By Rennie Dyball
Updated December 10, 2009 12:00 AM
Scott Gries/Picture Group

Lately, I’ve noticed that my DVR is missing its usual ration of guilty-pleasure TV. My favorites, like Toddlers and Tiaras and The Real Housewives of New Jersey, are on hiatus so it was time for a new I-can’t-believe-I’m-watching-this series.

Why, hello, Jersey Shore! At first, I feared that this tanned, gelled, muscle-bound cousin of The Real World was just too obnoxious to watch. Here are eight twenty-somethings who are hell-bent on upholding the stereotypes (they’ve already been criticized for proudly calling themselves “Guidos” and “Guidettes”) and the party-till-you-puke reputation of the summer revelers of Seaside Heights, N.J. And I’m spending my evening watching this?

You can bet your booty shorts I am! Here’s why:

1. It’s hysterical. Let’s be honest: The fun of this show is laughing at its stars. I’m not laughing with them, and neither are you. Case in point? Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi describes her ideal mate to be, among other dubious qualities, a “juice head.” As in, a guy who uses steroids. High standards, right? And then there’s the scene where Snicks jumps into the hot tub with the guys wearing nothing but a bra and thong underwear, much to the horror of her roommate, Angelina. Her suggestion? “Wear a thong bikini – that’s a little bit more classier,” she says into the camera without a hint of irony.

2. MTV is in on the joke. Like any so-bad-it’s-good reality show, the editing serves mainly to highlight the ridiculousness of our heroes and their plotlines. After Sammi “Sweetheart” Giancola and Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino (a self-appointed nickname referring to his very-toned abs) engage in some moderate flirtation, Sammi focuses her affections on another roommate, Ronnie. Mike, (whose abs fall short of landing him a romantic situation) then laments the loss of their 24-hour courtship over a montage of slow-motion memories set to a sappy tune. Plus, the roommates’ communal phone is shaped like a duck that quacks instead of ringing – a sound that can easily be mistaken for mocking laughter. Nicely done, MTV.

3. The sociology lesson. When the gang finds out they’ll have to punctuate their bar-hopping with actual labor – selling T-shirts on the boardwalk – some are, predictably, indignant. Angelina laments that she cannot do such a menial job, because, “I’m a bartender,” she says. “I do great things.” But some of our stars rise to the occasion and flourish. As the boss explains their tasks, one can actually see inspiration in Paul “Pauly D” DelVecchio’s eyes and he tackles his work with the same enthusiasm that he brings to styling his gravity-defying hair. Mike shines as well, channeling the boardwalk pitchmen of yore as he hawks items of apparel bearing his nickname. Just as I was taught in sociology 101, people need purpose in life, and work can bring out the best in them … at least in the first episode.

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