‘Jersey Shore’ returns with a Unit, more Ryder, and a tantrum

It was really all about Mike.

If there’s one thing we have come to expect from “Jersey Shore” over the years, it is that the mood of the entire house can change in what feels like a blink of an eye. Take for instance what happened during the span of 24 hours during the season 5 premiere Thursday night — early in the episode, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino seemed ready to antagonize Snooki and her boyfriend Jionni about some dirt he supposedly had on the pint-sized “guidette.” Then, the next night he was gushing over how much he loved Jionni when free drinks were being passed around.

Really, this latter scene showed a good bit about The Situation — and about the show as a whole. While The Situation (or at least the part of him that is a reality TV character) wanted to create drama, Mike Sorrentino (the person behind the nickname) eventually allowed his personal feelings for Jionni to get in the way of actually pursuing any confrontation with the two of them. As a TV writer, this dichotomy is easy to love — and it also shows yet again why reality TV is fascinating as a genre.

This premiere also brought to us the in-person introduction of The Unit, a man whose very name (which we heard on multiple occasions last season in Italy) screams “overcompensation.” He’s more or less a Situation crony with attempted Pauly D hair, and he doesn’t really bring anything to the show since no one outside of Sitch seems to like him at all. Meanwhile, Snooki’s friend Ryder constantly is someone who serves the show well in the crazy department — mostly because Ronnie at this point is the only man in the house without a past physical connection with her.

Since we can all agree that “Jersey Shore” is not television art by any means, it’s a hard show to critique — if you love the show, it’s a blast. If you don’t, you probably want to see it wiped off the face of the earth. There were some fantastic moments of humor during this episode (including Ronnie making his trademark Ron-Ron juice within a matter of hours after arriving), as well as some moments of sheer awkwardness (Deena watching Pauly D and Ryder cuddle).

We would ultimately not be doing the show a service without talking about the tantrum that occurred at the end of this episode. Vinny, who has on many occasions been the most level-headed person in the house, went completely off the handle after seeing his family at a party. Why? The guy still spends the majority of his time with them away from the show, and he obviously missed being around them. This feeling within him resulted in a surprisingly selfish and unsympathetic moment for a man who not only still had access to his family by phone for much of his meltdown, but it also getting paid a reported $100,000 an episode to hang out in a house, party with roommates, and meet just about every young woman in the Seaside Heights vicinity. It was strange to see Vinny try to give that up, in particular since this season only films for a little over a month and then he can do whatever he wants … with some money in the bank.

The one thing we did notice right out of the gate following the season 5 premiere was that some of the hype surrounding the series seems to be gone. Twitter was active (but less active than last season), and the overall sentiment of people online is that there is not much happening now that feels new or particularly fresh.

As for whether or not this feeling is just a ruse put on by internet reaction, we’ll have to wait until late Friday to find out.

Photo: MTV

Love TV? Be sure to like Matt & Jess on Facebook for more updates!