Since it doesn’t like look the world is going to end tomorrow, I guess I should say something about the final episode of “Jersey Shore.”
Except in the context of MTV’s record-breaking bunch, Gen. MacArthur only got it half right: Yes, old “Shore” dwellers never die, but they do segue into new vehicles designed to extend their 15 minutes (OK, in this case, three years) of fame.
So despite the nostalgia that crept into the last quarter of the program Thursday, it’s not like the “Jersey” squad is going anywhere. “Snooki & Jwoww” returns in January; Pauly D had his shot on MTV as well. And the others will keep returning, somewhere, so long as there’s a “Dancing With the Stars” or celebrity diving or, for that matter, “Celebrity Rehab.”
MTV did get maximum mileage out of the concept in its current form, and as I’ve noted, it still takes some guts to call it quits with anything that’s become such a lucrative focal point of a network. As evidence of the program’s appeal — and perceptions the signoff would be a major event ratings-wise — one need only look at the glut of movie ads squeezed into the hour.
Of course, this wasn’t the place to advertise baked goods, given a bit that involved tea-bagging a cake.
What really caught me eye in the farewell, though, was the clip of Snooki getting cold-cocked in a bar. As uncomfortable as it was to watch a woman struck that way, it’s hard to deny that one moment helped establish the show’s edge, and the sense these people — and the drunken, hooking-up circles they traveled in — were so unpredictable you almost had to tune in to see what might happen next. That, more than the funny nicknames and strange made-up terminology, helped propel this group to reality-TV stardom, along with an ability to perform naturally in front of the camera, which is both rarer and more difficult than it looks.
MTV also used the occasion to promote other upcoming series in a similar vein that are slated to premiere in January, including “BUCKWILD” and “Washington Heights,” which it clearly hopes will pick up the “Jersey Shore” mantle. Having seen the latter (the first isn’t going to be made available to critics in advance), don’t bet on it.
The chemistry and accident of timing that made “Jersey Shore” such a hit aren’t likely to be easily replicated, and MTV’s ratings decline this year reflects the challenge the network faces.
Granted, losing the show, at this point, isn’t the end of the world. But for MTV, which seems to exhaust its standouts twice as fast as most networks, it is the end of its latest min-era.