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And why not just fill a big house with attractive goofballs making terrible decisions for our entertainment? MTV’s Double Shot at Love With DJ Pauly D and Vinny (debuting Thursday at 8 p.m. ET) sends two Jersey Shore lifers to Los Angeles, for some reason, where they share a bedroom, for some reason, in a gigantic mansion that has the expensive-empty vibe of real estate purchased late in a Grand Theft Auto video game. Pauly D and Vinny are looking for romance, and so here come 20 women to live with them. First twist: The contestants don’t know who they’re trying to date. “I would be so stoked if the celebrity was Post Malone,” says Brittani, so there’s no accounting for good taste.
The stars of Double Shot were born Paul D. DelVecchio Jr. and Vincent J. Guadagnino. Ten years ago, they arrived on screen in Jersey Shore’s debut season. That glorious trash pile became a phenomenon, and helped invent the decade around it. MTV wound Jersey Shore down and then wound it back up, unsuccessfully spinning off half the cast before reuniting everyone for Jersey Shore: Family Vacation. This new spin-off is a double recycling job, a reiteration-boot of a sorta-franchise from the 2000s. SallyAnn Salsano executive-produced the early Shots at Love before developing Jersey Shore, and now she’s rebuilt Double Shot as a showcase for two stars she built.
The two-hour premiere is very silly, and pretty entertaining. It is both a parody of The Bachelor and a more believable version of The Bachelor. Pauly is a cartoon character who has successfully transformed his world into a cartoon, flying around the globe as a successful DJ on a party circuit that never ends. He has a child he claims to see once a month, but otherwise he has not obviously aged since 2009. Vinny has aged in a celebrity-ish way — thinner, fitter, deeply considered facial hair — but he’s still the rare reality TV everyguy, nervous, even a bit recessive.
And they are cracking each other up, and then the women come into the house, and they are all cracking each other up. It’s impossible to tell who’s in on the joke and who is the joke, but Double Shot has fun poking holes in the gauzy romance of reality love. Vinny and Pauly stage an elaborate prank by splitting the ladies in half, telling one half that the show’s about dating Vinny and the other that the show’s about dating Pauly. Some contestants claim to be Jersey Shore superfans. “I’ve been a big fan since I was a freshman in high school,” says Derynn. Meanwhile, there’s Mish, who openly admits that she has no idea who Pauly D is.
The ladies all have the sort of jobs that make people complain about millennials. They work in live music, own clothing companies, modeled in Vegas for six years. Actually, wait, no, I think that’s all one person. Another woman explains that as a side gig, “I also do hosting in the exotic car community.” What a phrase, the exotic car community, what a poem!
There is a competition where DJ Pauly D, who is a DJ, spins some records, and the contestants walk down a runway doing, like, a model walk? Then also, a competition where contestants answer quiz show questions like “How many stars are in the American flag?” and “What is the name of the national anthem?” and “Name four different kinds of pasta” and “What is the closest planet to the sun?” All these questions would be easy for a first-grader, and the typical answer to the last question: “Mars! That’s why we can see it! It’s red!” We really have to do something about our education system.
Can this cheerful stupidity sustain a whole season? Call me either a desperate romantic or a hopeless cynic, but it seems entirely possible that Pauly D and Vinny will find love this season. In fact, it is plausible that this scenario is the only way they can possibly find a soulmate. “Being put in this house, in these cameras? That’s my lifestyle,” explains Pauly D, after an evening of talking to adoring young women in a gigantic house rented for his amusement by a network that has documented his life for a decade. Vinny bonds with one woman over a complicated running joke about squid porn, which feels like an actual awkward flirtation that might happen in whatever reality is anymore.
The affectations are all just right. Eliminated contestants are told, with great melodrama, “Your cab is here.” And there is an actual cab outside, waiting to take them away. The boys discuss their prospects in a barbershop inside their mansion. Vinny looks anxious, sweetly scared of flirting. Pauly acts like it’s all just a typical Tuesday. Derynn is a real quote-monster, like at one point she tells Pauly D, “I hope you like your pasta raw.” Everyone seems to be struggling to say anything serious. “I like the caring aspect of B-Lashes,” says Vinny. Oh yeah, there’s a woman named B-Lashes. And Christina writes poetry, and Suzi is a registered nurse who loves to party, and Elle worked for a senator. If they’re a little lucky, they’ll find love. If they’re very lucky, they’ll join the exotic car community. So shall we all, someday, someday. B
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