Reality Bites: Jersey Shore & The Effects of Hurricane Sandy

There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

I come to praise Jersey Shore, not to bury it.

That's not entirely true. Certainly, there's nothing to defend about the antics of eight largely terrible human beings whose sole purpose in life appears to be a combination of hair care strategies and drunken sex. Envy maybe, but not defend.

The show is in its 6th (!) and allegedly final season. The decision to pull the plug had already been made before Hurricane Sandy put its own exclamation point on it, meaning -- for better or worse -- many of our final images of the Shore as it used to be will include a drunken Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi being hauled off the beach by cops and large men pumping their fists in a frenzy like so many spikey-haired mutants. Needless to say, that's a bit sad.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have watched Jersey Shore before. I believe a marathon of it aired at my home on New Year's Eve 2009, though I can neither confirm nor deny who actually turned the TV on. On a more incriminating note, I used to fall asleep watching it on Fridays. I don't want to call it "comforting," because my subsequent dreams were often plagued with visions of grotesquely inflated breasts and hulking dudes throwing chairs at each other, but it definitely allowed me to put my brain in idle after a long week of work, kids and not more than seven beers.

Each episode followed a similarly comfortable pattern, best typified by the cast members' own dedication to "GTL" (gym, tan, laundry ... yes). The first two I get, but unless you only have one set of clothes, surely laundry doesn't need to be a daily affair? They wake, work out and/or staff the Shore Store where everyone is nominally employed, go get drunk and subsequently bring home some skank/dude with which to "smoosh" before unceremoniously kicking them out in the wee hours. Repeat.

But none of this is news. MTV's show is hugely, and strangely, popular. Even its lackluster foray to South Beach and ill-advised return to the motherland (for the actual Italians in the cast) were ratings hits. Regular readers of "Reality Bites" are all too aware of our culture's particular fascination with viewing televised train wrecks, even when actual rail disasters are probably more uplifting.

In short, this was supposed to be a relatively easy piece to write, and then Sandy happened. Anyone in Houston, or the entire Gulf Coast for that matter, can sympathize with what folks affected by the storm are going through. The scenes of devastation from places like the Shore, Atlantic City, Long Island, and NYC are eerily reminiscent of those post-Ike shots of the Bolivar Peninsula.

And then we hear things like how the cast of the show is reuniting for a fundraiser to restore the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, Some of them have also pitched in to help the clean-up, whether this is sincere or a convenient photo-op, I leave to you. The upshot being, it didn't really feel sporting to kick a show while it's down.

I haven't checked to see if the usual suspects like Pat Robertson have issued their customary bleating about the storm being "God's wrath" for state's moral turpitude, because you and I know that's offensive horseshit (then again, New Jersey went to Obama again...). Never mind how Vinny, Pauly and "The Situation" are all apparently God-fearing folk, if the amount of ink devoted to crucifix tattoos is any indication, that is. Natural disasters have nothing to with a Supreme Being, and I can't believe I even had to write that down.

New Jersey will rebuild, and don't be surprised if MTV uses that opportunity to engineer a seventh season of Jersey Shore. Maybe then I'll be in the mood to make "beat up the beat" jokes and contemplate the moral implications arising from fornicating with an Oompa Loompa. Right now, with months of rebuilding ahead and tens of thousands -- some of them family and friends -- still without power it just doesn't seem that funny.

We'll return to your regularly scheduled chronicling of the decline of Western civilization next week.

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