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‘Jersey Shore’ stars out of Italy and back where they belong

Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi (from left) DeenCortese Sammi Giancola.

Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi (from left), Deena Cortese and Sammi Giancola.

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‘JERSEY SHORE’ ★★1/2

9 to 10 p.m. Thursdays on MTV. A marathon of season four episodes begins at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

Photos: Jersey Shore cast through the years
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Updated: February 6, 2012 8:52AM



When we last said arrivederci to “Jersey Shore,” MTV’s self-proclaimed guidos and guidettes were leaving Italy and headed back to Seaside Heights, N.J. — with all the joy and relief of recently freed POWs.

“They didn’t have any fried foods there, no mozzarella sticks or chicken parm,” lamented Sammi, 24, during a recent phone interview. “It was so difficult to get my hair straightener to work out there; the electricity stunk. Driving was terrible. We had a stick-shift Fiat. I didn’t drive the whole time ... I couldn’t wait to get back home.”

That makes two of us.

Like most of the 8.8 million viewers who tuned in for the start of season four (MTV’s most-watched season premiere ever), I had high hopes for “Jersey Shore” invading Italy. Hopes that included Snooki giving Silvio Berlusconi a lap dance. But in reality, setting loose these eight, fist-pumpin’ partiers in Florence ended up being mostly a snooze fest.

Last season, half of the house was tied up in relationships (yawn). The cast had minimal interaction with the locals (Deena wanting to “do sex” with Michelangelo’s David doesn’t count). Worse yet, the story line about “The Situation” supposedly being in love with Snooki was faker than JWoww’s Costco-sized fun bags.

Maybe that’s why the October finale pulled in only 6.6 million viewers. That figure is still mighty impressive, especially for cable television. But it marks the first time a “Jersey Shore” finale dipped below the prior season’s tally, and it’s a sign that some fans lost interest along the way.

At least season five starts better than Italy ended.

The brood is back where they belong: their old stomping — and smushing — grounds in Seaside, and they’re eager to sate their homesickness.

In Snooki’s case, that means running to the fridge, popping the lid off a jar of pickles and gulping down the juice.

For the guys, it means an emergency session of gym, tan, laundry (GTL).

“We’re losing weight and we’re getting pale; it’s like the end of civilization,” the Situation says before they sprint into Simply Sun for some tanning-booth action in Thursday’s premiere.

“You’re going to see us all having a lot more fun this season,” said Sammi, who’s now single. After 2,749 televised fights, she and Ronnie have finally broken up. “You’re not going to see too much drama with us.”

That drama-queen crown now rests on Snooki’s pouf. She’s still bottle-throwing mad at the Situation for causing trouble between her and her boyfriend, Jionni, while in Italy.

Sitch, as usual, can’t resist stirring the pot, even though it means he’s increasingly alienating himself from the rest of the house.

“Mike has always been that character — kind of an egomaniac, kind of mischievous, a snake in the grass,” said Vinny, 24. “Do I think it’s 100 percent real? No, but that’s the character he has on the show. It’s who he is in that scenario. He’s actually a good kid deep down.”

As for the “Jersey Shore” cast member who’s changed the most, Vinny says that would be Snooki — at least physically.

“She looks great and she knows it,” Vinny said. “She’s lost a lot of weight and she’s looking like a little glamor model lately. That’s definitely different from the Snooki we’re used to.”

Something else we’re used to: seeing the cast beat up the beats at Aztec, creepin’ at Karma and getting blitzed on the Boardwalk. This season looks like a continuation of that debauchery.

“We hit Jersey hard,” said Pauly D, 31, who becomes the latest housemate to hook up with Snooki’s BFF, Ryder.

As Vinny, one of Ryder’s former conquests, points out: She’s one roommate away from “guido bingo.”

Can you believe these people?

The beauty of “Jersey Shore” is that the show manages to be entertaining, regardless of your answer.

“It caters to both audiences: the people [who] can relate to it and the people who have no idea there are people who actually act like that,” said Pauly D, when asked to weigh in on what makes “Jersey Shore” MTV’s No. 1 series of all time.

Like dipping Cheetos in a tub of Nutella, watching “Jersey Shore” is the guiltiest of guilty pleasures. I’m more than a little embarrassed to say I’ve been a fan since season one, which feels like it debuted a lot long­er than just two years ago.

“Each season takes two months to film. The fact that I’ve lived that lifestyle for, like, 10 months of the last two years is crazy,” Vinny said.

It may finally be catching up with him. Vinny falls into a major funk in the season premiere, which picks up right after the cast gets home from Italy.

“I was just exhausted and needed a break,” he said. “There’s only so much partying I can do before I start to need different things. I was reaching that point.”

I have to admit, I’m starting to feel some of that fatigue as a viewer, too.

Just how many more seasons are left before “Jersey Shore” is washed up?

“I don’t know,” said Pauly D, who recently finished filming a spin-off for MTV about his life as a DJ. Another spin-off with JWoww and Snooki is in the works, too.

“To be honest with you, I only thought we were going to do one [season], and we’re already at five now,” Pauly D said. “I’m loving every minute of it, and I’ll do it till they don’t want to watch anymore.”



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