How Can MTV Follow Up Jersey Shore?
The final episode of the reality show Jersey Shore, which followed eight self-proclaimed young "Guidos" for a summer, airs tonight. The show has been a massive success, scoring record-breaking ratings for MTV and generating a frenzied stream of tweets, blog posts, and YouTube videos. Surely MTV will want to repeat the cultural phenomenon, and yet the particular magic of the Jersey Shore is impossible to recreate. MTV cannot bring this cast back for a second season; they've already been spoiled by their fame. Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi is doing the weather for a local New York TV station in between appearances at bars with names like Tequila Ranch. She will never again do another back handspring at the club out of natural exuberance—she will be doing it because she knows the viewing audience wants her to. And if the network attempts to bring another group of Guidos to a seedy house in Seaside, N.J., they will surely be sad imitations of the originals. The Situation is sui generis.
MTV needs a new tribe to study. Lucky for them, there's a group of feisty young people just a few hundred miles north on the Atlantic coast. They're called Massholes. Though there is some disagreement about what, exactly, constitutes a Masshole, there are several characteristics present in all definitions. A Masshole is a resident of Massachusetts—though sometimes Rhode Island, New Hampshire, or Maine—who possesses a nearly carnal love for the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins; operates motor vehicles in an aggressive fashion; drinks Sam Adams; and overuses the word wicked.
Massholes can be found summering in many sandy New England locales, including Revere Beach (outside Boston), Narragansett Beach (in Rhode Island), and Weirs Beach (on New Hampshire's Lake Winnipesaukee). But for our purposes, the proposed series will be based in West Dennis, Mass., an old Masshole stomping ground on Cape Cod. (On the B.S. Report podcast last month, ESPN's Bill Simmons suggested a Jersey Shore spin-off set on the North Shore of Boston. But why set the show on the Commonwealth's second most famous cape?)
An undying love for Jonathan Papelbon and a knack for navigating rotaries may not seem like enough to unite a group of people, but it's important to remember that the concept of "Guido," as put forth by Jersey Shore, is not much more elaborate. Though it originated as a derogatory term for Italians, Guido, as defined by the show, is not just about ethnic identity—Jenny "Jwoww" Farley appears to be part Irish. It's more about a particular lifestyle that involves a lot of tanning, clubbing, and hair product. As Snooki explained to talk show hostess Wendi Williams, "Guidos and Guidettes are good-looking people that like to make a scene, like to be center of attention, and like to take care of themselves. … It's kind of a compliment."
Like Guidos, Massholes have reclaimed a term that was coined as a derisive epithet. And like Guidos, they're already a beloved pop-cultural punching bag—think "Mad Men with Massholes" and the recurring SNL "Boston Teens" sketch. The term is deeply entrenched in the lexicon. Angry Democrats have blamed the election of Scott Brown on Massholes who only voted for him because he was supported by Red Sox hero Curt Schilling.
It's true that Massholes are a more diverse subculture than Guidos, but that would only make a series about them more compelling. There are two main Masshole strands: Kennedy-lite types, often from the North Shore or Boston's wealthy Metro West area, who go to small New England liberal arts colleges (Bowdoin, Colby, Dartmouth) and wear lots of khaki; and more blue-collar types, often from South Boston or one of the commonwealth's harder-knock-cities (Everett, New Bedford), who share a hairdo: a weathered Sox cap in the warmer months, a fleece-lined Pats hat in the winter. These two sorts of Massholes will probably not get along particularly well. The latter will find the former condescending, just like in that scene in Good Will Hunting in which Matt Damon's character gets in a fight with that snotty dude at the Harvard bar. Except in Massholes, the warring factions will mend their ways by the end of the each episode, hard feelings salved by a quick trip to the nearest beach bar, where they will find common cause, chanting "Yankees suck" as they watch the latest from the Fens on NESN.
And what will the individual castmates look like? What will their slightly incomprehensible nicknames be? Massholes are not just an economically and educationally diverse bunch. They're also more ethnically varied than Guidos: There are Jews, Irishmen, WASPs, Italians, and Portuguese who will happily cut you off on the Bourne Bridge and then give you the finger. (Again, this simmering diversity only promises greater, crazier entertainment.) Below are some broad sketches for a few Masshole hopefuls, based on the bios for the Jersey Shore cast-mates on MTV's Web site.Slate readers should add their own cast member nominees in "The Fray," as this list is surely incomplete.