In the world of reality television, you can say, “I will attack you like a spider monkey” and mean it. If you're lucky, Barbara Walters will interview you because she thinks you're fascinating. If you're really lucky you can parlay your behavior into a book deal or earn enough money to have the Bentley dealer on speed dial. Welcome to the lives of Snooki, The Situation, JWoww, and the rest of the cast of MTV's “Jersey Shore,” living the dream one drink and hot tub hook-up at a time.

In the world of reality television, you can say, “I will attack you like a spider monkey” and mean it. If you're lucky, Barbara Walters will interview you because she thinks you're fascinating. If you're really lucky you can parlay your behavior into a book deal or earn enough money to have the Bentley dealer on speed dial. Welcome to the lives of Snooki, The Situation, JWoww, and the rest of the cast of MTV's “Jersey Shore,” living the dream one drink and hot tub hook-up at a time.


Having fist-pumped their way through the clubs of Miami for season two, the self-named guido and guidette crew are back in Seaside Heights, N.J., for the third season of their popular MTV reality show. But now instead of spray-tanned club kids, they're spray-tanned celebrities who've done photo shoots for Harper's Bazaar and ballroom danced with their fellow stars. Does their fame mean JWoww will stop wearing stripper-inspired outfits now that she's appeared in the pages of fashion magazines? Of course not. She might be having boyfriend troubles this season, but JWoww's still fond of accenting her cleavage with two strips of fabric rather than actual clothing.


Maybe the “Jersey Shore” cast is savvy enough to realize that maintaining their TV image increases their bank accounts, but I think they offer something rare in reality programming — a pretty authentic version of their true selves. On the show, what you see is what you get. In other words, Snooki may be drunk most of the time, but she does not fake her feelings. Her patterns of behavior are predictable and if not likeable, at least pretty close to genuine.


The problem is that all of “Jersey Shore's” straightforward moments take most of the fun out of watching the series. For me, one of the greatest (guilty) pleasures of unscripted television is the “gotcha” moment when someone is exposed for being a false friend. What would reality TV be without the on-camera love fests juxtaposed with the private interview cattiness? During those confession cam scenes, we're in on a secret and then we can enjoy the fallout when that secret is revealed. The ensuing drama is unpredictable and this is a reason to tune in week after week. On “Jersey Shore,” the predictability of the players is their Achilles heel.


I can appreciate “Jersey Shore's” cast for their attempts to keep it real and stay true to who they are. It's a nice contrast to the reality stars who spend hours in hair and makeup before shooting a scene in their kitchen. The trouble is that unscripted television works best when the viewer feels that they have behind the scenes access to a person whose life experience is not their own. On “Jersey Shore,” the life experience may not be my own, but there’s also nothing behind the scenes.


Melissa Crawley credits her love of all things small screen to her parents, who never used the line, "Or no TV!" as a punishment. Her book, “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television's 'The West Wing,’” was published in 2006. She has a PhD in media studies. To comment on Stay Tuned, e-mail her at staytuned2011@hotmail.com.