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Thus far I've managed to avoid the MTV show-that-must-not-be-named, but only because I once lived for reality TV and am convinced that (in SAT parlance) The Bachelor is to Jersey Shore as candy is to heroin. But like any true American, I'm well aware of the show and its highly compensated stars, and like a good Rogue I've read recaps and watched clips in order to better understand the original comedy Jersey Show Season 1 (Abridged). Written by Lesley Braden-Phillips and Kathleen Lietz, directed by the latter, and currently occupying the opening Thursday-night time slot at Go Comedy!, this one-act spoof delivers on its title in an extremely literal manner.

The production begins with a string of talking-head confessionals introducing the viewer to the eight strangers picked to live in a Seaside Heights house and have their lives taped. For the uninitiated, the concept is exactly like The Real World, except with homogenous stereotypes who self-apply the label Guido. The season goes like this: gym, tan, laundry, shots, beach, club, hookups, Ron-Ron juice, fistfights, infidelity, hair gel. Except for one housemate who can't handle a part-time job at a T-shirt store and leaves the show, these enterprising underachievers have reached their ultimate goal of making spring break last forever. For added familiarity, a pair of veejay types (Jennifer Bloomer and John Nowaczyk) pipe in between the episodes with minor commentary on the action, expertly reproducing that shameful sucked-into-the-marathon feeling that best accompanies the pinnacle of trash TV.

The show's greatest accomplishment is in its styling and abundant bronzer allowance. In particular, the four female roommates are expertly distilled doppelgängers of princess Sammi Sweetheart (Michelle Giorlando), superior Angelina (Heather Sejnowski), no-nonsense JWOWW (Braden-Phillips), and inexplicable pickle enthusiast Snooki (Hailey Zueich). Of their male counterparts, Tony Castellani's Pauly D has the most dimension by process of elimination, with Vinny (Brian Papandrea) reduced to a nerdy college-educated jerkoff and muscled predators Ronnie (Clint Lohman) and Mike "The Situation" (Brett Thurman) a pair of sex-obsessed cavemen. Although Braden-Phillips goes for gold with her totally committed, bullish tough girl, many of the actors' choices don't venture beyond general preening, catch phrases, and baby-voice affectations.

The script clings so tightly to the source material that the production feels like a reenactment. The best parodies stem from a combination of critique and affection, and neither really stands out here. Faced with heightening scenarios ranging from the comic perfection of an unusual hookup virus to the thorny issue of portraying several bouts of violence, Braden-Phillips and Lietz go almost completely by the book. Of course it's a challenge to further skewer a show whose own appeal is tied up in its over-the-top caricatures, but this generally literal distillation suffers for its missed opportunities. The greatest departure takes the form of cheap gay-for-each-other jokes, a disappointing sink to the show's level.

In all, Jersey Show Season 1 (Abridged) is best likened to a Halloween party: incredible mimicry of the best parts of the original, but largely absent its own spin. Fans of Jersey Shore can revel in the same hilarious dialogue, epic shallowness, and careless lifestyle that drew them to the original; and non-fans with some knowledge of the show can learn everything they need to know from this one-hour, clip show–style synopsis. However, viewers whose only interest in such tastelessness is in condemning it won't find a satisfying dressing-down in this guiltiest of pleasures.


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