Credit: MTV

As the Jersey Shore cast wrapped its drunken scream-filled vacation in Italy, the show’s ratings concluded lower than the previous season for the first time.

Shore delivered 6.6 million viewers for its season 4 finale, down 13 percent from season 3’s closer. That downturn is despite the season launching higher than ever, with a spectacular 8.8 million blowout that was MTV’s most-watched series premiere ever. So far Shore finales have clocked 4.8 million for season one, 6.1 million for season two, 7.6 million for season three and, now, reversing down to 6.6 million.

So the Italy adventure began more popular than ever, yet the finale dipped for the first time. Why?

Fans of the show can probably give a few reasons: The season started strong and chaotic, but by the last few weeks, the Shore cast seemed a bit, well, bored. The housemates rebelled against Mike’s attempts to “stir up drama,” content with simply having a pleasant time. Refreshingly mature of them, sure, but with JWoww, Snooki, Ronnie, and Sam all in relationships, the usual Shore mayhem seemed lacking.

Which isn’t to say the Shore finale did anywhere near poorly for a cable — or broadcast — program.

In fact, the episode’s 3.7 adults 18-49 rating crushed broadcast shows at 10 p.m., easily beating ABC’s Private Practice (2.3) and CBS’ The Mentalist (2.5). NBC was in repeats (I don’t need to tell you that Prime Suspect wouldn’t have stood a chance, right?). The series also managed to beat the scripted dramatics at Seattle Grace, edging out Grey’s Anatomy (3.6) at 9 p.m. (they weren’t in the same time slot, but let me play).

Even dominating the ratings, however, the competition — including the World Series, let’s not forget that — could have bogged down Shore. The show hasn’t had a late October finale since the show’s second season, so its audience might grow for the cast’s return to New Jersey in season five (which has already been shot and will premiere in January).

Point is: Shore is still a behemoth. But even the biggest shows tend to eventually reach a ratings peak and hike back down. The question is whether Shore has now planted its flag and is returning from that summit, or whether kids from Seaside can still reach even greater heights in the seasons to come.

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Jersey Shore Family Vacation CR: MTV

Jersey Shore

Follow Snooki, the Situation, Pauly, Ronnie, Sammi, Jwoww, Vinny, and Deena as they party, smush, and GTL

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