Top 5 Reasons to be psyched for JERSEY SHORE: Season 4

Guilty pleasure of the best/worst kind. But I cannot wait for the latest installment of The Situation, Snooki, JWoWW, and all their friends. In Italy no less! The first season of this national phenomenon is about as perfect a reality show as you could ever hope for. Season 2? A bit of a letdown (too much Angelina, Miami lacked Jersey’s charm, and a final episode blowout that had no place being in the “goodbye, we really love each other, I’ll miss you so much” episode). Season 3 brought things back to a familiar place with a slew of new/old drama. For my money, Deena is an adequate replacement, the Rebecca Howe of Seaside. Snooki took her bad behavior to new heights (where’s the beach, bitch?!). And while it was eventually played out, Ronnie and Sammi’s all night fight followed by Ron’s destruction of seemingly everything Sam owned was mesmerizing. So now the gang is coming back, and while Miami was kind of a bust, I think Italy could be epic if only because we’ll get to see our Guidos and Guidettes navigate the motherland with hysterical results. But it’s all about the drama, people. So based on the trailer, here’s what I’m psyched for:

  1. Deena and Pauly D hook up: Hmmm. Didn’t see that one coming. She was crushing on Sitch when she first came on the scene. But remember how I said Deena filled the Angelina void. That’s still true, but she did spend a lot of Season 3 just trying to fit in (except when she called Vinny out for doing Snooks wrong with her friend from home in the finale), so I want to see what Deena “in love/lust” means. Could be one drunken outburst followed by a reality check (who am I kidding?), or maybe she’ll make Sammi look like the ideal girlfriend (scary!).
  2. Snooki and Sitch – What’s the deal?: On the subject of hookups, does Sitch really have it bad for Snooks? Kind of thought they would follow her infatuation with Vinny, but there’s a hint that Mike’s unresolved feelings for Nicole (remember their last night in the hot tub in Season 1?) will lead him to sabotage her Italian romance. Whether he really wants to get it in or just sees her as a second sister (and that relationship is also kind of creepy) the show’s breakout stars are also poised for a showdown.
  3. Snooki and JWoWW – The Honeymoon is Over?: Looks like the most functional relationship on camera is heading towards turbulence. Bring it on. When the friends who’ve been there for you during your darkest hours and, as a result, know all of your faults call you out, it’s the bite that draws blood. Now in all likelihood, they’ll squabble for an episode or two then make amends. But a girl can hope for a disaster, can’t she?
  4. Pizza: Has to be more entertaining than watching them scoop ice-cream or gelato or whatever the hell “job” they had in South Beach.
  5. Boy Fight: Okay. Not that I’m advocating violence, but who doesn’t want to see Ronnie and Mike pound each other into bloody pulps (thought I spied a stretcher in the preview). Not for nothing, but the girls have never had a problem letting each other have it when it comes to their wrongs. Now the boys are finally going to man up. Maybe I wouldn’t be as excited if I didn’t know security is waiting in the wings, but let’s see a Gorilla Juice Head and Sitch go at it.

Happy watching, kids!

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JERSEY SHORE: Lessons of the Week

A tattoo is equal to open heart surgery. And Zack and Kelly from Saved by the Bell are the benchmark for all modern love stories. All I have to say…

JERSEY SHORE: They’re back!!!

After revelling in the Mad Men premiere, let us turn our attention to another worthy program revolutionizing the face of television: we’re on the Jersey Shore, bitch! Except… we’re not. Our lovable octet (that’s right, people; Angelina is back!) is packing up and heading down to Florida for some GTL and the like. A year ago, Snooki, The Situation, and JWoWW were just like you and me, unknown with distant dreams of fame. Now, they’re ringing Wall Street’s opening bell. Some think they are a disgrace to New Jersey, Italian-Americans, and the country in general. Well, I’m a New Jerseyan, proud of my Italian heritage, and I cannot wait to watch.

Jersey Shore is hardly groundbreaking, but damn if it’s not entertaining! Last season came out of nowhere, eight shallow strangers living in a house humble by reality show standards. Maybe it started slow, but when Snooki got socked, everyone knew about it. Beyond that, Jersey Shore works because the archetypes are not instantly recognizable, and therefore their antics carry a whiff of uniqueness. Why did The Real World ultimately become irrelevant? Because everyone, audience and performers, knew the script. Every season featured a slew of housemates that were carbon copies of those that came before them. Only the cities changed. Jersey Shore stepped up the game with its unapologetic crew. On another show, Snooki would have stayed the outcast, The Situation would have really challenged Ronnie for Sammi, and Angelina would have stuck around and been the house bitch. No one did that, and I confess that I did not always see the escapades coming. Maybe, just maybe, they are revolutionary, bi-products of an age where everyone is eventually on camera and finally not concerned with the roles they’re supposed to play.

