Jersey Shore stirred up controversy before the first episode hit the airwaves. The reality show, starring eight self-professed “guidos” and “guidettes” living in a house in Seaside Heights, N.J., led Italian-American activist groups to complain the show portrayed negative stereotypes.
But the show really entered the mainstream when promotions showed castmate Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi getting punched in the face at a bar during the show’s fourth episode. The clip instantly went viral, and Snooki was suddenly a star. MTV, under pressure from domestic violence groups, decided to cut the punch from its December 17, 2009 broadcast, but the damage was done. Ratings skyrocketed, and the show became the must-watch train wreck of the new year. Ultimately Snooki and the gang — who will be back for a second season of Jersey Shore, but in a different locale —represent the new era of MTV. The network quietly dropped “Music Television” from its logo in February, and except for the annual Video Music Awards, airs few music videos. Instead, it’s become a stable for reality stars like Tila Tequila and Jersey Shore‘s “The Situation” whose antics are our new guilty pleasures.