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ROCCO MAZZA: ‘Jersey Shore’ and Seaside: Perfect together

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

JERSEY SURE : Do we need further proof than Snooki getting hauled off the beach by Seaside Heights police that MTV’s “Jersey Shore” is all part of a youthful subculture that is as removed from the responsibilities and reality of adulthood as we can get? Ranging in age from 22 to 29, the turbo-charged cast is living large, partying hard, soaking up the here and now. And that, my friends, is the point.

We’re a long way from seeing Snooki, The Situation, DJ Pauly D, JWOWW, Vinny, Ronnie, Sammi or Angelina settle into a life that requires their attention to spouses, children or paying the mortgage — which is why none of this should be taken too seriously.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently kicked up some dust when he went on a national news program and said show has a negative impact on the state. For a guy who routinely displays a good sense of humor, with a knack for putting everything into proper perspective, I’m surprised to find myself offering this advice: Lighten up.

According to a published interview with “Jersey Shore” Executive Producer SallyAnn Salsano, the original concept of the series revolved around the lifestyle and shore location of young vacationers who drop into Seaside Heights and its environs every summer for some raucous fun under the sun.

But the sheer force of this crew’s personalities overpowered the backdrop and made them a national sensation. Nielsen ratings data pegged the viewed audience for the second-season opener Thursday night at 5.3 million people. That is nearly double the 2.7 million viewer average of the entire first season.

Rocco Mazza

The huge numbers are a testament to just how much fun it is to watch the gang interact with each other and go about their daily GTL (gym, tanning and laundry for the uninitiated). Five million voyeurs tuned in to watch personalities clash, friendships get reestablished, and hook ups get attempted. “It’s like a train wreck,” my friend, Christina, said. “It’s horrible. But you can’t stop watching!”

Another friend passed by the now-famous Seaside Heights shore house where the cast currently is taping the third season: A mob of onlookers surrounded the place. Watching video of police leading Snooki to a patrol car on Friday afternoon, you can see throngs of followers, some of them shouting, “We love you, Snooki!” (See: Snooki of MTV’s ‘Jersey Shore’ busted in Seaside )

The cast has become a fascination for people in their 20’s because many can relate to “fist pumping” and other lifestyle choices. It also captures the imagination of those in their 30’s and beyond because it offers an escape, the opportunity to live vicariously one hour a week through, among other escapades, the perpetual tan of DJ Pauly D, who owns his own tanning bed.

Nielsen reported that among viewers ages 12 to 34, the second season premiere pulled in a strong 5.1 rating, prompting MTV to announce that the first episode of the new season was the most popular cable TV show this year among that group of TV viewers.

A big complaint centers on the fact that only one out of the eight cast members actually comes from New Jersey. But that misses the point, too. The concept is based on the antics of young twenty-something vacationers who visit the Jersey Shore every year.

Seaside Heights has approximately 3,100 year-round residents but balloons to more than 30,000 in the summer months. Another popular location, Belmar, with 5,900 people in the off-season, expands to 60,000 in summer days. You think it’s all Jersey people boosting those numbers? Of course not. They’re visitors coming from the entire multi-state metropolitan region. The Jersey shore is a destination for people from everywhere.

There is little doubt that The Situation and his washboard abs are part of a now-mainstream culture that will translate into even more activity — and more business — at the real Jersey shore.

Everyone wants to take a peak at the spot where Ronnie decked that smart-mouthed wiseguy with one punch in Season One. They want to buy a t-shirt from the boardwalk store where Angelina got fired. And they want to follow the cast around, in case something like Friday’s incident, happens — if for no other reason than to be able to say they were there.

In the middle of a terrible recession, when consumer spending has dangerously dipped to the detriment of many small businesses, the spotlight placed on our Jersey Shore communities is a net positive. I am proud that JWOWW, Vinny and all their friends have made one of our beaches their destination of choice. It won’t be long before the group once again starts beatin’ up the beat — or, unfortunately, fellow patrons, at the nearest dance club.

Give me more “GTL,” “landmines,” “grenades” and “creepin’ : It’s all good for business.

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