“Never fall in love at the Jersey shore. Never ever”—Ronnie Ortiz-Magro
T-shirt time. Gym, tan, laundry. Ron-Ron juice. Where would we be without the cultural touchstones that Jersey Shore has blessed us with? When MTV’s flagship reality show premiered on December 3, 2009, it’s safe to say that neither the cast, the network execs, the viewers, or the shore itself had any idea how much impact it was about to make—or that it would last for 6 whole seasons and a reunion. The blockbuster hit reality show followed the lives of Paul ‘Pauly D’ DelVecchio, Nicole Polizzi, Michael ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino, Samantha ‘Sammi Sweetheart’ Giancola, Ronnie Ortiz-Magro, Jennifer ‘JWoww’ Farley, Vinny Guadagnino, Angelina Pivarnick, and Deena Nicole Cortese. The premise of the show…never really mattered, to be honest. It was all about the characters! For 3 years, the residents of Seaside Heights, New Jersey presumably lived in fear as the gang tore up its beaches, clubs, and bars, between occasional shifts at the T-shirt store. Soon after it premiered, the show became the guilty pleasure of thousands of viewers, the target of just as many critics, and launched a slew of spin-offs and imitators.
It was all the catfights, late-night pickles, cheating rumors, duck phones, and the many fights that made this show iconic. After three years and six seasons, MTV ended the show in 2012. But Jersey Shore fans rejoiced when the reunion series Jersey Shore: Family Vacation was announced in late 2017. The series premiered in April 2018 with the promise of 10 episodes that’ll bring the case (minus Sammi) back to the shore one more time. The cabs are here, so get downstairs and check out these 24 scandalous facts about everyone’s favorite reality show, Jersey Shore.
Jersey Shore Facts
24. The Big Idea
The real, original starting point for the show—the very first inkling of an idea that a producer had—focused on just one (infamous) word: “guido.” A VH1 producer came up with the idea for a reality competition show that would be cast exclusively with ‘guido’ types, but MTV had had great luck with non-competition shows like Laguna Beach and The Hills, and decided to go with a more documentary approach to following their cast. The hope was that by casting a bold, honest, and melodramatic group of men and women, that the show would basically write itself. The president of MTV at the time even went so far to say that they were a “combustible, chaotic mess.”
23. Location, Location, Location
The house where the cast lived during the filming of season 1, and later, seasons 3, 5, and 6, was located in Seaside Heights, NJ, a town which booms during the summer season due to its boardwalk entertainment and high number of apartments in proximity to the beach, attracting a younger crowd. The population of Seaside Heights actually more than doubles every summer season. MTV decorated the house with Scarface posters, Cadillac insignia, and cheap furniture—did they predict that Ronnie would throw most of it on the patio? The show filmed four seasons in New Jersey, one in South Beach, Florida, and one in Florence, Italy.
22. I Could’ve Been A Contender
The careers of the cast prior to filming were fairly predictable—Pauly D was a DJ (and probably will be forever), JWoww was a club promoter, Angelina was a bartender, and The Situation was the assistant manager of a fitness center on Staten Island. Surprisingly, Vinny was a graduate of SUNY New Paltz who had taken the LSAT and was planning to go to law school when he was cast on the show. And yet, with such diverse backgrounds, they all ended up working at a T-shirt store together.
21. Precious Memories
Perhaps the most memorable moment on the show came from a not-so-anonymous note that Snooki and JWoww wrote to their co-star Sammi from an internet café during season 2. Perhaps the best part of all was when they left her the note, which warned her about some unsavory behavior that they’d witnessed her boyfriend Ronnie exhibit, and then got too impatient to wait for her to find it. They called the house from their shift at the gelato shop and Sammi picked up the phone, insinuating that she knew that they’d written the note. To ramp up the nostalgia factor for Jersey Shore: Family Vacation, some of the cast got together, nearly a decade letter, for a dramatic reading of the original note—and hopefully, submitted the original copy to the Smithsonian immediately after.
20. No One Was Innocent
Of course, while chaos followed the cast wherever they went, they also created their own fair share of trouble. Numerous cast members were arrested while the show was on the air. It’s actually easier to list the charges first before the names—so let’s start with disorderly conduct (Deena, Snooki), assault (Ronnie, Angelina), and…unpaid parking tickets (Ronnie again). Sammi narrowly avoided an assault arrest after a nightclub altercation by leaving Miami before charges could be laid. Did she get advice from her co-stars, who were well-versed in that subject?
19. An Unintentional Icon
In the pantheon of famous phones from film and TV, there’s Juno’s hamburger phone, the one that Liam Neeson says “I have a very particular set of skills” into from Taken, and the phone booth from Phone Booth. And then… there’s the Jersey Shore duck phone. Before filming, the MTV producers requested that the house be left completely empty so that they could decorate it themselves. The one item that the owner left behind was the duck phone, completely by accident. The phone made quite a visual impression while pressed up against the cast members faces as they made messy late-night calls to partners and friends, and will always be remembered as an integral part of the show—one which even made it into the Family Vacation series.
