I watched the premiere of last night’s Jersey Shore out of a sense of demented obligation. I had come this far with America’s favorite stereotypes, I might as well continue the journey. Torie’s correct to say that MTV’s True Life is a much finer, nobler program, but nowhere on television can you experience such sheer ebullience as the Shore kids on a perfect party night, when their hair is sprayed, their clothing tight, and their boozing past the legal driving limit but nowhere near alcohol poisoning levels. Which is to say: Jersey Shore is a joy to watch when the cast members are having fun, and at the beginning of Season 5, they’re too tired to go full throttle.
The season opened with the gang returning from a season-long sojourn in Italy, their purported cultural homeland. As they touch down in the U.S., they’re relieved to be back in the land of the artificial tan, but they mostly seem exhausted, snuggling with their stuffed animals, resolving a potential source of conflict—who’s going to room with the noxious Situation?—with quiet passive aggression rather than a full-throated shouting match. (Though that interlude did provide the best line of the evening, courtesy of Snooki: “I peed in that bed last year, so it’s my bed.”)
They momentarily perk up when they’re reunited with their grody Seaside Heights home, but the majority of the episode just shows the cast getting back to their customary Jersey tasks: maintaining their muscles, getting their hair cut, re-oranging. From the looks of the Season 5 preview, the kids are just plain worn out on drinking and drama. The fights seem half-hearted, and it appears that Vinnie leaves the show early, unable to take it anymore. Since several cast members have already committed to spin-offs, perhaps it’s time for MTV to retire the Shore. Or at least give the guidos more than a few months between seasons to juice back up.