Thursdays, 10 p.m.
Somewhere, Bruce Springsteen is laughing. You know how he believes that New Jersey’s a place where people work to achieve the American dream? Well, that message is finally reaching the great bronzed, zebra-print-thonged masses of Jersey Shore. Once, the whole fun of watching Sammi, Snooki, J-Woww, Sleepy, and Dopey was that they whiled their days away with nothing more to accomplish than checking the Gs, Ts, and Ls off their to-do lists. But since they moved to Florence, Italy, each day feels like so much hard labor, whether they’re trying to find artichokes in a sea of Italian grocery-store labels (hint: It’s the can with the photo of artichokes on it) or they’re attempting to make coffee with a stovetop espresso pot. ”[It’s] like making coffee in the 1600s!” says J-Woww. Surely that’s how philosophers got through the Enlightenment: using a garlic press to grind coffee beans.
You can’t have young, dumb fun without the fun part, and the good times are increasingly rare this season. As The Situation gets older and more desperate, his ”crush” on Snooki looks like an excuse for him not to get kicked off the show. Even the kissing between Deena and Pauly D doesn’t look enjoyable — unless you enjoy having your lips eaten off by a tiny velociraptor in stripper heels. And Ronnie and Sammi are still fighting? ”I do have feelings, so why not act on them?” says Sammi. Because you’re in Florence, girl! The streets are filled with juiceheads so Italian, Donkey Kong might throw a barrel at them. Go out and get one!
Unlike the Jersey Shore kids, most of the ladies on The Real Housewives of New Jersey actually like to work — or, more accurately, ”work” — and it’s been a hoot to see them become entrepreneurs this season. Teresa is putting together her cookbook Fabulicious!; Melissa is recording songs in her studio; and the mothers are fostering that same drive in their daughters, with Caroline getting behind Lauren’s quest to kickbox herself thin, and Jacqueline offering to kick Ashley out of the house if she doesn’t stop drawing portraits of Sad Marilyn Monroe and get a real job.
Yeah, there’s still plenty of drama over who brought the wrong cookies to whose Christmas party, and whose dead father supports whose singing career, but is it wrong to believe there’s also more love this season? It was moving when Caroline renewed her commitment to her dear husband, Albert; when Kathy gave her daughter, Victoria, ”the talk” before prom; and anytime the wives told a family member to eat a little something. And with the recent suicide of Beverly Hills husband Russell Armstrong casting a dark cloud over the whole franchise, a bit of kindness is welcome. Clearly, with their big families and their bigger ambitions, these Italian matriarchs have found the American dream: It was in the kitchen, finishing off the leftover chicken parm. Jersey Shore: C+ The Real Housewives of New Jersey: B