18. The Shore Store
In Season 1, the cast lived in the Seaside Heights house while working at the Shore Store—which were actually owned by the same person, Danny Merk, who acted as their boss when they worked at the store. During the filming of season 1, the cast wasn’t paid for their participation in the show, just for their shifts at the Shore Store. After the show became a huge hit, they were given a hefty pay raise, making $10,000 per episode in season 2.
17. Little Meatballs
Since the show debuted, a number of the cast members have become parents. In 2012, DJ Pauly D had a one night stand in Las Vegas that produced a baby girl—but Pauly D didn’t have a clue that he was a father until the woman he’d had the rendezvous with filed a paternity suit after giving birth. Both Snooki and JWoww have gone on to have families with their respective partners, with Snooki famously being pregnant during the final season of the show—luckily, the producers took pity on her and gave her her own place so that she didn’t have to stay in the same house as her hard-partying cast mates while pregnant. And Ronnie prepared for the birth of his first child with his girlfriend during the filming of Jersey Shore: Family Vacation.
16. House Rules
The rules set by the producers at the Jersey Shore house are pretty familiar for anyone well-versed in behind-the-scenes reality lore, and seem to be standard for any show where the producers want to manipulate the cast or contestants into an emotionally volatile state—we’re looking at you, The Bachelor producers. While filming Jersey Shore, the cast weren’t allowed cell phones, TV, reading material, or internet access, and could only make one private phone call per week. One thing that was allowed—nay, encouraged—by producers? You guessed it—drinking.
15. Hot Tub Time
What’s a reality show without a hot tub? The producers of Jersey Shore had to get a special permit from Seaside Heights to get their hot tub built. But, contrary to how it appeared, the hot tub wasn’t actually on the roof of the house—it was actually on the roof of the Shore Store. Oh, the things that hot tub has seen…
14. There’s No Shore Without Meatballs
The original plan for the show—that is, after the part of the process where it was planned to be a competition show, but before it became the juggernaut that we all know and love—was for it to be an anthology style reality show, in the vein of Real World. Which is to say: after season 1, an entirely new group would’ve been cast, and our beloved Snookies and Vinnies would’ve faded from our screens. That’s a world I don’t want to live in. Thankfully, due to the shows success, that hare-brained plan was abandoned.
13. Shores, Shores Everywhere
Jersey Shore could easily be referred to as the show that launched a thousand imitators, and no one was more quick to capitalize on the show’s success than MTV itself. Eight iterations of the hit were created by various international branches of MTV, including Warsaw Shore, Acapulco Shore, Floribama Shore, and perhaps most famously, Geordie Shore, which was created by MTV UK. If you thought Jersey Shore was messy, those meatballs have got nothing on the absolutely insane cast of Geordie Shore—which is now in its 18th (!!!) season. Hey, if it ain’t broke…
12. Reality Stalwarts
After the show ended, Snooki and JWoww got their own spinoff, appropriately titled Snooki & JWoww, which ran for four seasons, while Pauly D got his own, titled The Pauly D Project. It only lasted one season. Personally, I’m still waiting for a spinoff featuring the adventures of the duck phone.
11. A Real Fitchuation
On August 12, 2011, clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch officially asked Mike ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino to stop wearing the brand’s clothes. You read that right. They made their wishes official and released a statement that stated that they were “deeply concerned that Mr. Sorrentino’s association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image.” They continued by stating, “We have therefore offered a substantial payment to Michael ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino and the producers of MTV’s The Jersey Shore to have the character wear an alternate brand. We have also extended this offer to other members of the cast, and are urgently waiting a response.” Guys, I have some bad news about your brand image—it wasn’t that great in the first place.
10. The Situation Strikes Back
Mike ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino later went on to sue Abercrombie & Fitch. As it turns out, while the brand said that they wanted nothing to do with the troubled star, they had no issue selling T-shirts using the phrase “The Fitchuation,” which was coined by A&F. As far as things The Situation has done, this seems pretty legit, but in 2013, Judge John O’Sullivan shot down Sorrentino’s claims.
9. Nobody Puts Snooki in a Corner
Very few people will live to forget the Ashley Madison scandal of 2015—especially not anyone whose name and email showed on the adultery-themed dating site’s membership list after it was hacked and distributed. Among the names on that list was that of Jionni LaValle. Who? Imagine Snooki screaming that name into the duck phone. Now does it sound familiar? The tiny star’s long-term boyfriend became her husband in 2014, shortly before the 2015 scandal. The Daily Mail even reportedly found evidence that Jionni had spent thousands of dollars on the site. The cheating allegations were never confirmed, and Nicole took to her podcast to defend her husband, saying “I’m lucky if he knows how to even use a computer.”
