Has it really been five seasons since we first saw Snooki fall on her tuchas?
Difficult as it is for some critics — okay, me — to believe, MTV's tribute to tanning, public drunkenness and inappropriate Italian stereotypes celebrates the start of its fifth season on Thursday, as The Situation, Snooki, Deena and the rest of the Jersey Shore crew return to the states after a disastrous fourth season spent in Italy.
Give them credit: This dim-witted crew has turned the kind of hard drinking and indiscriminate sex too many twentysomethings indulge in into a moneymaking cultural phenomenon — with a little help from a cable channel that used to play music videos.
Now community college dropout Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi is earning $32,000 a speech and "Pauly D" DelVecchio is signed to 50 Cent's G Note Records, opening for Britney Spears on tour.
There is, apparently, no limit to the rewards if you are willing to act like a total jackwagon in front of a camera held by MTV.
But some signals hint the pop culture gods may be turning away from the faux-"Italia" lifestyle MTV's producers have created.
As the Daily Beast noted in a recent story, ratings dipped by millions during the Italy season and the drunken fighting that seemed cute three years ago wears a lot worse on millionaire reality TV stars edging into their 30s.
Still, to whet your appetite for one more go 'round, let's start their fifth season with Five Reasons Why We're Not Done with Jersey Shore:
1 THEY'RE BACK ON THE SHORE.
The new season opens with our self-described "meatballs" returning to the Seaside Heights house where fans first fell in love with them. No more fake confrontations with Italian pizzeria owners who pretend to give them menial jobs in exchange for camera time. Now we can watch as Vinny, Pauly D, Ronnie and The Situation trade their awful, ratty European haircuts for bizarre, tricked-out white guy b-boy fades and designs. And who doesn't want to see that?
2THEY STILL MAKE US FEEL SMART.
No matter how many classes you flunked in college or how many nametags you wear at work, you can't help feeling superior to a woman who misses pickles so much, she drinks the juice out of a jar. (Yup, it's Snooki). Later, as one of the guys bathes his newly barbered coiff in waves of hairspray, you will think: I don't care how much they earn, I am SO much smarter. And, somewhere, an MTV producer will smile.
3THEY LET YOU LAUGH AT DEBAUCHED ETHnIC PEOPLE WITHOUT FEELING RACIST.
Jersey Shore's cast has all the trappings of the classic exotic minority group: colorful slang, sexy and hypersexual attitude, a cartoonish fashion sense and mental capacity of a box of hair. MTV's mostly-white viewers might feel guilty laughing at an African-American or Hispanic group that lived down to such basic ethnic stereotypes. No such problems here.
4THEY STILL DO WHAT PRODUCERS TELL THEM.
As the Daily Beast noted, comic Sean Klitzner documented how the infamous ice-throwing incident in Italy was staged like a WWE match. Watch how a welcome home party degenerates into an anger-filled fight in the new season and feel the heavy hand of unseen producers at work yet again.
5THEY ARE THE LAST REFUGE IN A COMPLEX WORLD.
With Washington, D.C., paralyzed by partisanship and a still-slumping economy grinding the average guy into the dirt, sometimes it helps to sit down with a show that offers less intellectual challenges than your average SpongeBob episode.
On that score, Jersey Shore always delivers.