Now that MTV has taken the brave step of sending the delicate flowers of "Jersey Shore" (airs Thurs. at 10 p.m.) to bloom anew in Italy, I'm thinking it might be time to reassess this show. As easy as it is to dismiss it as simple-minded, possibly offensive fluff, the season four debut lured in 8.8 million viewers, the best ever for an MTV series. Surely so many people can't be wrong? Perhaps critics like myself have been too quick to judge Snooki and her friends, looking askance at such mind-expanding activities as smushing, gym, laundry and tan. But as these noble adventurers expanded their horizons on a new continent, might all of us be inspired to learn from their journey? After watching the first episode and previews of those to follow, it seems "Jersey Shore" is rich with guidelines for our lives. To wit:
1. Guide books are for sissies. Watching Snooki, J-WOWW, Sammi and Deena stumble through the Milan airport, shocked to discover the signage was (horrors!) not in English, I had to wonder how they had passed the time on the flight over. Sleeping? Getting drunk? Shrieking at one another? I can only assume the boys and girls arrived separately to avoid any awkward apologies to the airline when each of our intrepid vacationers try to join the Mile High Club. It would have been too boring, of course, to find out a little bit about Italy before the trip, but it might have spared Snooki, who admitted to not actually knowing where Italy is, from searching for a place to exchange her dollars for pesos in the airport. Yes, pesos.
2. Pack carefully, lest you lose your orange-y glow. Disaster strikes when J-WOWW finds that her bronzer has exploded in her suitcase, leaving her with just eight cans for the trip. While eight cans of bronzer probably sounds like a lot to you and me, for J-WOWW it will carry her through just ten days of her vacation, after which she will slowly fade to a shade resembling human skin. This is, of course, a tragedy.
3. Wherever you go, never fear -- there is probably a scummy nightclub nearby. While Florence may be home to the Uffizi, the Pitti Palace and is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, that doesn't mean its cobblestone streets don't lead to nightclubs packed with the scantily clad, the shamefully drunk and the dangerously stupid. With amazing speed, our fearless travelers find a local dive and are soon dancing on tables, picking up one night stands and gleefully enjoying themselves Italian style. Which is just like New Jersey style! Finally, something to write home about!
4. Chicks totally suck at hook-ups. Pauly D, his 'do spiked into an impenetrable wall of gel, hair and hubris, at first welcomes Deena's advances in the Italian nightclub, but isn't sure if he can continue past public lip biting. Though Snooki assures him that Deena just "wants to f--- you," Pauly D. is no simple rube. If he chooses to hook up with Deena, then plucks a few local girls off the dance floor for other playful assignations, possibly on the sticky floor of the men's room, he knows Deena will cry. As he simply states, "Girls always end up having some kind of feelings. Somewhere." So true, Pauly D. So true.
5. Foreign grocery stores are treacherous places. After our weary travelers drop off their bags at luxury accommodations in Florence, it is time to do as the locals do and pick up some groceries for Sunday dinner. Deena wants a pineapple and is disturbed that all the packaging is in ANOTHER LANGUAGE. Apparently, this being in Italy thing is taking some time to sink in. Back at headquarters, Sammi determines they've purchased weird, small strawberries (these are, in fact, raspberries). But Sammi is unswerving in her believe that, "if someone would let me cook something, I'd cook a good Sunday dinner." Ah, if only confidence were edible. And of course, labeled in English.
6. These enlightened travelers are all about female empowerment.
After The Situation
finds two blonde twins to take home from a nightclub, Deena decides one of the girls looks particularly intriguing and snags her for herself. This results in hooting, cheering and the declaration that Deena is getting "lesbionic" for the night. While the "Jersey Shore" cast seems to make up words less often out of a sense of creativity than a reaction to their woefully limited vocabularies, the witty combination of "lesbian" and "bionic" might imply they imbue gay women with incredible power. Or they just thought it sounded cool. Look, I'm trying here.
7. Skills rarely used in the States can be important abroad. Although Florence is a city easily traversed on foot, our American friends have been gifted with the use of two small cars. But they're manual transmissions! What's up with that? By chance, the only one of the girls who knows how to drive stick is Snooki, who is giddy with the knowledge that she actually serves a purpose within the house. Likewise, Vinny is the only one of the housemates who speaks Italian, making him the required go-between for the other guys if they want to get busy with a frisky local. Both Vinny and Snooki are flush with the sense of pride and responsibility other people may get from, say, doing charitable works or joining the military. It's a heartwarming moment for all.
8. We should all have The Situations' skill for relationship advice. As Snooki's hometown boyfriend becomes increasingly jealous, Mike volunteers himself as a shoulder to cry on, an ear to bend and a font of helpful suggestions. Of course, Jionni is probably feeling jealous in part because Mike has announced to Ronnie that he and Snooki hooked up while in New Jersey -- while she was supposedly committed to Jionni. If only therapists could be so hands-on! And this brings us to another matter…
9. Secrets are ephemeral. This is especially true in the "Jersey Shore" house. After The Situation cautions Ronnie not to repeat what he's told him about Snooki, Ronnie nods and tells a few of the girls the big news. J-WOWW, out of loyalty to Snooki and because dude, there's gonna be a fight, then pulls Snooki aside to tell her what Mike has said. Snooki, incensed that her good friend would spread such malicious gossip about her, screams at The Situation. The Situation sticks to his story, no one knows who to believe and Ronnie and Sammi are simply thrilled because for once, the drama in the house isn't about either of them.
10. Florence is made for romance. Sitting on the rooftop of their new abode, Sammi and Ronnie share a "romantical" moment while drinking champagne (or more likely prosecco, but it could be Boone's Farm for all these two care, really) and decide to patch up their frayed relationship. To celebrate the moment, Ronnie belches. Sammi doesn't even notice. Ah, young love!
11. Jacuzzis are ill romantic. Ronnie and Vinny decide to indulge in one of the perks of their multi-story accommodation -- an indoor jacuzzi. Vinny declares it soup for muscles, which for some reason does not inspire Ronnie to run screaming from the hot tub. But soon their bromance takes a twist when the two find the jets forcing them into one another's orbit. Ronnie decides the jacuzzi would be best shared with a girl. Too bad. Given his track record with Sammi, Ronnie might have a better shot with Vinny.
12. Pigeons are evil. When the girls find themselves beset by wild, dangerous pigeons while trying to enjoy a moment on the patio, they dissolve into screams of terror. Deena points out that she doesn't "do birds." Funny, she does everything else, but I digress. As Snooki firmly states, "pigeons in Italy will attack you and bite your ears off." Consider yourself warned.