Reality Roundup: GTL Forever

It’s been a fist-pumped fueled road to get back to where it all started.  Forget the baby mamas, the TMZ headlines, and the cheating rumors.  Unwatch the spinoff, the multiple Boot Camp appearances, and even a few notable Dancing with the Stars moments.  The Jersey Shore cast, firmly fixed in the cultural zeitgeist for their over-the-top drunken antics (at the time the series was airing, Snooki’s blurred out bathing suit parts were basically just another cast member), enthusiastic overuse of all things hair-related, and – of course- the gym-tan-laundry mantra, has had a place in my heart for longer than I care to think about.

Bringing back Snooki, JWoww, Pauly D, the Situation and Sammi Sweetheart (in real life, Nicole LaValle, Jennifer Farley, Paul DelVecchio, Michael Sorrentino and Samantha Giancola, respectively) for a nostalgia-tinged half hour special, Road Trip Reunion: Return to the Jersey Shore offered a brief glimpse back to a place where phones came in duck-shape, the simple arrival of a taxi cab tripped a ritualistic response, and all problems could be solved with a sit-down Sunday dinner.  Granted, the cast has undergone a few changes: all three women now admit to breast implants (Snooki even offers a brief demonstration of hers); the Situation proudly acknowledges his Botox habit.  And yes, most of the show’s original filming locations were less than eager to bring back the cast that punched, peed, and drunkenly paraded their way through six seasons of the Shore.  But at the end of the day, those familiar(ish) faces and Eastern seaboard accents heralded back a simpler time – and reminded us all of how far they’ve come.

“Jail is like…jail” – Snooki

At home and abroad, the cast of Jersey Shore was never very good at keeping out of the watchful eyes of the authorities.  Now that they’ve grown past their drunk and debaucherous years, however, they have concurrently expanded into more adult forms of crime (or, more precisely, alleged crime).  With the reunion premised on the Situation’s desire to make good with his former cast mates before a potential trip to “camp” (sorry, misplaced The Real Housewives of New Jersey reference) for tax evasion, it functions as a cautionary tale of the trouble that the real world can bring.

“When Mike got audited, we all got audited.  Don’t f*** with the IRS,” warned Snook, demonstrating a grip on “adulting” much firmer than mine will ever be.

 “Everyone knows what GTL is.  And if you don’t, you’re just an a*****e and you’re lying” – JWoww

What was once the stuff of a weekday-afternoon montage is still firmly rooted in the cast’s daily lives. Though Pauly D points out that his GTL routine has evolved (floating high on what must be that DJ money, he now has a gym in his home and can afford to send his laundry out), at their core, the men of the reunion seem to have stuck with their Shore fundamentals.

It’s not only the GTL routine itself that has taken root.  The reunion’s final scenes wrapped on the cast, strolling five abreast down the boardwalk, stirring restless excitement amongst passersby as they posed for pictures with fans.  The draw of Jersey Shore, still a fountain of pop-culture references, is never far from the surface – and all it took was the novelty of a surprise revival to remind us all of what we were missing.

 “The best thing that can happen is we all like make out and kiss.  Because literally, everybody’s made out with each other” – Sammi

Whether caught on the show’s night-vision cameras (both within the notorious ‘smush room’ and without) or discussed with ill-concealed giddiness, the Shore cast’s stream of romantic conquests  were as steadfast a storyline as the constant bickering of series steadies Ronnie and Sammi.  But now that they’re all pushing THIRTY (oh, the horror), their love landscape has developed a few unexpected curves.

Snooki’s a mom who knows not to put wine in her child’s empty sippy cup.  Pauly D met a lovely young woman on last year’s season of E!’s Famously Single (who, he quickly assures us, is NOT a grenade), and even though the two appear to have split since filming, there’s at least an indication that his female-focused ADD is taking a backseat to the wisdom of his advanced years.  And even Sammi, notorious for years of rage-fueled romance with Ronnie, smoothly shut down the conversation when questioned about her relationship with her ex.   Catching up with the cast about their love lives without anyone coming to blows wasn’t exactly a guaranteed outcome – but a fun frolic down memory lane all the same.

“Why are we toasting to his sobriety?” – Snooki

Old habits die hard, and with the kind of habits embodied by the Jersey Shore crew, you can bet that alcohol dies the hardest.  Each member of the cast learned their party-hard lessons in the hardest way; but none more so than the Situation who, in the show’s opening lines, reminds us that he went to rehab.

Twice.

Still, that doesn’t stop the rest of the gang from taking shots to his new lifestyle of being “sober and good” – hey, if your TV friends can’t drink to your sobriety, who can?

“It’s two kilos. You can’t wear it past two hours because your neck’ll hurt” – Pauly D

The cast of Jersey Shore were never partial to practicality.  Pauly D had to travel with a suitcase full of hair products (admittedly, looking at him now, it’s fair to guess that he still does), JWoww wore clothes with the most confusingly-placed cut outs I’ve ever seen, and none of the women ever met a heel that was too high.  It came as no surprise, then, when Pauly D appeared on the show’s reunion wearing a chain thick enough to tow a tiny house.

But, benefited by years of chunky-necklace-experience, Pauly D was quick to admit to his accessory’s shortcomings.  Watching him grapple with the realities of his own neck-strength limitations was akin to confronting fundamental questions of one’s own mortality – and every bit as enlightening.

“The occasional punch in the face and you move on and you get a drink…and you sit there and you bulls**t.  That’s what life’s all about” – Jwoww

I can’t imagine what it would be like to reminisce with a friend about that time you punched each other in the face – but, in a display of inexplicable generosity, Sammi and JWoww seemed to take it all in stride.  Certainly, their past run-ins were far from the only bewildering behavior of the series.   Contributing his own spurt of gratuitous violence, the Situation noted, “it’s hard for me to explain how I went into a concrete wall in Italy.”

Still, while there’s no word on the current status of the Situation-Italian wall relationship (though he seemed sufficiently good-humored about the incident to break out the neck brace that had defined his post-wall recovery), it seems that the rest of the cast (at least, those who participated in the reunion filming) has made amends.

Conveniently, there may soon be plenty more where this came from – and I just may be nostalgia-fueled enough to watch.

Catch Reunion Road Trip: Return to the Jersey Shore this week on E!, or relive the original on demand with Jersey Shore’s second season, now available through MTV.

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