Season Two will feel more manufactured. Now they’re all stars. But you’re going to watch. You know you are.

POPSTAR TO OPERA STAR: Meh

Across the pond there is a new reality show, Popstar to Opera Star. I love me some opera, and I really wanted to check this show out. While hardly “stars,” the show essentially throws together some has-beens, kinda-weres, and still-might-bes and ostensibly removes them from their cushy pop comfort zones towards the world of operatic arias. For mentors, we have bubbly “popera” singer Katherine Jenkins and legitimate tenor Rolando Villazon, he of the multiple vocal problems and questionable career decisions. Once show time hits, these mentors form half of the panel; the other half is TV personality Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen… and Meat Loaf! While none of the judges have anything particularly constructive to say after each performance, Meat Loaf’s “critiques” basically consist of wanting to have contestant Jimmy Osmond “on the floor” if Jimmy’s wife wasn’t present (don’t ask). But one could excuse the inane ramblings of the judges if something truly horrifying or special (unlikely, but hey, you never know) happened on the stage. Right now, it’s all so painfully ordinary.

Why does a show like Dancing with the Stars work? On the one hand there are total train wrecks like Steve Wozniak and Wayne Newton and Tom DeLay, and viewers end up questioning their ability to walk let alone dance. By comparison, there are dancers who, despite obvious athletic advantages, execute some pretty amazing routines with the help of their partners’ clever choreography (I’m looking at you Shawn Johnson!). The audience gets to cringe and cheer in the space of a singular program (to a lesser extent, this is probably the power behind the Idol audition episodes). We all know that reality television is terribly phony and ultimately manipulative, but I’m tuning in because I want you to push my buttons! I’ve had a lousy day at work or the milk went bad or I’ve gained five pounds. I deserve to laugh at another’s ineptitude and celebrate something done with skill and grace (come to think of it, that’s probably the power behind televised sports). But this Popstar to Opera Star show isn’t cutting it. With the exception of one truly dreadful performance from Blur’s Alex James, every other contestant is dwelling in the middle of the road.

Take Kym Marsh of Coronation Street. Her second week rendition of “The Brindisi” from La Traviata was not inspired nor was it stomach turning. The same could be said for covers of “The Toreador Song” from Pop Idol’s Darius and “Summertime” from Vanessa White of The Saturdays. No one hit it out of the park, but rather they all resembled second graders one has to endure while at a chorus concert. It’s all breath and nerves before the microphone (which kind of trashes the notion that these pop singers are receiving any kind of real training in singing without amplification). You get the hint that Kym, Darius, and the departed Vanessa might be capable of something if the show played to their admittedly limited vocal strengths (Kym in particular, while hardly a budding Callas or Tebaldi, has a sweet tone). But the show is playing it safe with arias we all know lest the stars crash or, less likely, soar. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The flip side of this brand of mediocrity is the recently offed Jimmy Osmond (you know you’re in trouble when you’re the Osmond even Dancing with the Stars won’t take). For the first two weeks of the program, he wasn’t even given the chance to sing opera proper but rather belted out “O Sole Mio” and “Volare.” Now as the proud granddaughter of an Italian singer, I have no issue with those songs per se. But I’m reasonably sure that they are not operatic arias. The show tried to right this wrong with Osmond’s swan song, but it was too little too late. If Osmond was so bad that he couldn’t be trusted with Puccini or Verdi or Mozart, then that’s what he should have been singing from the start. Whereas the show won’t take a chance on what could be a good performance from Kym or Darius, they coddled Osmond. Now I suppose I sound like I want to have it both ways, equal parts nurturing and sabotage behind the scenes. But at least I’m suggesting injecting some drama into the proceedings, arguably the most important ingredient in opera and reality television. And anyone who has ever attended an opera knows that there is a kind of anxious anticipation when a high note looms (will the tenor fall off of it? will the soprano have enough breath?). Would there were even a pale facsimile of this aspect of the art on Popstar to Opera Star and the risk of things going really wrong or really right, it would hold my interest. For now, I’ll wait it for it to take a cue from Dancing. Remove Rolando and Katherine from the panel, force them to sing legit operatic duets with the pop singers to make everyone look good (if possible), and watch the bravos both genuine and ironic boom forth.