In the final chapter of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, the main character Alex no longer finds pleasure in committing senseless crimes. He’s an adult who looks back on his teenage depravity with regret and contemplates becoming a productive member of society.
American editors convinced Burgess to cut this ending from the U.S. version of the novel. Stanley Kubrick famously omitted it from his film adaptation. Both cited its impracticality, believing Alex’s character turn was unrealistic and unappealing.
Luckily, MTV has created its own version of the final chapter.
Jersey Shore Family Vacation premieres tonight on MTV. It’s a reunion less than six years in the making, reuniting the sleaziest, over-tanned band of reality stars modern television has ever produced. And while they scandalized audiences when the original show aired, the reunion is a testament to personal growth.
Following a four-season Shore spinoff, Snooki and JWoww have rebranded themselves as Instagram moms. Ronnie recently became a father. Deena married late last year. Season 1 castoff Angela is an FDNY EMT. And Mike “The Situation” faces nearly five years in prison for tax evasion, but is 28 months sober after battling addiction to prescription painkillers.
It’s a far cry from the club crawlers that took pop culture by storm. Jersey Shore built a cult following through boorish behavior. #Jerzday became both a trending hashtag and a call to action for teenagers gathered to watch Snooki’s drunken stumbles or Ronnie and Sam’s latest fight. And no college dorm pregame was complete until someone imitated Pauly D’s “cabs are here!” rallying cry.
Italian American interest groups and disgruntled New Jerseyans like former Governor Chris Christie predictably complained. MTV exploited the guido stereotype for profit, with shocking success. Jersey Shore inspired countless imitators. Its reliance on audience relatability to its characters—both in their extreme flaws and triumphs—changed reality TV forever.
And now it’s back, if only to prove that personal growth is a real thing. The original Jersey Shore was like watching a circus freak show injected with raspberry Burnett’s and bottled spray tan. It didn’t gain serious traction until Snooki was suckerpunched in front of TV cameras. We watched to laugh at the cast’s drunken antics and outright stupidity.
Now, they return to the reality stage as three-dimensional adults with tangible flaws. We’ll surely witness debauchery and house drama that mirrors days of old. But in collecting the cultural clout to command a reunion series, the Jersey Shore cast have already won. Their personal development—and willingness to abandon it, if only for a few episodes—will be the star of the season.