Will the Constant Attention Ruin Jersey Shore?

Jersey Shore turned out to be a major cash cow for MTV, club promoters, photo agencies, and any innocent bystander who a cast member happened to attack. But now that everyone wants a piece, will they bleed it dry?

Since the show debuted, our favorite guidos have been sucked into the middle of a media firestorm, doing club appearances, skits both online and on talk shows, and magazine photo shoots. There's been a never-ending stream of stories about their personal lives and millions of paparazzi pictures to go along with them.

After all the news and speculation about the second season, MTV wrangled their out-of-control creations to Miami to begin filming. The cast's every move has been documented since they arrived in South Beach, although in recent days it's been a couple of Jersey Shore-related lawsuits that have dominated the headlines. The first, which was filed against the show's producers, claims the production company profited from Ronnie Magro's attack against two people, which we all saw on the show. The second suit, which was reported this week, involves a young woman who says Sammi "Sweetheart" Giancola punched her in the face (twice!) in a Miami club. Good news, bad news: every day, there's a new story. And a fresh set of images of the overly tanned cast strolling on the beach to go along with it. But how long can it last?

Like any popular entertainment product, Jersey Shore stands to make a lot of people a lot of money and everyone is trying to cash in before their ephemeral stint in the sun is over. The thing about reality shows—especially of the trashy variety—is that they burn bright and fast. They create stars, sensations, and seismic cultural shifts overnight, but they are just as quickly forgotten. That's why everyone is getting a little piece of Snooki and the gang before they're washed up like Tila Tequila, imprisoned like Richard Hatch, or prematurely dead like Anna Nicole Smith. But isn't all this attention just driving this thing to an end even faster?

The Jersey Shore kids don't have much of a contingency plan. All they have to fall back on is their strange skin color, silly accents, slutty behavior, drunken aggression, and already stale catchphrases. That is hardly enough to propel this money machine for the next decade. They're like pre-filled bags of popcorn at the cineplex, and the longer they sit on that shelf under the red glow of the media heating lamps, the staler they are going to get. The producers are aware the cast has a limited shelf life. Maybe that's why they're already scouting for a new cast for season three?

Just look at what happened to shows like The Apprentice and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. Both become overnight sensations and introduced phrases like "You're fired" and "Is that your final answer?" into the popular lexicon. But then they both got greedy. Donald Trump and his incalculable head started popping up everywhere to endorse products, pick fights with Rosie O'Donnell, and just generally annoy us. Regis Philbin was never quite as grating, but ABC soon put the show on the air every night of the week until we saw more of him than a hooker sees a mattress. Ratings for both shows took a dive and they almost faded out of existence until The Apprentice tricked people into watching again with celebrities and Millionaire was reborn in the wasteland of daytime syndication.

Is that what's happening to Jersey Shore? The beauty of the show, the most important sociological experiment of our time, was discovering these wonderfully exotic specimens and staring agog at their crazy exploits. It couldn't get crazier, drunkier or punchier, but yet it always did, with some hot tub shenanigans or colossal indiscretion just around the corner. But we already know half of what happens this year: Angelina "Trash Bags" is back, Snooki and JWOWW get schooled in a fight, and Sammi apparently bashes some girl in the face (twice!). Will it still be exciting when it happens on the air, or will it just be yesterday's headlines come to life? I'll be tuning in to find out, of course. After all, with all these spoilers out in the press, just think of the situations The Situation will dream up to keep us interested and himself in GTL money.

[Image via Bauer-Griffin]