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January 27, 2011 at 12:00 PM EST

Jersey Shore

type
TV Show
Current Status
Pending
seasons
5
run date
12/03/09
broadcaster
MTV
Genre
Reality

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— “Frightening. I fear for the future of our nation.”

— “Oh look, another sign of the Apocalypse.”

— “This makes me sad.”

— “There you go, 8.6 million reasons why abortion should exist.”

These comments from EW.com readers are familiar to anybody who follows Jersey Shore online. After every mind-blowing viewership record set by the MTV hit (its ratings were bigger than Grey’s Anatomy a couple weeks back), there’s a wailing “oh the humanity” outcry. Love or hate the series, there’s no other TV program whose success yields more outrage and depression.

So for haters and fans seeking validation alike, here is why Jersey Shore is popular. The reasons might even make you feel better about the “future of our nation:”

Jersey Shore created its own world. Most cultural-shifting mega hits — from Star Wars to Survivor — introduce their own unique self-contained universe. Shore has specialized characters (so-called guidos and guidettes), setting (skeezy beach clubs), fashion (Ed Hardy, exploded) and language (“smush,” “robbery,” “grenades”). It’s like Middle Earth, except the hobbits are humpy with fake tans.

More reasons below …

Jersey Shore is a sitcom. While the broadcast networks continue to look for the next Friends, MTV found it. Ross and Rachel have been replaced by The Situation and Snooki. Six friends living and loving in NYC are now eight frenemies getting drunk and hooking up in Seaside. Karma is the new Central Perk. This is what detractors often miss. They’re so busy judging the show, they don’t realize that fans are finding humor in the exact same elements they find abhorrent — the show’s outrageous, shallow, dense, lurid bombastic content is also its appeal. When Pauly blithely references ordering “Filet Mig-nin” or Snooki drunkenly pratfalls, this is a 21st century ensemble TV comedy.

Jersey Shore has what people want. What are the two big drivers of human drama throughout the history of entertainment? Romance and conflict. Well, guess what, Shakespeare fans? That’s all Jersey Shore is! The show isn’t about solving crimes, healing patients, winning a competition any other form of “work” that populates most TV shows. Despite a few dull scenes in a T-shirt shop, Jersey Shore is about sex and fighting, distilling drama to its raw core. In each episode, the cast prepares for sex and fighting (ie: “gym-tan-laundry”), has sex and fight, and then — in true reality show fashion — endlessly discuss the sex and fighting that did (or did not) take place. Repeat cycle. In other words: It’s not that there’s something wrong with people for liking Jersey Shore, humans are wired to like Jersey Shore.

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Jersey Shore makes people happy. Network executives take note. If there’s any common denominator to what makes a hit TV show, this is it. A couple weeks at critics press tour, FX cited the popularity of Tosh.0, Teen Mom 2 and The Game as reasons why few people watched its acclaimed new show, Lights Out. Truth is, the other shows looked fun and FX’s boxing drama seemed grim. Even acclaimed hit dramas like Sopranos or Lost were  fun. Is it really so terrible that watching semi-irresponsible partying is more popular among young adults than watching hookers being murdered on CSI, Glenn Beck pontificating or William Shatner’s couch-grousing? As Gandalf said, “That is a comforting thought.”

ALSO:

‘Jersey Shore’ recap: Gorilla Tears (Jan. 27 ep)

By Darren Franich

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