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August 29, 2014

One State to Rule Them All in 2010: The Year of New Jersey

by Joel Keller, posted Dec 23rd 2010 10:00AM
Jersey Shore cast season 2Festivus is here! On the first day of Festivus, TV gave to us ... one state to rule them all!

When we were deciding on what to put in our Festivus countdown, it was pretty obvious what we would talk about on the day itself. A theme permeated much of the television landscape in 2010, especially in the reality category, and it had to do with a part of our country that's small but densely populated, often derided but misunderstood, and where you can get a pretty damn good slice of pizza just about anytime you want.

Yes, I'm talking about New Jersey.

As a lifelong resident of the Garden State, I quickly volunteered to write about TV's Jersey obsession in 2010, mainly because my relationship with these shows mirrors how I feel about the state itself. Like the shows that depict it, New Jersey is frustrating, annoying and downright ugly at times; at others, it (and they) can be entertaining as hell. And while TV gave people a skewed version of the state this past year, at least it was fun to watch.

People all over the country have always had a certain view of New Jersey. The people are coarse and rude. The air smells. It's a tangle of traffic, jughandles, and shopping malls. Nine seasons of 'The Sopranos' reinforced that notion. And, for the most part, it was solidified by the reality shows that explored what they thought was the "Jersey attitude."

We started the year with the 'Jersey Shore' explosion. Before it started airing in December of '09, I bemoaned the fact that it was going to show a stereotypical view of Jersey; self-described "guidos" who just loved to spray tan, drink at shore bars, and hook up. And the show didn't stray too far from that formula, even as the gang traveled from Seaside Heights to South Beach in Miami for its second season.

But there's no denying the fact that the show is a rubbernecker's dream. While most of the cast aren't from New Jersey, they do represent many of the people someone would find in Seaside over the summer (they're usually referred to as "bennies," and not in a good way). And the show has had a cultural impact: The crowd of jaded reporters that I saw surrounding tiny Nicole "Snooki" Pollizzi at the TCAs last summer told me that, at least for the time being, folks like her and Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino are more than just curiosities.

Speaking of Snooki: she may be annoying, she may have the morals of an alley cat, but she did give us the terms "smush" and "snookin'." So she's got that going for her, which is nice.


The grand dame of Jersey reality shows, 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey,' continued the trend, coming back for its second season. After 2009's table-flipping drama, the stakes were raised even higher than that, mainly because the ladies of the Franklin Lakes area made as much off-screen news as on. We heard about the hair-pulling incident between Danielle Staub and Jacqueline Laurita's daughter Ashley. Then we read stories about Teresa and Joe Giudice, who flaunted their faux wealth more than anyone on the show, filing for bankruptcy.

When the show finally came back in the summer, it didn't disappoint: Dina Manzo left the show, Staub became increasingly paranoid and isolated, and Teresa was... well, let's just say that Andy Cohen is still sore after getting shoved by an enraged Giudice during the epic reunion show.



Almost every other reality show that took place in the state had some of the same formula that made the first two shows so popular. 'Cake Boss' had Buddy Valastro and his cohorts at Carlo's Bakery in Hoboken screaming to each other as they made specialized cakes. 'Jerseylicious' showed a bunch of spray-tanned hairdressers at the Gatsby Salon argue and claw their press-on nails at each other. 'Jersey Couture' was a little more calm, but still featured enough yelling to satisfy anyone looking for Jersey attitude. And while 'My Big Friggin' Wedding' didn't completely take place in New Jersey, enough of it did to make people think that even weddings in New Jersey are loud and gauche.


While all of these shows had their eye-rolling aspects, for some reason, they were all fascinating to watch. For a Jerseyite like me, though, it might be because I can point out and recognize most of the settings. Johnny Meatballs on 'Wedding' sold his wares at Corrado's market in Wayne. Kim D. of 'Housewives' has a store in a shopping center that I've been going to since I was a kid. And the 'Jerseylicious' girls live two miles from my Central Jersey home; when I encountered them at the summer TCAs, we swapped stories about the Somerset Diner.

2010 has been such a Jersey-centric year on TV that even the state's no-nonsense governor, Chris Christie, became a media star. During his first year in office, the blunt, aggressive former U.S. Attorney has taken on reporters, spoken out against 'Jersey Shore,' appeared on 'Oprah' with Newark mayor Cory Booker and Time Person of the Year Mark Zuckerberg, been interviewed by '60 Minutes' and has been a staple on cable news shows all year long. There's even talk of Christie running for president in 2012 or 2016.

Is his popularity because of his outsized personality and controversial budget-cutting measures, or because he seems to fit the image of what people think New Jersey's governor should be like, based on the shows they see? Hard to say.


But not all we've seen of New Jersey has been about rudeness and "GTL," and we have HBO to thank. Yes, the same HBO that brought us 'The Sopranos' has paid tribute the state with Martin Scorsese's 'Boardwalk Empire,' which showed the many-layered view of Prohibition-era corruption in Atlantic City with nuanced performances and lavish visuals. And in 'The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town,' the network showed the musical process of Bruce Springsteen during his young, just-becoming-a-superstar years.

