What if you took Jersey Shore, switched up the accents, transported the whole production to the Gulf Coast, and made everything and everyone just a little bit sadder, but just as wasted? The reality-TV scientists at MTV have set out to find the answer to that question, in the most rigorous laboratory conditions possible. This is Floribama Shore.
When they aren’t aggressively partying in their shared summer house in Panama City Beach, Florida, the eight castmates are technically employed, with jobs in “beach service,” setting up chairs and umbrellas on the sand. But relatively little of Floribama Shore takes place in the daytime, so the show feels like it exists in a surreal, tequila-and-blue-Gatorade-soaked world of forever night.
We’re already a few episodes in, so I’ll start you off with a quick introduction to the residents. All in their early 20s, they let their freak flags fly, say a prayer before every meal, fight at least one-third of all strangers they encounter, and share so many disarming, deeply personal secrets about themselves that I have come to refer to this show, in my head, as Drunk Feelings Club. Chi-chis up — let’s go! (Chi-chis, as you will learn within 90 seconds of Floribama Shore, are boobs.)
Nilsa: A 23-year-old divorcée whose ex-husband cheated on her not long after she suffered a miscarriage. She wants you to know that all her plastic surgery hasn’t made her any less “real.” Snooki in stature, Angelina-slash-Sammi in personality.
Gus: Imagine Zac Efron going Method for a role. A big flirt who wants to get married pretty much immediately. Was kicked out at 17. Was once homeless. Has the tallest hair in the house. Thinks he has the best hair in the house.
Candace: Actually has the best hair in the house. Specializes in delivering surprisingly effective impromptu inspirational speeches to drunk people, as when she encouraged Nilsa to “be the bitch you are.”
Jeremiah: He was home-schooled, which you should expect to hear about a lot. He is frequently shirtless and his head is, uncannily, the same exact size as each of his deltoids.
Kirk: A sensitive and loyal Atlanta transplant. If I had to peg him for a Jersey Shore cast member, I’d say this is our Vinny. Like Gus, Kirk has been homeless.
Aimee: Her dream job is “trophy wife.” Before she came on the show, Aimee’s boyfriend of a decade cheated on her with her cousin and got somebody pregnant. She cooked taco soup that made everybody in the house violently ill.
Codi: The archetypal southern boy. Works at an “old people bar.” You wouldn’t guess this by looking at him, but believe me when I tell you that more so than anyone else on this television program, Codi is a messy bitch who lives for drama.
Kortni: I recognize Floribama Shore may be a tough sell, but please, if for no other reason, watch it for Kortni. On the very first night in the house, she got so drunk she peed not even in her own bed, but Candace’s. Lest you think that was an embarrassing one-time lapse in judgment, she later proceeded to climb inside a garbage can on the beach to pee, in broad daylight, while theoretically at work. She fights like a giraffe hooked up to a car battery.
After a day of fighting along gender lines over whether or not the boys should have saved the last of the chicken for the girls (you had to be there), the housemates were reunited and their bonds reinforced when a seemingly unhinged woman, like a drunk angel in disguise, attacked them at a dollar-beer dive. The bar fight was an improbably heartwarming development, and not the worst premise I’ve ever heard for a corporate team-building idea.
What “stage-five clinger” was to Jersey Shore, “barnacle” is to Floribama Shore. Nilsa — who, not for nothing, had a crush on Jeremiah — is annoyed that Jeremiah’s new sex friend Kayla Jo has been hanging out with them so much. She’s not even paying rent! (Are any of them paying rent?) To be fair, “Kathy Ho” is indeed a little annoying, delivering a late-night, unsolicited anti-smoking lecture in front of Aimee, who is smoking. Nilsa is channeling her dislike for her unwanted guest through aggressive hospitality, offering her everything she can think of: juice, snacks, condoms, and most importantly a slice of frozen pizza, which Kayla Jo accepts but fails to eat. As she gets in her cab home, she asks Jeremiah to throw it out so Nilsa won’t see. Of course, God’s own true dummy Jeremiah leaves the pizza, smushed in a paper plate, on their coat rack, where Nilsa immediately discovers it and is thrilled to have a reason to be offended. “Call Kayla!” she demands. “This is her pizza!”
The next day, everyone drives to Kortni’s family home. She only just moved out — this is the longest she’s ever been away. The gang meets her sweet, gentle, nondrinker mother, who’s eager to show off scrapbooks full of her toddler-aged daughter perched on the potty. (And not on anybody’s bed.) Kortni reminds me more of their pet parrot than her mom: striking, profoundly unpredictable, and quick to bite. While they’re visiting Chez Kortni, Aimee shares that the nearest high school to her 45-person hometown was 35 minutes away, so she dropped out. We also learn that Gus previously tried to join the military, but disqualified when he broke his arm. He plans to attend Florida State in the fall. Good for you, Gus!
Back at the house, Kortni mentions to Nilsa that Kayla Jo told her that she’s a Wiccan. A full-on witch hunt ensues, with Nilsa screaming and dashing up to her room in pursuit of her “Jesus candle.” Of course, this is insane; the only reason to fear a Wicca practitioner is if you have a severe sage allergy. Codi plots to see if he can trick Kayla Jo into touching his rosary beads. I told you he was a messy bitch who lives for drama.
Jeremiah soon calls a family meeting to address the “chatter” about Kayla Jo, which quickly devolves into a shouting match between him and Nilsa. After he tells her to kiss his ass, she yells at him about how he was raised, which for Jeremiah — who is hyperprotective of his family — apparently introduces doubts about how she was raised. The Kayla Jo thing is not about religion, she insists. Some of Nilsa’s best friends are “Muslim, whatever!” Somehow, Gus gets involved, and before you can say “all the power of Manon,” he is crying at the very suggestion that he would disrespect women.
Out at Ms. Newby’s that night, Nilsa offers Jeremiah a sincere apology. There may be a moratorium on Kayla Jo jokes (Kayla Jo-kes?), but all is not well in Panama City Beach. Amid an intense Jenga game, a stranger in a trucker hat calls Gus a “faggot.” Security manages to separate them, but once Candace hears what’s happened, she takes it upon herself to confront Farmer Slur and knock the hat off his head. When he makes the mistake of calling her “little girl” in response, Kirk punches him, setting off a collective flurry of limbs — there’s Aimee! there’s Kortni! — that I momentarily believed must have been CGI. See you next week!