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December 18, 2014

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Assessing “Jersey Shore’s” season 2 situation

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Eight is enough: The Jersey Shore crew, slightly more famous this time

The Details

Jersey Shore Season 2
premieres July 29, 10 p.m., MTV
Three stars
From the Archives
An interview with “Jersey Shore’s” Pauly D (3/12/10)
"Jersey Shore: Uncensored" (3/3/10)

Think fast: What show is this from? “I’m putting Vaseline on my face, I’m taking my earrings out, I’m putting my hair up and I’m beating the crap out of her.”

Yeah, it’s Jersey Shore, and it’s back, bitches. MTV’s reality-show phenom, which turned over the rock to reveal a heretofore-unknown anthropological subculture, returns Thursday night for a second season on MTV.

All eight of the original cast of preening, pumped-up young(ish) guidos and guidettes are back for more insta-nicknames, GTL, grenades and gorillas, creepin’, smushin’ and bangin’ the beat. Seven of those—Snooki, The Situation, Pauly D and J-WoWW, and to a lesser degree, Ronnie, Sammi and Vinny—quickly became tabloid-famous fixtures in Las Vegas, hosting club nights and pimping products on red carpets. And, in hopes of increasing friction, the producers brought back Angelina, the snitty quitter who walked off the show in Episode 1.

Weirdly, the J-Shore shtick—an ethnic-specific variation on the venerable Real World formula—hasn’t gotten old. Season 2 starts with a winter-escaping road trip to Miami’s South Beach, where the gang is crammed into a condo that seems overly posh for this bunch of tangerine trash.

But not much has changed. The action is still oddly incestuous and claustrophobic, and the Bod Squad’s only encounters with outsiders are still to flirt, fuck or fight. The most interesting new subtext: how strenuously the cast and cameras avoid references to their own changed circumstances and freaky notoriety.

The show is still upsetting Italian-American organizations (and recently, New Jersey governor Chris Christie), which claim it fosters negative perceptions. But if you’ve come this far, these junior goombahs are dependably hilarious old friends. By the first commercial—when Snooki has sampled deep-fried pickles in the South and The Situation and Pauly D have gotten stuck in the mud and shot off fireworks while waiting for AAA—I was in for another season.

You’d think our appetite for Italian would have shriveled from overexposure—how can we miss you when you won’t go away? But their fame continues to metastasize: Profiled in last Sunday’s New York Times, Snooki was compared to Elizabeth Taylor: Both have giant heads, tiny bodies, weird power over humans. (By those criteria, comparing Snooks to the other E.T. might be more apt.) The show’s popularity spawned a raft of Jersey–derivative reality shows, like Jerseylicious and Jersey Couture. And now there’s an app for that: A Jersey Shore-themed Facebook game and iPhone app launched on Tuesday.

Like crabs or other seaside critters, we can’t seem to shake these oddly adorable critters. They’re inescapable … or incurable.

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