuck' in shore speak) with each other more than outsiders. Letting all of that spray tan, eye-liner, and pit stain run a greasy streak through network prime time. Yes, there's the prerequisite of drama, crying, and alcoholism, but what we really watch it for is for its unmistakable sleaze factor.
The Situation (normally known as Mike) has been recycled through the reality TV reusing flush system to be one of the 'stars' on Dancing with the Stars this season.  (Shown here 'practicing' with Karina Smirnoff)

It feels safe to watch sleaze from a distance and not have to worry about disinfecting anything after the fact. But lately, it's almost been oozing out of my TV screen and making me really want a good shower. I am starting to wonder if it is possible to push the sleaze boundaries to the point where its no longer funny, and I can no longer appreciate it. The Shore is really only bearable for a season or two, even if you're someone like me, who lives for this kind of stuff and the chance to ironically embrace it. I think I need Jersey Shore rehab, and ween myself off of it with something slightly less gross but just as ridiculous like...Real Housewives of D.C. (no offense D.C.) But who knows, perhaps this Thursday I'll tune right back in to see what The Situation scrapes out from the bottom of the barrel this time and brings back to the shore house to fish-mouth kiss and rub bronzer on. And maybe our Shnooks will fall down a bit more and finally hit that comically larged head on something, but we all know that her poof will protect her from that scenario.
But I admit, all I'm really hoping for is more catch phrases for me to later use ironically, and more reasons for me to thank my lucky stars that I don't have to live in Jersey, even though secretly wishing I could be a cameraman at that house. I'll admit it, I love you 'Jersey Shore', but in small doses. And I just don't think it's working out. It's not you, it's me. And shame on me. I know I keep getting a bit self-righteous, and in these circumstances, it's hard not to, but I truly believe that this show is one of the most genius undertakings of reality television, much in the tradition of Andy Warhol and even John Waters, where everyone behind it (including the cast) understands the immanent sleaze factor and acknowledges it. It's lack of pretension is very much appreciated.
It really is the 'Melrose Place' (1992) of our generation. You don't want to admit that you watched it, but it was your absolute favorite. You knew all of the characters by their full names, their backstory, and their sex lives. Once a week you sat down with a bowl of Chex Mix and fuzzy blanket and had the time of your life. You might have even cancelled a few nights out with friends because you couldn't miss 'Melrose Place'. You made fun of it constantly, and then were caught in talking about the characters knowing almost everything about them, and your friends never looked at you the same way again. 'Jersey Shore' is what we had all dreaded happening since the birth of reality television, and now that it has finally manifested itself, we all want to hate it with vengeance. Lest we forget, there was a show aired just a few years ago about women getting plastic surgery to look socially acceptable and then competing with each other afterwards for who is the most changed (The Swan, 2004). I feel if we're going to put our moral corruptibility on anyone, it should be that horrendous miscalculation rather than the brilliant combination of sleaze and comedy that is 'Jersey Shore'. So why don't we all put on some LMFAO, take a shot of Smirnoff, and fist pump our weekly stress away. I've done my part, so I'll abstain, eat some Milano's and watch Golden Girls, but everyone else please go ahead. 

Please take a minute to watch this nugget. It's half of the cast parodying themselves, and though not SNL material (like that's saying much), it's actually pretty hilarious.

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