There are people who have given up on Jersey Shore, and I can understand why. The show isn’t really fun anymore. The cast can barely stand each other. J-Woww — who once upon a time was the house’s wounded heart and bruised moral soul — has become a non-entity, too mature to be really interesting in the show’s drunk-preschool environment. Snooki swans through Seaside Heights acting as if every half-hearted catchphrase she farts out is an instant double-platinum hit. She’s like a one-hit wonder stumbling around the Meatpacking District one year after her hit single dropped off the charts, assuring her Twitter followers that she’s in serious talks to collaborate with Kanye. Or she’s like Norma Desmond at the end of Sunset Boulevard, vamping for the cameras, not realizing that her adoring fans are actually policemen with diamond-studded handcuffs.
Ronnie and Sammi have settled into the sort of wedded bliss that you usually only find in emotionally abusive couples who turn 60 and decide they may as well stick together until the sweet embrace of Death finally provides some warm respite from the bleak, bitter winter of waking life. Deena entered the house as a parody of Snooki and has now become a parody of herself parodying Snooki; if Snooki is The Matrix, then Deena is Underworld: Awakening. And Vinny has staged a full retreat. He was always the smart one, so perhaps he sensed that a vomit-palace filled with vagrant inebriate masochists was not the best place to experience a nervous breakdown.
And yet, I think that the viewers who are checking out of Jersey Shore are missing one of the most fascinatingly depressing seasons in reality TV history. Now, to a certain extent, all reality TV is depressing, since reality TV stars debase themselves for our amusement, and if they’re lucky, they’ll fade away before they become famous. But this season of Jersey Shore — the final season, I think, or at least that’s how I’m choosing to treat it — is literally becoming a show about depression. It’s a show about people who have achieved everything they could have ever hoped for — people who can walk into any room and become the center of attention, people who get paid to act like late-period Roman aristocrats, people who are at their best when they are allowed to be at their absolute worst — and, by and large, they are discovering that achieving their dreams have left them empty and alone.
In that sense, the only two truly interesting characters left on the show are Pauly D and The Situation. You could argue that Pauly D is the hero of Jersey Shore: The ever-smiling imp whose half-hearted catchphrases actually are all double-platinum hits. Which would make The Situation the clear villain: He’s the man who stages robberies on humble Vin-Vin, who torments Snooki, who stalks around town with a man named The Unit. (The Unit clearly being the Muttley to Sitch’s Dick Dastardly.) And yet, you could just as easily pull a Wicked and argue that The Situation is the show’s hero. He’s an essentially flawed 45-year-old man whose greatest crime is being a devoted follower of his own belief system, whereas Pauly D is a synthetic creature designed for perfection who views the rest of the world like tiny, hilarious dots. Can’t you see Uncle Sitch onstage, a spotlight capturing his sunbleached forehead, singing aloud to all those who don’t believe in him:
It’s time to tryyyyyYYYY!
I think I’ll tryyyYYYYY!
And you can’t pull me down!
But of course, these theories are all just silly. At this point, it should be extremely clear that The Situation is George Lucas and Pauly D is Steven Spielberg.
NEXT: An explanation