'Jersey Shore' Season 3: I Take It Back. This Show's Still Got It.
'Jersey Shore' Season 3: I Take It Back. This Show's Still Got It.
Meghan Carlson
Meghan Carlson
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
A month ago, at the beginning of Jersey Shore season 3 (or is this just a continuation of season 2? You know what, I don't even care.) I made this analogy:

"Imagine you had a favorite pet as a kid. And then, when that beloved pet died, imagine your parents had it stuffed and forced you to keep playing with it. That is what Jersey Shore season 3 is like."

And at the time, that's genuinely what it felt like: Like the show was going through the motions, but without any heart. (And it had very little heart to begin with.) As much as it annoys me that MTV has chosen to designate these new episodes in New Jersey as the second-half of season 2, they were right to do so, at least for those first few episodes: Immediately upon returning to Seaside, the cast fell right back into the tiresome drama that made their time in Miami such a fun-sucking waste. With Sammi and Ronni finding a way to drag everyone down no matter the zip code, I worried that the show would never rediscover the silly, ridiculous, at times downright hilarious spirit that made season 1 such a success.

But after last night's episode, despite being titled "Should We Just Break Up?" because the Sam-Ron saga rages on, I'm happy to proclaim that, simply by returning to Jersey, the Shore kids have managed what a month ago seemed impossible: They've made me enjoy watching their antics again.

(I guess it shouldn't be surprising that a show called Jersey Shore needs to be at the Jersey Shore to work. I'm more surprised that MTV's producers didn't realize that before they shipped the cast to Miami, and are readying to commit the same mistake again by moving the show to Italy next season. And that the rising ratings don't reflect viewers' ability to discern, at all, between when the show is great and when it's miserable. But that's a complaint for another, later time.)

At the end of their Miami stint, I filed a list of Jersey Shore grievances here on BuddyTV, expressing what I thought worked well and what should be changed when they returned to their homeland for season 3. And, not to take complete credit for the show's turnaround, but it looks like they took a lot of my advice into consideration. Let's revisit my list and see how they're doing on it:

1. More Snooki: I asked for more Snooki, and that's what I got! There's no question that she's the star of the show this season, and it's to her credit that she continues to say the same old sort of so-stupid-they're-hilarious Snooki-isms that she always have, and they haven't gotten old yet. She's also managed to remain sympathetic even after she got black-out, belligerent drunk on the beach and ended up arrested. I can't help it: I love this girl. With all her upfront, honest idiocy, she makes me love her. At least I know I'm not alone. Why else would her book be a best seller?

2. Who's the boss? Not The Situation: At times in seasons 1 and 2, it basically could have been called "The Situation Show," and it got old, fast. In season 3, the other housemates are getting more airtime love, which is a win-win, because when it comes to the Sitch, a little goes a long way.

3. Out with the Angelina, in with the Deena: Deena is great. She says funny things, gets into funny situations, and only screams in an entertaining way. She's basically another Snooki, which, we established in #1, is a great thing. I approve of this casting change.

4. Back to Jersey: Call it a homefield advantage, call it being "in their element," call it whatever you want--this show just works better in Seaside. There's just something about being on the boardwalk that encourages the right blend of insanity and family for this group. Plus, we've got the duck phone back!

5. Cut the crap, and the "jobs":
Well, they're still pretending that they need a job at the t-shirt shop to survive, which is silly. We all know these people make thousands of dollars a day just to wake up. But at least there's been no talk about how Danny is their "landlord," and Danny himself has actually been one of the more entertaining bit players on the show this season. It's nice to see someone giving them boundaries, calling them on their selfish behavior, and being a hard ass, but in a good-natured, "we all know they don't actually need to listen to me," winking sort of way. And it forces them to wake up early and bow to the needs of others at least a couple days per week, which always leads to something entertaining.

No more Sammi and Ronnie-focused stories: This was a dream I knew would never be achieved until one of them left the show for good, and their drama is still the main burden of the show. Any stakes and suspense about the future of Sammi and Ron's relationship are long dead, beaten over and over and over like the proverbial dead horse. And the beatings continue. But I will say this: We're finally seeing some movement in their characters, which makes their tragic, mutually-destructive romance at least marginally more interesting. Sammi is growing up and standing up for herself. Ron seems on the brink of a meltdown, and is essentially unpredictable--you never know whether he'll cry, scream, storm off or defeatedly curl up in the fetal position. I still don't care if they break up or make up on any given day. But at least now they're changing up the pattern as they go through their miserable, neverending cycles and seem like they're finally going to force themselves into some sort of resolution.

Again, #6 might just be wishful thinking though. Because as soon as it seemed like Sammi had broken it off with Ron and would finally join the girls in having a good time, we saw a preview for next week's episode, in which she plots to win Ronnie back. The soap opera continues. Yet, as of right now, the good outweighs the bad on the crazy train that is Jersey Shore, and I'm still on board.

What are your favorite parts of Jersey Shore season 3 so far? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment that season 3 is (at least partially) getting its groove back?

Here are my picks for the best quotes of last night's episode:

(Image courtesy of MTV)