Maybe that will be the trend for 2011: now that we've seen the seedy, loud and crude parts of the Garden State, maybe we'll start seeing shows that will depict the aspects of the state that make us Jerseyites so intensely proud of it: the diversity, the great food, the beautiful scenery, and the inventiveness and creativity of its residents. Yes, it's a pipe dream, but you never know. If Snooki can be a star, than anyone in Jersey can, right?

Yesterday on Festivus: 2 Dancing Divas

(Follow @joelkeller on Twitter or at www.facebook.com/joelkeller.)

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Tinabeana

I am proud to be an Italian American woman who has the privledge of living in the great state of NJ. We are fortunate to have mountains, lakes, farms,(there is nothing like a Jersey tomato) and of course the infamous Jersey "shore". And we also have factories, industry and a few inner-city, ,not so nice areas. In that respect we are not all that different from most of the nation. But, for some reason everyone is fascinated with the perception of us that is being portrayed by television and movies. I cringed when I first saw the "housewives" from NJ. They are what we Italians call "cafones",which basically means uncouth,without class. While there are those from NJ that get offended by all the negative attention, I do not. I grew up vacationing in Seaside Heights and am kind of amused by it all. I somehow hope that this wave of popularity continues and that somehow it translates into lower property taxes. Call me an eternal optimist..lol And, please do visit and see for yourselves. I'm exit #150, if you know what I mean. :-)

December 30 2010 at 8:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
teresa strasser

TV is meant for entertainment not education.I love jersey shore and I was hooked on the sopranos.the jersey shore cast are just being young .when your young it's the best time of your life to just party and act a fool and im from the west coast...

December 27 2010 at 1:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Stuff

To all of NEW JERSEYs' critics, after reading all the postings from people who are obviously out of staters, please stay where you are. Not to hurt your feelings but almost all of you cannot string a whole paragraph together that makes sense or is spelled correctly. Just so you know, the trash as you call them are from New York. We don't raise our children to act like that. Especially the ones with Italian descent. Like any other state we have our problems and if Jersey Shore was one of them you can bet that show wouldn't see daylight. I would guess it would in New York all you have to do is look at the headlines each day. What do you call that? Class or New Yorks' finest?

December 26 2010 at 6:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
hjhain

Half of the cast arent even Italian.
Snookie is repulsive. wonder is shed be considered a midget?

December 24 2010 at 7:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Benwa

To annam - I grew up in Freehold, with horse farms in the surrounding area. So, no, I was not into cows. Being as tall as I am, horses were a better fit. Maybe that's why I crave things "Philly." Oh, by the way, my dad was an executive at GE in New York City and I worked there for a couple of years until I decided that the "indigenous" populatiuon was rude, arrogant, ill-mannered, classless and ugly. However, I do agree with your assessment of present-day New Jersey. Basically, it sucks.

December 24 2010 at 9:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rooftop Voter

Gentile Readers:
You do realize that without all her hair, Snooki is only 2½' tall...........

December 24 2010 at 6:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dmtnl6ft

That woman on the home page of this i assume a NJ housewife> The one with the Black hair. Honestly I thought it was Paul Stanley from KISS. Not kidding. I even had my glasses on. Anyway i was born and raised in NJ, and like EVERY other state its changed. Immigration from countries we knew nothing about back in the day,and they came with money. What can you do? NJ has beautiful areas. Nice Sburbs, the shore, the Mountains in North west NJ bordering PA. And A quick trip to NYC. Of course there are places that arent very nice, but overall it WAS a good place to grow up. just way to populated now. I moved 70 miles north of Manhattan to upstate NY, and its quiet slow paced, and the oldr locals here are moving further north because of the population Boom here. Not everyone likes change, but thats what life is gonna guarantee you. Change. Post 9-11, scores of people left NYC and Long Island. We felt trapped. LI is impossible to get out of by car if NYC was ever attacked. that was our reason, and we chose change for the kids. Might as well get used to it earlier in life for the kids sake was our logic. NJ still can be a great place to live. I just read NJ has the highest real estate taxes in the country now, and auto Insurance...That will dwindle the population soon a bit

December 24 2010 at 6:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jessica

I am the number one fan of DJ Paulie. I listen to his show on the Internet daily on www.djpaulie.com

Jessica

December 24 2010 at 3:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
warren

even though it's a complete thing of the past, I actually remember when people didn't want their dirty laundry, skeletons, and improprieties known by others. Now they rush to show the world what worthless and godless individuals they are. All the women, in just one situation with Tiger Woods who rushed to the front almost pushing one another down to get their names in lights that they were not only a w-h ore but adulteress, and basically worthless. 99% of all those in the news right now who have made a name for themselves have done it taking their clothes off or breaking the law, one or the other or both.

December 24 2010 at 3:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
aGeek4ever

I don't watch this garbage on tv, but just watching a few moment of these vicious magpies on the video made my ears bleed. how can anyone stand listening to their melodrama on regualr basis??? It's bound to have bad effect on anyone's mental health, lol

December 24 2010 at 2:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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