emotional farewells

Goodnight Sweet Guidettes: A Eulogy for Jersey Shore

The cast of the MTV series
The cast of the MTV series “Jersey Shore” appear during the taping of “Jersey Shore - Season Four” on May 18, 2011, in Florence,Italy. Photo: Jeff Daly/MTV/PictureGroup

It was time.

MTV’s announcement that the upcoming season of Jersey Shore would be its last didn’t come as much of a surprise. Yet I can’t help feeling like it’ll just be me showing up to watch it go into the cold ground, while an indifferent priest tosses a handful of ziti onto the pine box. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, except for the parts that won’t naturally biodegrade. And I’ll mutter into the winter wind, “Where are all the people? There should be more people!”

Love or loathe it, Jersey Shore was entertaining once. (I recapped last season for Vulture.) At its “best,” the show cheerfully invited our scorn, the derision of our best cultural thinkers, and even the cruel archness of our president (“I’ve got to admit, I don’t know who Snooki is,” he told Joy Behar in 2010).

But at some point, it stopped being outrageous enough to care about — the last season of the show felt a bit like living in a college town after graduation. It was time for everybody to move out, stop drinking watermelon schnapps, and get real jobs, lest they risk becoming a living Springsteen song about an seaside carnival that just had to end, as all things are gonna. So, this is a good thing, whether or not you were ever a fan of these high-flying spaghetti monsters.

And even if you detested them at some point in the past, they’ve actually started to act frighteningly human these days. The cast seems to be domesticating nicely — Snooki is a mother, Jenni is coupled up, Ronnie and Sammi are buying real estate together. Sitch is (hopefully!) off the bad stuff. Pauly has a “job.” You can almost picture Vinny, closet romantic that he is, sandwiched between two lithe lesbians, staring at the ceiling and thinking that perhaps it’s time he did as his old friend Cat Stevens suggested: find a girl, settle down, if he wants, get married.

I mean, there’s always Deena. But otherwise, things were getting entirely too normal in here.

America loves a sideshow, and the guidos and -ettes have been dethroned by so many more minor obsessions, like that two-thumbed baby or that gay pig. The hook of Jersey Shore was always the blissful lack of self-awareness, and there’s nothing like six years of media training and the celebrity news cycle to make even Mike a teensy bit savvy. It’s way less fun to watch Vinny and Pauly do their homoerotic dance when they’re in on the joke and treating it with exaggerated behavioral finger quotes. Oh, you guys know how gay you look? And you think its funny too? Great — you’ve ruined it.

The fact that the past years have been relatively lacking in drama may mean that there’s hope for a dignified, sentimental sign-off for the GTL crowd. Last season veered into embarrassing territory when the some housemates began actively trying to play up their signature foibles. It practically reached Urkellian levels. Is there anything more heartbreaking than trying to watch a grown man force a new catchphrase?

Perhaps most telling was a scene in the season five finale in which the cast amiably sat around the dinner table, drinking moderately, wishing one another well, and enjoying a nutritious pasta dinner. It wasn’t the most compelling television. This was before Snooki had announced her pregnancy and before any subsequent spinoffs had the chance to not-quite take off. In one of the final beats of that episode, she wondered aloud, “What am I going to do now?”

Same thing as the rest of us, Snook. Grow old, grow wise, Swarovski baby junk. Blow off Deena when she wants to go to one of those daiquiri bars. Sock away those endorsement deals and, for God’s sake, moisturize. They shoot former reality show stars. For nostalgia shows. In HD.

A Eulogy for Jersey Shore