Long ago, Jersey Shore set aside the bombastic drama in favor of becoming something we’ve never seen before — a reality TV sitcom.
It was that shift that allowed the show to carry on once the cast started entering their forties and putting their hard-partying ways behind them.
And it’s how we ended up with episodes like the one we saw Thursday night, which featured plenty of humorous new catchphrases — Brovid! Ron-com! Chicken fangers! — but nothing in the way of actual drama.
Of course, without conflict, it’s hard to sustain an audience’s interest for very long.
After all, even The Office had the never-ending feud between Jim and Dwight.
Shore viewers have so much affection for this cast that they won’t complain about a hang-out episode in which the guidos just sit around in hotel rooms ragging on one another.
But eventually, the endless string of comedy bits will get old — in fact, some would probably argue that it had grown stale by the end of this week’s episode.
The show’s producers are well aware of that, and that’s why they spent the show’s early episodes setting the stage for an eventual clash between Angelina Pivarnick and Jenni "JWoww" Farley.
As you probably recall, the bridesmaids’ speech that JWoww, Snooki, and Deena delivered at Angelina’s wedding last year completely upended the series and resulted in conflicts that have yet to be resolved.
Snooki quit the show in response to the public backlash, and Jenni remains extraordinarily pissed off at Angelina.
So you can see why producers came to the conclusion that Angelina and JWoww meeting face-to-face for the first time since the wedding would be the event of the season.
But that confrontation could wind up backfiring in a number of different ways.
For one thing, gimmicks like the clock that counts down the hours until Angelina’s arrival in Vegas serve to remind viewers of just how little drama is actually going on in this show.
Jenni didn’t even appear in Thursday’s episode, but the cast still brought her up every five minutes, as though they’d been coached to do so.
After all these weeks of build-up, the inevitable Angelina-JWoww clash would need to deliver some serious dramatic fireworks in order to be considered anything other than a colossal let-down.
And the more time the show spends setting the stage, the more likely it seems to disappoint.
The situation is made worse by the fact that JWoww and Angelina have already clashed in interviews while promoting the new season, which makes it all the more likely that their eventual Vegas throwdown will smack of anti-climax.
On top of that, the cast seems well aware that they’re setting up a situation that could do further damage to the show’s reputation.
Though the heat has mostly died down a year later, the ladies of Shore still take a fair amount of flak for allegedly bullying Angelina at her own wedding.
Now, Pivarnick is being unwittingly lured into a situation in which she’ll be forced to confront her tormentors?
Even the male cast members who orchestrated this trap seem to realize it’s a bad idea.
"Deena has no one here. No Jenni, could you imagine if we bring Angelina now?" Pauly D said during last night’s episode. "This can’t happen."
"We invited Angeliners here on the double booking. We had no idea Deeners is pregnant," added Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino.
"At the end of the day, this still has to be solved."
This week, fans enjoyed the distraction of Ronnie’s impromptu "dating show," but the long-promised Angelina-Jenni confrontation will need to happen eventually.
And it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which viewers will be satisfied with the outcome.