There’s a moment in the second episode of Jersey Shore: Family Vacation when the gang is eating pizza after a night out at the club, and Deena starts going in hard on Ronnie. Deena’s father died two years ago, and apparently, Ronnie didn’t provide an adequate amount of emotional support. Deena starts to yell and the music swells.
Things are about to blow the fuck up.
It’s a familiar scene for Jersey Shore fans — a drunk argument suddenly explodes into something nasty, or even violent. But rather than go into one of his signature rages, Ronnie offers Deena a heartfelt apology. He was going through his own bout of depression at the time and was unable to be there for her, and for that, he’s sorry. Deena graciously accepts his apology, and the hatchet is buried.
It’s a touching moment.
It’s also profoundly boring TV.
This season of Jersey Shore, which airs its final episode tonight, finds our favorite guidos in Miami for what I assumed would be a week of unhinged debauchery. I imagined hair pulling, fistfights and the guys clowning on each other for jumping on grenades. But instead, I got a bunch of reformed partiers exhibiting a shocking amount of emotional maturity.
In short, it sucks.
Like all trash reality TV, Jersey Shore’s initial appeal was part anthropological — an enticing glimpse into a 20-something, middle-class, northeast Italian-American subculture characterized by deep V-necks, vodka Red Bulls, derivative techno-pop and enough hair gel to withstand a hurricane. But ultimately, the show existed to make us feel better about ourselves. Watching a group of vacuous 20-somethings whose lives revolved around partying, fighting and smushing made our own self-destructive behaviors seem perfectly acceptable by comparison. Paragons of virtue, these people were not. They were unabashed, self-proclaimed “guidos” making a mockery of themselves — both consciously and unconsciously — for our enjoyment.
Now, though, they’re all grown up, and it’s boring as hell. I came to see them get drunk and act like assholes, not process their emotions in a responsible manner, and give each other sincere, heartfelt apologies and promote the healthy lifestyle trends.
Vinny, for instance, has shed his baby fat, a result of the ketogenic diet he’s on. As such, Vinny refuses to eat the crust of the pizza put before him, a move that Pauly D jokes is a disgrace to their Italian heritage. (Again, in the past, this probably would’ve inspired fisticuffs.)
Speaking of good ol’ Pauly D, he has the same happy-go-lucky charm he did when the show first aired nine years ago. Perhaps his boyishness is its own kind of arrested development, but it doesn’t seem rooted in anything pathological. He has grown in other ways, though. He’s by far the most successful of the Jersey Shore gang, having parlayed his reality TV stardom into a thriving DJ career and a reported net worth of $24 million. He’s also the proud, committed father of a four-year-old girl. (Over dinner one night, Pauly says his daughter is the only thing he’s ever loved more than himself.)
Even The Situation has grown up. He enters the Jersey Shore season more than two years sober, staring down a possible five years in federal prison for tax evasion and accordingly humbled. So humbled, in fact, that The Situation never succumbs to the temptations of Miami nightlife. He doesn’t drink or even flirt when the crew goes out. Instead, he spends most of his time calling his girlfriend back home, and spouting Alcoholics Anonymous cliches about taking life as it comes, and people owning their mistakes. It’s kind of annoying, really, and one at point, Ronnie gets fed up with The Situation’s holier-than-thou lecturing.
That’s about as interesting as most of this season gets. There are some minor dramatic moments. Snooki refuses to interact with Vinny because they hooked up years ago, and Snooki’s husband gets jealous when they’re together. So they briefly fight about that, but it’s tame. Snooki and Jwoww get into a pointless fight one night, but Jwoww does the adult thing and walks away before things pop off, and they quickly reconcile. Ronnie needles The Situation incessantly, but Sitch never takes the bait. Lame!
The only truly dramatic subplot involves Ronnie, who appears to be the only Jersey boy who hasn’t truly dealt with his emotional problems. One night, he brings home a tall, blonde French woman in a sheer top, and goes into a bathroom with her. It’s not clear exactly what went down behind the closed door, but everyone agrees Ronnie cheated on his girlfriend back home who, oh, by the way, is pregnant with their child.
Some simple armchair psychology is Ronnie was nervous about the upcoming birth of his child, and whether to stay with his girlfriend (who he’s not even sure he likes). But rather than deal with it head on, he got drunk and complicated things further. (This leads to a truly bleak moment, where Ronnie goes to Señor Frogs at 8 a.m. after staying up all night, and mutters, “I’m a bad guy,” to himself in the bathroom.) Through some editing wizardry, Ronnie’s (in)fidelity is dragged out over the course of a few different episodes, which should tell you how little actually happens in this season.
Either way, it’s clear that Ronnie doesn’t want the proverbial party to end, and more importantly, to become a boring old dad. Because isn’t that what maturity is all about — being boring? It’s about having a set bedtime, and going on a keto diet because you can’t metabolize all those carbs anymore. It’s taking a cab home at the end of the night instead of smoking weed at your friend’s apartment until you pass out on his couch. It’s about turning down a round of tequila shots because you don’t want to be hungover into next Tuesday.
You do boring old guy shit like buy a house, and spend too much time fretting about paint colors. Or you have a child and become a dad, the most boring form of manhood of all. You start posting an annoying number of photos of your children on your Facebook page (if you’re actually even still on Facebook), and finally start to give a shit about how your local public school system is doing.
Getting old isn’t a party. It’s the absence of the party. It’s getting exasperated by the very idea of attending a party.
This is Jersey Shore’s essential flaw — it shows our favorite guidos at a stage in their lives when they’ve matured beyond the hard-partying ways that made them famous. Not that the unique challenges of adulthood and fatherhood aren’t interesting; they are. It’s just when I watch Jersey Shore, I want to laugh at a bunch of people being drunk idiots. I don’t want a reminder that I should probably go to therapy.