“Hey, I’m proud to be a fuckin’ guido!” These immortal words from cast member Mike make one thing clear: If you’ve been heartbroken since A&E’s “Growing Up Gotti” went off the air, MTV’s new reality show “Jersey Shore” will fill that void in your life.

“Jersey Shore”

Thursdays at 10 p.m.
MTV

“Jersey Shore” follows eight Italian-American 20-somethings as they spend a summer in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. It’s like “Real World,” but with more hair gel. “Jersey Shore” begins with the cast moving into a house that serves as a monument to New Jersey stereotypes: Wall decorations include a giant Cadillac emblem, an oversized painting of the Italian flag and a Scarface poster. There are eight cast members, most of whom come equipped with an absurd nickname: Angelina (or “Jolie”), Jenni (“J-WOWW”), Mike (“The Situation”), Nicole (“Snookie”), Pauly D (“DJ Pauly D”), Ronnie, Sammi (“Sweetheart”) and last, but not least, Vinny. The paper-thin plot in the two-hour premiere follows the cast as they train to work in a T-shirt shop on the shore and gossip about various intra-house hookups that have occurred.

The cast of “Jersey Shore” is its primary drawing point: The train wreck potential is so immense that it creates wonderfully awful, infinitely quotable television peppered with use of the word “guido” and gratuitous profanity. Spoiled princess Nicole is the center of many of the episode’s funniest moments: She states that life in the shore house is “totally weird” for her because she’s used to being the center of attention. Luckily, she reclaims some of her lost glory by climbing into the house’s hot tub clad only in a bra and leopard-print thong. Angelina is shocked: “Wear a thong bikini, that’s a little bit more classier if you’re going to wear anything at all!”

Classiness in hot tubs, and lack thereof, is a major focus of the premiere episode. J-WOWW raises the question to her housemate DJ Pauly D, who has brought several girls over for a late-night hot tub rendezvous: “How are you going to be 29 years old and make out with three 20-year-olds in a hot tub?” The Pauly-hot tub dynamic raises further problems, as Sammi questions why her male housemates are bringing “trashy skanks” to her home.

“Jersey Shore,” is unique among most reality programming because the producers seem in on the joke. While the show will undoubtedly raise ire from Italian Americans who want a more flattering pop-culture portrayal, the cast unashamedly, blissfully embraces the lifestyle expected of them. One opening montage shows every male in the cast throwing mountains of hair gel and protein power into their suitcases. And multiple people discuss their personal tanning beds. The Jersey shore is presented as a panacea for the cast members: Vinny talks about the struggles of being underage at the Jersey shore, stating that it’s “21 long years of anticipation to go to these places, and once you get there its the sweetest fuckin’ place on earth!”

Italian stereotypes also pop up. The cast sits down for a family dinner of Italian sausages and peppers with a Bible serving as the table centerpiece. Mike’s assistance with the cooking upsets DJ Pauly D: “Girls are supposed to cook, and guys are supposed to eat, you know what I mean?”

MTV’s other reality shows are fairly interchangeable — low-budget, generic programs like “NEXT” and “Parental Control” squeezed in between reruns of “The Hills” — but “Jersey Shore” is nothing if not memorable. It’s not high art; it’ll never get nominated for an Emmy or lead to debates over different plot layers. But if the ultimate purpose of TV is solely to entertain, “Jersey Shore” succeeds on multiple levels.

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