It takes nerve to conceive a mash-up of “The Real World” and “The Sopranos,” but anyone who’s seen MTV’s “Jersey Shore” will instantly understand the comparison, even if that’s not exactly what SallyAnn Salsano, who co-created the show with Anthony Beltempo, had in mind. Her vision — to celebrate middle-class Italian-American life — was far more personal.
“I lived that life, in the same town and on the same street,” Salsano says of her hit series, which places eight twentysomethings (four boys, four girls) in a house at the Jersey Shore for a summer of romance and antics. (Season 2 moved the action to Miami’s South Beach for the winter, but the show’s third season will bring things home again.)
The producer rejects contentions that “Jersey Shore” is contrived or negatively stereotypical, even as she acknowledges the high drama and sometimes peculiar choices of its participants. “I felt I knew each of these kids, for better or worse,” she says. “I lived at home ’til I was 25. I was a talkshow producer, but my mom was still doing my laundry, and my dad was putting gas in my tank. It’s just how I was raised…. I’m not making fun of these kids; I am these kids.”
She maintains that the show’s appeal stems from its honesty. “These are kids who are living their lives and not apologizing for it.”
They’re certainly not, but for those who think every moment at the “Shore” is operatic, Salsano is quick to point out how much time goes into getting the juicy bits. “We shoot almost 400 hours to one on this show,” she says. “So we catch everything, and that’s what makes the show so good.”
“Jersey Shore” has spawned two breakout personalities: the fireplug-like, baby-voiced Snooki (nee Nicole Polizzi) and the uproariously self-confident Mike Sorrentino, better known as the Situation, he of the washboard abs. But Salsano — like a good Italian mother — insists she won’t pick favorites among her TV children.
“There’s always someone that rises to the occasion,” she says. “But as the show goes on, you’re going to see that everyone has their shining moment.”