8. Couples Therapy
Season 1 & 2 castmate Angelina Pivarnick and her boyfriend Chris Nirschel had to face a lot of obstacles during their relationship. Angelina had been accused of starting fights, cheating on her fiancé, and even faking a pregnancy. Naturally, her relationship took a hit. So Chris and Angelina joined the VH1 show, Couples Therapy in an attempt to get help. Dr. Jenn Berman, a psychologist in on the show, helped her see the error of her ways. Angelina told FOXNews.com that she finally realized where her trust issues where coming from, saying “My father did some awful things to me, my mother and my sisters.”
7. You Owe Me
While she may not have gotten arrested while on the show, like many of her castmates, JWoww was no stranger to legal problems—she was sued in December 2010 by Tom Lippolis, her ex-boyfriend and ex-manager. He claimed that she owed him a whopping sum of $700,000 for his role in making her “a success.” He even alleged that he got her free plastic surgery, which included a boob job, fat reduction and cellulite removal. Lippolis was quoted saying, “She thinks she is on the top of the world, that she doesn’t have to pay anybody.” It’s unclear what happened with the lawsuit, but anyone who’s seen her knows that any success that JWoww has got has been because she’s pretty darn charming and funny on TV. For her part, she accused her ex of abuse and won a court injunction to block him from releasing nude photos of her. Years later, she’s happily married with children, so it’s pretty clear who came out on top.
6. The STD Clause
Considering the amount of hookups that occurred, this one isn’t that surprisingly—but it was surprisingly prescient of the producers to include the so-called ‘STD Clause’ in the cast’s contracts. Yup, there was a clause in their contracts that stated that anything that happened as a result of any sexual encounter on the show would be the responsibility of the cast members, not the network—namely, STDs, although I supposed that could also include babies. By signing, the cast were not able to blame or sue the network if they contracted any diseases on the show. Did any of the hookups that they brought home from bars or clubs have to sign something similar?
5. The Tell-Tale Socks
While some of the famous fights on “The Jersey Shore” were real, others were allegedly staged. According to some eagle-eyed fans of the show, some scenes appeared to have been “intervened” in by the producers. One particularly eye-opening discovery was from season 2, when Angelina and Snooki were fighting each other. In one scene, JWoww can be seen wearing socks while she breaks up the fight, but after intervening, her socks magically disappear.
4. A Surprise Hit
The show wasn’t an immediate hit when it debuted, but it didn’t take long for those classic purveyors of cultural cachet, Saturday Night Live, to take notice of the comedy goldmine. In the third week of Jersey Shore’s existence, it was parodied to great effect on SNL, and soon after that, the MTV show began hitting #1 every week until the season 1 finale, which garnered three times the amount of viewers that the premiere had. Ratings remained high in season 2, which moved to South Beach, Florida to capitalize on the popularity of the show—instead of waiting for another Jersey summer, they were able to continue filming right away.
3. First They Came for The Sopranos…
Approximately no one was shocked when controversy bubbled up as the show grew in popularity, but it wasn’t because of the cast’s problematic drinking or the way the men on the show treated women, be it their cast mates or girls they met at the club. Talk about high/low—Jersey Shore ended up facing much of the same criticism that prestige TV stalwart The Sopranos had faced in early seasons—namely that it portrayed Italian-Americans in an unfavorable fashion; although Jersey Shore faced specific criticism about its use of the word ‘guido,’ which was regarded as an ethnic slur. Many companies pulled ads from the network, and later, even the governor of New Jersey got involved. Chris Christie claimed that the show didn’t portray the real New Jersey, and much of his criticism came from the fact that many of the cast members weren’t actually from NJ, but from New York and Rhode Island. Sure, Christie, if that’s the hill you want to die on, okay.
2. Going Off-Script
Reality shows, especially MTV reality shows, are famously manipulated by producers, leading many to accuse the shows of being not-so-different from scripted TV shows. A few moments in Jersey Shore history have caught the eye of reality TV skeptics. One in particular was an incident during the season filmed in Florence, Italy, where Snooki rams the back of their police escort while driving pretty slowly. Some witnesses claim that the car they rammed was actually the MTV security team, and many questioned whether the neck brace that Snooki was shown wearing after the accident was really necessary. Hey, maybe she didn’t have travel insurance!
Perhaps the other most memorable, and most unfortunate moment, came when Snooki was punched while filming at a bar in Seaside Heights on August 19, 2009. Her attacker was a gym teacher from Queens named Brad Ferro. The whole disturbing incident was caught on camera and the Department of Education felt that Brad Ferro’s actions were worthy of termination. Not only was he canned from his job, he was also charged with simple assault. Later, he went on to join the army. The punch itself was blurred out when it aired on MTV, but there are plenty of uncensored videos online—not to mention that MTV itself had originally shown the uncensored video in its promos, only to take them down before the episode aired. Make up your mind!