Well, kids, it's the morning after. Last night's season premier of "Jersey Shore" is over-- it's just about that time when there's not much else to do but locate our skivvies (what are they doing in the fridge?,) scrape the vomit off our shoes and stagger bleary-eyed into the harsh light of morning. Hoping that we don't run into anyone who knows our parents on the way to the car (where is that car?)
And yet, the long-awaited and much-hyped opening to the second season of TV's unprecedented phenomenon (and unholiest mess) was not quite as debauched as a true "Jersey Shore" fan might have hoped. True, there was plenty evidence of G and even more T than usual (though no L, even these kids don't do a load of whites on their first night in a new pad) but where were the sordid, trashy hook-ups, the unabashed invasion of strangers' personal space and comfort zones? More importantly, where was Snooki?
Everybody's favorite overly-tanned munchkin was unusually subdued. Perhaps it was the unfamiliar territory, but Snookers wasn't (attempting to) put the nookie in her name with the energy and aplomb customary to her nights out. With the exception of the opening scene, during which we got to meet her latest squeeze, a juice-head of the meatiest variety (go Snook!) and a pit stop at a South Carolina restaurant where she and J-Wwow (looking even bustier than I remembered) met a guy whose job was "having sex with his sister," Snooki didn't seem to be clawing for the spotlight with her usual fervor. Perhaps it was the searing (many people think unnecessarily so) profile about her that ran recently in the style section of the New York Times. The way the poor girl was portrayed (perhaps rightly so, but it seems like Cathy Horyn might have picked a target better equipped to defend herself) is enough to make anyone want to stick their pouf in the sand for a little while. Though, chances are, Snooki probably thought many of the digs in the article to be complimentary.
While Snooki was keeping things tame (by J.S. standards) Ronnie was going balls-to-the-freaking-wall. Almost literally. Watching the newly-single Ron hump everything that moved with a ferocity that bordered on threatening while his eyes rolled around, un-anchored, in his head, was alarming. Homeboy might have a substance abuse problem. The Situation loves Single Ronnie. I have to disagree. While Boyfriend Ronnie was a teary, mopey wet blanket who spent the majority of Season One crying in Sammy's lap and expressing his deep feelings as passionately as mono-syllabically possible, at least he wasn't attacking creatures at the club with his groin with a terrifying, dead-eyed stare that suggests that Ronnie really isn't home at the moment. I really do fear that date rape, alcohol poisoning, or both are in Big Ron's very imminent future.
But things weren't all bad. The Situation is clearly gearing up for a hilarious season, his one-liners (though mostly entirely unintended) are hilarious. Early on in the episode, he and Pauly D get their truck stuck in a muddy corn field. AAA comes to their aid, only to promptly become stuck as well. "Who does AAA call when AAA gets stuck?," he wonders into the camera, with deadpan comic timing. And Angelina has returned to exact her vengeance on the crew for getting so popular right after she chose to defect. Her grasp of grammar leaves much to be desired ("come on youse guys," she implores the boys at one point) but "All Natural" Angelina knows a good thing when it's passed her by the first time around. The ladies are already all riled up over her arrival. "You're a white rat," Snooki spits at her in the taxi, pulling out the big guns. In this world, there's no lower blow than to be told you lack the right amount of melanin. The visceral reaction JWwow has to Angelina's irrelevant taunts that follow suggests fisticuffs in the season's future. And while I certainly can't condone violence, I do like my reality TV with a bit of hair-pulling.
All in all, I was impressed that the level of celebrity (and like it or not, these kids are current household names) that they've achieved since their summer in Seaside Heights, doesn't seem to have gone to their gelled heads. They arrived in M.I.A. ("that's Miami," Situation says) with the same excitement and lack of guile with which they first appeared on MTV. And, in a reality-landscape dominated by carefully scripted conversations between exquisitely manicured people, held in the perfect lighting, (ahem, "The Hills") a lack of self-control and surplus of tanning oil is sort of refreshing. Sort of.