Exactly a year ago, hardly anyone had heard of anyone named Pauly D, The Sitch, Snooki or JWoww. Now they’re household names thanks to a show on MTV called Jersey Shore. Yes, their names as well as expressions like Guido, Guidette and GTL are everywhere. To go with it, the stars of the show haver been enjoying their time of celebrity. The big question is how long will their celebrity last? Do they have what it takes to continue on?
The show started on MTV in December of 2009. It followed the lives of eight young people from New York staying along the Jersey Shore. Most were of Italian-American descent. The pilot garnered basic pilot attention but steadily grew week after week. It captured things like the stars’ dating, their images, their sex lives, their partying, their fist-pumping and their bad behavior. The popularity allowed for a season two to be made with them in Miami Beach. The third season marked a return to the Shore. Since then, the show has gone on to become the highest rated series on MTV, a quote book and a sticker book was published and a CD compilation was released. Even the bunch have become stars and household names and their public appearances garner a lot of attention, like Mike ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino was one of the stars competing on Dancing With The Stars, Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi’s arrest in July 2010 garnered national attention, Snooki became a popular Halloween costume, and Snooki and Jenni ‘JWoww’ Farley wrote separate books.
It’s interesting how the popularity of reality television has changed television popularity for better or for worse. Ever since MTV debuted The Real World back in 1992, it introduced a new phenomenon of television: reality television. The docudrama broadcast youth culture from sexuality to prejudice to drug abuse. It caught the attention of many people in its first season. Many credit The Real World for introducing and shaping reality television as we know it. Some would be unhappy with the latter years’ focus on immature and irresponsible behavior. More reality shows came to MTV and its rating successes would cause an extinction of music videos, thus causing a second MTV channel to be created. The reality show also led to the start of reality shows being introduced to main network television. Before 2000, did we hold Survivor parties? Or were we interested in The Bachelor’s dating life? Did we look forward to seeing Paris Hilton’s latest attempt at nailing a job? Until five years ago, television scriptwriters appeared to be an endangered species. Actors with skill were now being overlooked in favor of notorious personalities. Although scripted television series’ did make a return to the public norm five years ago, reality TV changed television forever.
With the success of reality TV shows came the stardom of its players. The Real World made stars out of their players like Puck for his poor hygiene and violent behavior and Pedro Zamora for his struggle with AIDS and homophobia. Once reality television came to network TV, it allowed for more stars like Richard Hatch, the first Survivor winner, and Alex Michel, the first Bachelor. Even stars who were long out of the spotlight returned to the public eye through shows like The Surreal Life, Celebrity Boxing and I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. It really surprised a lot of acting wannabes who learned their craft for a career only to be overtaken in the fame game by these personalities. Reality television stars remind us that fame is not something you work towards or earn. It’s something you grab if the general public is willing to give it to you. However up to the early 2000’s, most reality show stars would see their star go as instantly as it came.
Consistent fame via reality television would start coming when stars knew how to build on their TV fame. The first big result came upon the heels of The Simple Life, a show about the shenanigans of two spoiled stupid girls: hotel heiress Paris Hilton and friend Nicole Richie, daughter of musician Lionel Richie. The show focused on their antics while working on a farm and travelling throughout the US and their notorious antics made stars of them both. Even after the shows’ ends, they were able to keep their stars active as the paparazzi and tabloid writers documented and photographed their every move. Paris’ raunchy car wash commercial for a fast food restaurant and even their bouts with the law made for more popular copy than government affairs. The girls know how to work the tabloid brigade to their advantage in the fame game. That would continue with Kim Kardashian and the Kardashian sisters in the show Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Upon the success of the show, she posed nude for Playboy, appeared in FHM Magazine and has had model offers galore. She even launched her own tanning spray, fragrance and jewelry alongside her sisters. Then came Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag of The Hills. Their romance, smug attitudes and sleaze became the water cooler talk of 2007. Heidi and Spencer knew how to work the tabloids to their advantage with their romance, religious conversions, marriage, phony divorce and notorious behavior including Heidi’s plastic surgery. They even wrote an unapologetic tongue-in-cheek book entitled How To Become Famous. They won’t deny thier love for publicity stunts. Even Spencer said: “There are only two people in the world that are bigger fame whores than us and that’s Brangelina.” Weird how in the past, after one’s star died off, they’d have to rely on their talent to keep themselves active. Not with this crop of stars.
Now comes the stars of Jersey Shore. What are their chances of longevity after the show tanks? And believe me, it eventually will. Snooki and JWoww have released books, JWoww had a temporary clothing line called Filthy Couture, The Situation appeared as a dancer on Dancing With The Stars and has endorsed many products, and Paul ‘Pauly D’ DelVecchio has even cut a rap record. All results minus The Sitch’s dancing have been dismal failures. It’s going to be hard for them to carry on their fame after the end of Jersey Shore. It’s going to be even harder for them to try something new and catchy that hasn’t been done before by Paris, the Kardashians or Speidi. Also none seem interested in making a tabloid sensation of themselves. Even their backstage spat at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards that made the cover of Us Magazine didn’t raise enough eyebrows. They do a lot of the talk show and late night show rounds, all coming across as likeable. Only time will tell whether they have what it takes to keep their fame active.
Or maybe it could be that they’re not worried about their future fame. For starters, they may all come across as dim bulbs on Shore but they’re actually quite smart and more responsible than thought. Before Jersey Shore, the stars all had either working jobs or studying their career pursuits. Snooki graduated from high school and attended community college with the intent of becoming a veterinarian. The Sitch managed a fitness center and turned to modeling after losing his job. Pauly D worked as a DJ. JWoww is a master at computer programming and has her own graphic design company. And Vinny Guadagnino was studying political science at the State University of New York before he heard of the Jersey Shore auditions. So they’re not complete fails at life and may be able to carry themselves after the limelight fades away.
Fan or not, the Jersey Shore stars are hard to escape. They’ve become a new reality television phenomenon and have a long road ahead of them if they want to keep their fame alive. Whether they choose to continue on the road to fame or find a career alternative, only time will tell where they end up years from now.